From the first day Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative’s Darren Schauer stepped foot inside the Gonzales, Texas, headquarters in 1992, he has steadily built a career as a skilled communicator with a proven record of fostering collaboration across all the co-op’s sectors.

That varied experience influenced Schauer in implementing his vision that the co-op is most effective when staff at all levels are meaningfully engaged with the tools to do their jobs. That vision has become the foundation of GVEC’s brand promise of “delivering more” to members.

For his efforts in building a strong co-op culture with buy-in across the organization, Schauer received the 2024 J.C. Brown CEO Communication Leadership Award on Jan. 9 during NRECA’s CEO Close-Up in Phoenix.

“During Darren’s two-decade tenure as Guadalupe Valley’s General Manager and CEO, he has prioritized building meaningful connections with people, emphasizing a commitment to “delivering more,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson at the conference.

As he accepted the award, Schauer thanked his “solid team” at the co-op for their hard work.

“I share this milestone with the good people I’ve had the opportunity to learn from, work with, and represent in my 30 years in the industry,” he said. “Great achievements are only possible when you have a solid team around you. I am blessed to have one of the best supporting me and the members of GVEC.”

In 2021, Schauer led an effort to rebrand GVEC into a business that provides not just electricity but also high-speed internet and beyond-the-meter services. “This rebranding was critical to communicate the value provided by the cooperative to our members and customers,” he said.

The campaign also challenged the co-op’s strategic planning team and staff to transform the business plan into “a living communication tool…that eliminated departmental silos, aligned goals with purpose and promoted communication at all levels,” wrote GVEC Senior Marketing and Communications Manager Tammy Thompson in Schauer’s award nomination.

Schauer also wins kudos, Thompson said, for reinforcing his approach to build a strong co-op culture with a commitment to transparency, consistent communication and regular performance tracking with an in-house data and analytics team. Recently, Schauer won a Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award as one of the nation’s top 50 CEOs in the small and medium business category with a 97% approval rating.

One of the three judges who helped select this year’s J.C. Brown winner wrote that Schauer and his team at GVEC “demonstrate a deep commitment to transparency and a sophisticated understanding of how to integrate effective strategic communications into every area of their business. By leveraging key data and insights, creating an environment of teamwork and support, and delivering with excellence and consistency, Schauer and GVEC are a model for excellence in strategic communications."

First presented in 2004, the J.C. Brown award recognizes a co-op CEO or general manager who is committed to advancing communication at the co-op and in the overall industry. It is named in honor of the late editor and publisher of RE Magazine, J.C. Brown, who led the publication from 1973 to 1993.