By Erin Campbell, CCC, Communications Manager, Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives
[caption id="attachment_47" align="aligncenter" width="5616"] David Stuva,CCC, presents during NRECA’s TechAdvantage 2014.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_37" align="alignright" width="225"] David and Robin Stuva enjoy their grandson, Trapper.[/caption]
David Stuva is a rare breed. Not only is he one of the few cooperative president/CEO’s who is also a Certified Cooperative Communicator, but he was one of the first communicators to earn the CCC designation 30 years ago when the program first began. Raised on a farm in southwest Iowa, David received a music scholarship from Southwestern Community College in 1979 and spent two years in a singing group called the Entertainers, performing at various events in southwest Iowa and even recorded an album. David ultimately graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in 1982 and he worked as a part-time radio announcer for KSIB-KITR in Creston, Iowa, and KNIM AM FM in Maryville, MO while going to college.
Armed with a degree in public administration, David began his cooperative career by interning with NRECA’s Public & Association Department before working for 16 years as manager of Member Services at Adams Electric Cooperative in Camp Point, IL, where he also edited the co-op’s Adams Outlet newsletter. After earning his CCC designation in 1985, David also graduated from the Robert I. Kabat Management Internship Program (MIP) in 1998. As president/CEO of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative in central Illinois since 1999, David offers a unique perspective on the role of communications in the electric industry and how the CCC program has impacted his career over three decades.
You were part of the inaugural CCC group back in 1985. As you look back on that moment in time, what do you remember about the early days of the CCC program and how did you study/prepare for the exam?
David: Back in 1985, I was editor of the Adams Outlet (Adams Electric Cooperative, Illinois) and took pride in communicating technical information in an understandable way. I studied for three months before I took the CCC test in Indianapolis. The test took four hours to complete. I had only been a full-time communicator for 3 years so I was a little worried about my portfolio, but I ended up getting a good score on the work examples I submitted. Those who have completed their CCC exam & portfolio know the time and commitment it takes.
You are one of the few co-op CEOs who holds the CCC designation. How beneficial has your CCC background been in this leadership role?
David: As a CEO, I consider communications my number one job, whether it’s with directors, employees, members, media or the general public. My goal is to motivate employees with “people power” instead of “position power.” I have the ability to use my communications and people skills to have a positive impact on the cooperative’s success.
The CCC program is celebrating 30 years in 2015. What has been your experience as electric cooperatives adapt to emerging technologies in communications?
David: When I started working in 1983, I dealt with daily newspapers, radio stations, and two TV stations. I even used a telephone and talked to members directly! Today, our co-op’s communications include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and other social media outlets. A communicator needs be a technology ambassador!
From a CEO’s perspective, how does a communicator provide value to your management team? Any tips for communicators who might have difficulty earning a seat at the management table?
David: Most distribution cooperatives have member services employees, but often times the communication responsibilities fall under the category of “other duties as assigned” or are not mentioned at all. Too many CEOs don’t emphasize communications and that needs to change.
In your opinion, how can CCCs reading this profile build a stronger relationship with their co-op manager/CEO?
David: To me, someone who has completed or is going through this certification demonstrates his/her willingness to go the extra mile to help the cooperative succeed. I’m impressed when someone achieves a CCC designation; t’s a significant accomplishment to put on a resume!
You’ve maintained/renewed your CCC designation for 30 years. Why is it still important to you after all of these years?
David: I’m proud to be branded as a communicator!
As a successful seasoned co-op manager, what advice would you give to newer communicators in this industry?
David: We need strong employees who really understand the co-op and can communicate effectively, both verbally and through the written word. In this era of high tech presentations, a lot of people are surprised that face-to-face verbal communication still works! These quotes have also helped me over the years:
- If you have to swallow a frog, you just as well do it today, because it’s not going to get any smaller tomorrow!
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.
- Don’t have a defeatist attitude.
In his free time, David enjoys the great outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. He and Robin will celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary in May, and they enjoy spending time with their grown children, Justin and Whitney. 2015 has been an exciting year so far as they welcomed their first grandchild, Trapper, who was born to Justin and wife Kerry in January. Whitney is planning to get married in October.