Jennifer Meason, CEO, Cotton Electric Co-op, Walters, Okla., shares how the CCC designation plays a part in her role as CEO.
Q: How did you get into the electric utility business?
A: I began my career at Cotton Electric Cooperative as an intern during my senior year at Cameron University. I had a conversation with one of my professors about finding an internship and she told me about a part-time position at Cotton Electric assisting with the production of their monthly newspaper.
I began working part-time in October 1999 and was offered a full-time position as a Marketing Representative after I graduated with my Bachelors of Business Administration degree (specialization in Marketing and minor in Public Relations) in May 2000.
My initial duties included typing classified ads (we continue to offer two free ads per month to our members), selling display advertising to businesses in the area, writing articles and assisting with the layout of the paper.
Q: How did you rise to the position of CEO?
A: I began my career in the Marketing/Communications area, starting as a Marketing Representative (1999-2001) and progressing to the position of Manager of Member Relations soon after (2001-2002). I was promoted to the Staff Assistant position (2002-2005), which involved working directly with the CEO on special projects, rate design, research, policy development, and board relations. In this position, I was able to work with employees throughout the cooperative and learn about cooperative management and operations in greater detail.
After three years as the Staff Assistant, I transitioned back into a marketing/communications role as Director of Marketing and Administration and began overseeing the business operations of our for-profit subsidiary, Cotton Electric Services, Inc. (CESI). In 2008, I was promoted to the Vice President of Marketing of Cotton Electric and the Chief Operating Officer of the subsidiary and served in that role until I was selected as CEO. I’ve served as Cotton Electric Cooperative and CESI’s CEO since January 2016.
Q: What piqued your interest about the CCC program and how did it
A: As a newcomer to Cotton Electric, I was eager to learn more about electric cooperatives and the utility industry in general. I also wanted to demonstrate my commitment to the cooperative and differentiate myself. The CCC program offered the resources I needed to grow as an employee and improve my communication skills.
Q: How does your communications and member service background fit into your role as CEO?
A: My communications and member service background has been vital to my role as CEO. Every day my job entails communicating with a variety of groups – legislators, community leaders, employees, members, contractors, and our board of trustees. My participation in the CCC program helped lay a strong foundation for me that I continue to build upon through continuing education and practice.
Q: What is one of the biggest communications challenges you have
faced as CEO and how did you handle it?
A: Electric cooperatives are faced with many complex issues today. It can be challenging to communicate these issues in a succinct manner that will cut through the clutter and reach our target audiences. As CEO, I recognize how vital our marketing and communications professionals are in reaching those audiences. I dedicate time to work with our staff to develop our strategy and fully support their efforts. Today’s 24/7 digital world is challenging but also provides a great opportunity for us.
Q: What would you tell an electric cooperative communicator that’s
on the fence about the CCC program?
A: I strongly encourage my fellow electric cooperative communicators to invest in themselves through the CCC program. Your participation demonstrates your commitment to the cooperative program and your willingness to challenge yourself. You’ll find it incredibly rewarding as you build confidence and grow personally and professionally.