NASHVILLE, Tenn.—NRECA honored co-op leaders with seven prestigious awards at PowerXchange this week. Here’s a look at their accomplishments:

Clyde T. Ellis Award

Barry Hart, the retired CEO of both the Missouri and Kansas statewide associations, is the winner of the highest honor given to an individual by NRECA. Named for the national association’s first CEO, the Clyde T. Ellis Award honors someone who has made exemplary contributions that promote the principles and progress of rural electrification and the development and use of natural resources.

Hart served as CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives for nearly 15 years, retiring in early 2019. Before that, he served as CEO of Kansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. for more than three years. He also worked for 14 years as manager of industrial development at Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative in Kearney, Missouri. When Hart was in college, he spent summers working at the co-op, clearing brush and doing construction work.

“Throughout his many years of service, Barry was a truly gifted leader and unsurpassed advocate for the rural electric cooperative movement,” said NRECA President Chris Christensen. “It’s a rare individual who can say that his career started on his local cooperative’s brush-cutting crew and culminated as a legendary manager of two statewide associations and national leader.”

“Barry contributed to all aspects of the cooperative world, but his efforts to build a grassroots program that stretched across rural Missouri is among his greatest achievements and serves as a model for other states,” Christensen said. “He understood that cooperative leaders must win the hearts and minds of policymakers through convincing dialogue with people at the local level.”

Hart said, “My mentor (former Missouri statewide CEO) Frank Stork, who hired me out of college and has been called the best statewide CEO and co-op leader ever, worked with Clyde Ellis. When we told Frank 20 years ago he was receiving the award, his reaction was priceless and my reaction is similar, even though I never met Mr. Ellis. Of all of the recognition I’ve received over the years, this award has to be at the top of the list by far.”

Electric Cooperative Purpose Award

Lake Region Electric Cooperative in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, is the winner of the Electric Cooperative Purpose Award, which recognizes co-ops that have made meaningful contributions to their communities and exemplified the cooperative purpose. The co-op is led by CEO Tim Thompson.

“Tim has guided Lake Region Electric with a deft touch, and he’s been rewarded with great results,” Christensen said. “Lake Region is successful because every employee possesses an unrelenting commitment to their members, always listening and striving to meet their needs.”

“This commitment has allowed Lake Region to innovate, leading to advancements in the way electricity is produced and used with deployments of solar/wind hybrid facilities and community solar,” he said. “The cooperative also has reimagined its off-peak water heater program as a grid-interactive resource, part of an effort to help members use energy in new and efficient ways. Lake Region Electric is truly the trusted energy adviser in the community it serves.”

Thompson said the co-op was “humbled to be nominated by the Minnesota Rural Electric Association and recognized by NRECA for this distinguished NRECA Cooperative Purpose Award, and we greatly appreciate the hard work that both organizations do on behalf of electric cooperatives.”

“I am so proud of our employees and board members for what we have accomplished as we are bringing to our members a portfolio of energy services, including natural gas service and a first-of-its-kind wind/solar hybrid project,” Thompson said. “It is very rewarding to bring natural gas to unserved areas today just like our pioneering founders did 86 years ago with electricity. We never take for granted how grateful we are for the opportunity to serve our members.”

President’s Award

Ted Hampton, CEO of Cumberland Valley Electric in Gray, Kentucky, and the longest-serving co-op manager in America, is the winner of the President’s Award. It recognizes individuals who have made outstanding leadership contributions to rural electrification, the nation, their states or communities. Hampton became manager of the co-op in 1964.

“Ted has led Cumberland Valley expertly through periods of enormous change, while never faltering from his commitment to provide reliable and affordable power to his consumer-members,” Christensen said. “Today, Cumberland Electric has some of the lowest electricity rates in the country.

“Not long ago, Ted faced a struggle few can imagine. He contracted a severe COVID-19 infection that required a long hospitalization, including a month spent in a coma, and six weeks of rehabilitation.

“But after spending more than 100 days hospitalized, he returned home and was back at work as soon as he was able. Through it all, Ted has used his vast knowledge and experience to guide others and sets a shining example for young leaders—calm under pressure, humble in success and always respectful of others.”

Hampton said that, during his 59 years as the co-op’s manager, “I have had plenty of bad days, but many more great or good days. I was very humbled to win this award. As any of my fellow co-op managers know, you don’t do these things for awards, you do them for people. I am very grateful for NRECA to recognize me and my career.”

NRECA International Award

Anna Politano, director of public relations and communications at the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, was honored with the International Award, which recognizes exceptional dedication to the development of international communities through electrification, cooperative development and global commitment.

“Anna is passionate about the International program and shares her enthusiasm and extraordinary knowledge with others who share her commitment to bringing electricity to developing economies,” Christensen said.

“She has led Oklahoma’s Electric Cooperatives on five successful international electrification projects, tapping into her vast organizational capabilities to make them a success and her communications skills to ensure these stories are told back home. Anna is recognized within the International program for her knowledge, creativity and results.”

Politano said she is “incredibly humbled to be the recipient of the NRECA International Award.”

“Growing up in Brazil, I have seen many living in dire hardship,” she said. “Serving in an industry that genuinely cares about their neighbors at home—and abroad—is a distinct honor. Light certainly breaks through the darkness. Countless lives are forever changed through the work of NRECA International, as the cooperative difference transcends borders. I’m honored to serve with my co-op family to help bring light, friendship and the opportunity of a better life to many throughout the globe.”

Paul Revere Award

Dave Lock, CEO of the Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association, is the winner of the Paul Revere Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in the development and mobilization of grassroots advocacy among co-op members. Under Lock’s leadership, Arizona’s participation in NRECA’s political action committee, recently renamed America’s Electric Cooperatives PAC, has increased nearly 50%.

“Dave joined GCSECA in 2019 and, with a steady hand on the tiller, has ensured that its long track record of success continues,” Christensen said. “GCSECA’s history spans more than 70 years and demonstrates its remarkable accomplishments advocating for co-ops and their consumer-members before the state legislature, regulators and the U.S. Congress.”

“Dave also understands that a strong grassroots program has been critical to GCSECA’s success,” he said. “GCSECA disseminates weekly updates to its members on all legislative, regulatory and advocacy issues and holds two legislative meetings a year, including (a PAC) fundraiser.”

Lock said, “it’s great to be recognized by NRECA for the hard work the GCSECA team has done to engage Arizona’s rural cooperative members in the important issues we face.”

“Constant communication, using a variety of channels that focus on connecting with our grassroots activities, is and will always be a cornerstone of what we do at Grand Canyon.”

George W. Haggard Memorial Journalism Award

Jeff McCallister, managing editor of Ohio Cooperative Living, the statewide magazine of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, won the George W. Haggard award for the publication’s forthright, concise and balanced presentation of ideas advancing electric co-ops and their consumer-members.

“Ohio Cooperative Living is a visually engaging, impeccably written and deeply relevant publication for the state’s co-op members,” said Scot Hoffman, RE Magazine editor and the NRECA liaison to the Statewide Editors Association. “Jeff and his team produce one of the true standard-bearers among a field of consumer magazines that are excellent across the board.”

“I have to say that this award on any given year could honestly be presented to any one of the statewide publications produced around the country, so it’s especially an honor to be chosen from among an outstanding group of magazines for the Haggard Award,” McCallister said. “I’m grateful that the judges recognized the effort that my staff and I put in every month to give electric cooperative members around Ohio a magazine that they look forward to every month that just keeps solidifying their relationship with their co-op.”

Curtis Wynn Diversity Champion Awards

Two co-op leaders from different states have won the new Curtis Wynn Diversity Champion Award, which recognizes individuals who make outstanding contributions to lead and promote diversity, equity and inclusion within their co-ops.

The winners are Gary Miller, CEO of GreyStone Power Corp. in Hiram, Georgia, and Steve Goodson, vice president of communications and business strategy at Jones-Onslow Electric Membership Corp. in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

The award is named in honor of NRECA’s president from 2019 to 2021. Wynn is currently the CEO of SECO Energy in Sumterville, Florida, and previously served as president and CEO of Roanoke Electric Cooperative in Aulander, North Carolina.

“Gary and Steve have prioritized the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion at their cooperatives, with the understanding that significant change requires bold leadership that is not afraid to ask for help, seek understanding or pick up the mantle,” Christensen said.

“They also recognized the imperative of engaging all employees, encouraging them to share their unique perspectives and ideas without fear of judgment. By creating a safe space for diversity of thought, they created the space necessary for a culture of DEI to flourish.”

Miller said he is “deeply honored to be the first recipient of the Curtis Wynn Diversity Championship Award.”

“DEI is an integral part of the success GreyStone Power has experienced,” Miller said. “The diverse backgrounds, experiences and opinions of our team are assets that we’ve been able to leverage in making good decisions for our members and building a positive, inclusive work environment. We have been striving for our leadership to reflect the diverse communities we serve, and this award feels like validation that we are on the right track.”

Goodson said that “beyond making good business sense, the DEI initiative is simply the right thing to do—it’s a moral call-to-action.”

“When I heard Curtis speak about his co-op’s commitment to DEI, I knew that for Jones-Onslow EMC to thrive and succeed in the rapidly changing energy world, our co-op would have to make that same commitment,” Goodson said.

“Our CEO, Jeff Clark, and the board of directors have embraced DEI, and it is now an integral part of our strategic goals and objectives moving forward. I am humbled and honored to be recognized as the inaugural Curtis Wynn Diversity Champion.”

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