By: Casey Hollins, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative
We are excited to recognize and celebrate the following cooperative communicators for their long-standing dedication to maintaining their Certified Cooperative Communicator designation.
The CCC Milestone Recognition Program is aimed at recognizing CCCs who have maintained their certification and remained leaders in the electric cooperative communicator community. This is only the third year for the Milestone Recognition Program. The program was started based on a survey of current CCCs who indicated a gap in recognition and program participation by recurring CCCs. All recipients will be recognized this year at the CONNECT Conference in Salt Lake City.
Kent Brick - 30 years
North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Editor
For 38 years, Kent has served as an electric cooperative communication professional. Of those 38 years, 26 have been with North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives. He is proud to be playing a role in the advancement of beneficial standards of living in rural America.
Kent maintains a strong professional interest in producing appealing stories, photography, and successful communication projects for co-op members. He studied liberal arts, journalism and law.
Kent said, “I think the CCC achievement, across the board in our electric cooperative world, has created a culture of intelligence, diligence and contemporary creativity among our communicators. For me, certification set my bar for professional achievement; in other words, the good work and effort that went into attaining certification should be sustained and applied to all communication services I deliver.”
Carmen Devney - 10 years
Innovative Energy Alliance Cooperative, Communications Coordinator
Carmen’s cooperative career began as a three-way split with the North Dakota Statewide association and two distribution cooperatives: Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative and Capital Electric Cooperative. After 11 years, Mor-Gran-Sou hired Devney full-time under the umbrella of Innovative Energy Alliance Cooperative.
“I feel like I can make a difference,” Carmen explained. “An operations manager will tell me members are stacking hay bales too close to power lines and ask what I can do to help from a communications perspective. I can put together a marketing campaign to educate people about high temperatures and sagging lines, and try to reach them in our local pages of North Dakota Living, on Facebook, in bill stuffers, in press releases, etc. Safety is the culture of our cooperatives, and we are always communicating about seasonal aspects of safety. I appreciate that I have a large role to play, and am always striving to do it better.”
Carmen graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a double major in English and Mass Communications. She worked for a printing company for a few years, before stepping up to a service bureau and then a marketing and advertising agency. Once she started her cooperative career, she knew her messages would be more powerful with photos. Thanks to a mentor at work, she developed a passion for good photography. One of her favorite jobs is to head to the field with the linemen and shoot pictures to better explain the processes and procedures behind electricity. Carmen loves to learn and has great respect for the labor-intensive, time-consuming jobs she does, and enjoys showing the value of electricity through her work.
“As a Certified Cooperative Communicator, I ask myself a hundred questions before, during and after a project,” Carmen added. “What is my goal? Who is my target audience? How will I best reach that audience? What is my message and how will I present it? How will I evaluate results? What went wrong? What went right? How can I improve in the future? These questions help pave my plan. That customized plan is most often the start of my success. The CCC program gave me the education and tools to create that plan, and I am thankful I took the time and did the work, and earned the CCC credential. I currently serve as a CCC peer adviser, and encourage anyone with an interest to pursue this credential. It will take your performance and professionalism to the next level.”
Jayne Graham - 30 years
HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Manager of Communications
Jayne has been with HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative since September 15, 1986. Thirty-two years later and she is still passionate about her job, stating that it “is rewarding every day because it’s generally not work, but fun!”
“As a communicator, I get to see all sides of the business; I'm not tied to a desk or phone; and I have many, many opportunities to share information with our members and my co-workers, finding ways to help them understand something complex,” Jayne explained. “My skillset is strong writing and editing, with some photography, and I have been able to use my skills across a wide spectrum of communication needs.”
HomeWorks serves about 26,000 homes and businesses with electricity, propane, and satellite internet. In addition, they’re about to start construction on Phase 1 of a fiber-to-the-home business that will reach all electric customers in the next five years.
Jayne came to HomeWorks from the newspaper world, having worked for small town weeklies and dailies for about six years after working for Bear Archery in Michigan and Florida. She graduated with a bachelor of arts in liberal arts from Michigan Tech: Scientific and Technical Communications. It was 1978 and she learned how to run an offset press, operate a radio station, and create television news stories.
Traveling is one of Jayne’s main interests and working at the co-op has made it possible. She tries to take advantage of trips to conferences whenever possible, staying a few extra days to learn more about the area.
Jayne said, “My CCC certification gave me confidence that I had the foundation of skills and knowledge to build on and successfully communicate HomeWorks' stories. It also gave me a wider network of friends, peers, and mentors who shared generously and inspired me to do the same.”
Lisa Hooker - 20 years
Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC), Assistant Vice President of Public Relations
Lisa values her CCC designation because she was able learn from and collaborate with fellow CCC colleagues. Lisa said, “Through the past 20 years so many names and faces come to mind. My two terms on the CCC Board of Directors gave me greater insight into the designation process, as well as the ever-changing tools and topics co-op communicators must master. Since I was new employee at my former employer when I began the CCC process, I appreciated learning about co-op history, the business model, and how electric co-ops changed the lives of rural Americans. Today much of the farmland has been developed and electric cooperatives face new challenges. Technology continues to change how our members use electricity and how we interact with them, making it an exciting time for communicators.”
Lisa joined NOVEC in October 2017. She manages the co-op’s communications, government relations and community relations activities. Previously, Lisa worked for 20 years at South Central Power Company in Ohio.
She very much enjoys sharing NOVEC’s activities and achievements to their customers and the communities they serve. She added, “It’s amazing how electricity and the expertise of our employees make life easier for customers and help to create jobs through economic development. We build stronger communities through volunteering and charitable contributions, too.”
Lisa graduated from THE Ohio State University in Columbus with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. In the past, she has worked as a radio broadcaster and as a bank marketing officer. She also owned a freelance writing business. Currently, Lisa is getting to know her new community of Manassas and the greater Washington D.C., area. “It’s a very exciting place to live, but, oh, the traffic! I like to garden, exercise and read. I have an interest in history, so the numerous historic sites and events are fun to explore. And, unlike most people, I love politics, particularly what’s really going on behind the scenes. It’s never boring!”
Carrie Kimberlin - 10 years
Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., Manager of Creative Solutions
Carrie has been with the Kansas statewide for 13 years. According to her, the most rewarding part of her job is working with the members and finding solutions to the communications challenges they face.
“The CCC process really opened my eyes to all of the facets of communication in our industry,” Carrie explained. “The knowledge I learned when I received my certification has served me well. I learned about concepts and was introduced to resources and tools I still use today.”
Carrie has a degree in agricultural communications, which has been a great fit with the electric cooperative industry. Her agricultural background allows her to understand the majority of their cooperative’s members who are farmers, ranchers or from small towns.
Mary Laurant - 20 years
Southwest Louisiana Electric Membership Corporation (SLEMCO), Communications Manager
According to Mary, earning the CCC designation has garnered respect from fellow employees, management and the public. The networking and cooperation among CCCs has been invaluable for her as a cooperative employee. Just like the culture in her co-op territory, where they “take care and help our own,” so to do the CCCs. Fellow CCC’s collaborate, mentor, problem-solve and cheer for each other. It’s a natural extension of the rest of her life.
She said, “The CCC program is widely known to include a certification process of study and testing, as well as continuing education. It means both SLEMCO and I have dedicated the time, effort and resources to ensure we have a professional communicator on staff who is well-versed in the industry and in dealing with media, members and employees, alike.”
Mary has been at SLEMCO since November 1986 – more than 31 years. Without a doubt, promoting the tireless efforts of the SLEMCO employees is the single most rewarding part of her job. She said, “We are known for our excellent customer service and dedication to our members. I’m sure we all feel this way, but our field crews work harder than anyone I’ve ever seen to keep power flowing and to restore it quickly when it goes out. It’s a passion of mine to share that with our members, the public, and other employees.”
Mary was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana. She is a native of Cajun Country. Mary loves to travel and when she does, she tries hard to be an adhoc ambassador to encourage people from all over the world to come and experience the unique nature of Acadiana - how it differs from New Orleans, and why it’s so special. People come for the food, music, Cajun and Zydeco dancing, and the friendly culture.
Mary has a bachelor of science in business administration, with a major in marketing from the University of Louisiana – Lafayette. Since college, she has earned the CCC, CKAE and MIP certificates during her career at SLEMCO.
Chris Powell - 10 years
Albemarle Electric Membership Corporation (AEMC), Coordinator of Public Relations
Chris says, “The most rewarding aspect of this job is the ability to tell the electric cooperative story. Albemarle EMC is a force for good in our community, and that is something I am proud of.”
To Chris, the CCC certification signifies his commitment to keeping his skills as a cooperative communicator sharp. He has been at AEMC since 2004.
Chris is an avid outdoorsman and he enjoys hunting, fishing and camping. He has a bachelor of arts in creative writing from Florida State University and a master of arts degree in professional writing from Old Dominion University.
Before working at Albemarle EMC, he was a newspaper reporter for two newspapers and managing editor for Wildlife in North Carolina magazine, a monthly published by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
Lynn Simmons - 20 years
South Plains Electric Cooperative, Inc., Director of Communications
Lynn Simmons is proud to work for a business that allows her to express her heart for service. She said, “We provide a product that is a basic necessity in today’s world, but all of the other services we provide for our members and communities is why I love coming to work every day!”
Her CCC designation is also something Lynn values. She added, “Not coming from a cooperative background, the CCC certification process quickly immersed me in the industry. South Plains EC is a fast-growing co-op, so the quick jump-start helped me manage as a one-woman department for 18 years. The certification process opens doors to valuable resources and supportive people.”
Lynn was born and raised on a western Pennsylvania dairy farm, attended Penn State to study dairy production, and by her junior year she realized she didn’t want to work that hard for the rest of her life. She made the decision to add communications to her studies and experience. After Penn State, she worked for the American Jersey Cattle Association’s magazine for seven years, leaving as editor. She moved to Lubbock, Texas, and after two years of freelance work, she was hired at South Plains EC.
Lynn enjoys being outdoors, especially riding her Harley. In addition, she enjoys growing her faith in Jesus Christ.
Emmalee Tingle - 10 years
Claiborne Electric Cooperative, Inc., Communications and Marketing Specialist
Because of her CCC designation, Emmalee has a nationwide network of colleagues. She said, “When I need help or a fresh idea, I know that I have a community of knowledgeable and experienced communicators who will stop their own projects and help a friend in need.”
Emmalee has been at Claiborne Electric Cooperative since October 2006. The most rewarding part of her job is managing the Operation Round Up program. More than 95 percent of their co-op members participate in the program. They have donated more than $1.4 million dollars to charitable organizations and families in need since starting the program 10 years ago.
She graduated from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in 2006 with a degree in journalism and public relations, and began her career at the co-op the same year. Emmalee’s husband Heath is in law enforcement. They have three children. Abbey is seven, Luke is three, and Ethan is two. She enjoys singing with her family’s gospel music group and is on her church’s praise and worship team. She also likes to craft and bake.
Lydia Walters - 20 years
Dixie Electric Power Association, Communications and Human Resources Manager
Lydia values the CCC program because it provides education and training for communicators and provides a tangible reward for those efforts. She said, “Personally, my CCC certification played a significant role in the generation and transmission cooperative hiring me.”
Lydia has worked at Dixie Electric for 14 years, but she also previously worked at two other cooperatives. Lydia has 20 years total with electric cooperatives and during her career tenure, she’s had the pleasure of serving on the CCC program board on two separate occasions.
She said, “The most rewarding part of my job is providing information during a major outage, which is comforting during a crisis.”
In her spare time, she enjoys reading and traveling. She earned two degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi – a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and a master’s degree in public relations.
Erika Neff - 10 years
Kootenai Electric Cooperative, Inc., Communications Coordinator
Erika has been with Kootenai Electric Cooperative, Inc., for 12 years, and she loves the variety her job offers. Erika said, “Every day is different and working for a cooperative has allowed me to wear many hats and gain a lot of experience. I also really like the team I work with at Kootenai Electric Cooperative.”
Erika graduated from Gonzaga University with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. She spent her first few years out of college working for a public relations and marketing agency. During that time she was able to work with local, national and international companies. Today, she lives in north Idaho with her husband and three children.
“It’s great to have the CCC certification to show I have a degree of competence in the communication field and cooperative industry,” Erika said. “This is valuable both internally at my cooperative and externally if I were to look for another position in the future.”
Duane Kanagy - 20 years
Adams Electric Cooperative, Inc., Manager, Communications/Community Services
Kristin Aldridge - 10 years
North Carolina EMC, Manager of Digital Communications
Vicki Harshbarger - 20 years
GreyStone Power Corporation, Inc., Communications Coordinator