Hillary Cherry, CCC
Director of Communications, Corn Belt Energy Corporation, Bloomington, IL
Hillary Cherry has been at Corn Belt Energy for two years and 5 months. She says, “I truly enjoy coming to work every day. The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that my graphic design and writing skills help Corn Belt Energy better communicate with our members.”
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Illinois with an emphasis in multimedia, and recently completed the Illinois State University Leadership Certificate Program.
Hillary’s experience includes over 16 years in communications and marketing. Her job responsibilities include communications, public relations, graphic design and event planning including planning and executing the annual meeting for Corn Belt Energy.
She am happily married to her husband, Scott. She loves watching sports, spoiling her 12 nieces and nephews, volunteering in her local community as an EMT, and spending time outside gardening.
Rachel Frey, CCC
Communications Specialist, Sam Houston Electric Cooperative, Livingston, TX
Rachel has been at Sam Houston Electric Cooperative since May 2014, almost three years. She says, “I find my job incredibly rewarding because I enjoy the cooperative difference. I’m not working for one person, or for a group of investors. I work for every member of my community, and it’s my duty to make sure they are well-informed about Sam Houston EC’s projects, community service initiatives and ways they can improve their quality of life.
Rachel enjoys baseball, hiking with her dog and crafting. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations, and a minor in business. Before Sam Houston EC, she worked at Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the San Antonio Express-News.
Scott Gates, CCC
Senior Editor, Carolina Country Magazine, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, Raleigh, NC
In April, Scott will have been with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives for one year. This summer will mark his tenth year working for electric cooperatives. Scott started his co-op career working on Straight Talk materials at NRECA, and went on to work in corporate communications at CFC.
“I love so many things about working for electric co-ops, from the technical side of the industry to the concept of serving the underserved,” said Scott. “What I probably most enjoy is working with like-minded people, and ultimately striving to make our communities better. Electric co-ops are so much more than utilities in that way.”
Scott and his wife, Kelly, have two kids, Maddie and John Paul (age 4 and 2, respectively). Naturally, they are their focus right now. They’re great little people, and Scott and Kelly are working on being the best parents they can be to them. Scott grew up in Alabama, and is enjoying being in North Carolina. Barbecue is one way to his heart, and he is coming to embrace the Carolina vinegar-based style. Scott also enjoys writing, and tries to do some outside of work when he has the time. (No novel yet, but he will openly count that as a long-term goal.) He studied communications at Auburn University, and later went on to receive a graduate degree in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Laura Palzkill, CCC
Member Services Assistant, Price Electric Cooperative, Phillips, WI
Laura has been at Price Electric Cooperative since April 2014—almost three years.
“The most rewarding part of my job is helping members understand their electric usage and how to take advantage of the services the co-op offers, such as rebates and energy efficiency initiatives,” she says. “I also enjoy helping to organize our annual meeting and member appreciation breakfast, and going out to install Personal Emergency Response System units for senior citizens.
Laura holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and a Master of Science in Corporate Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Her background is primarily in the nonprofit sector.
In her free time, she likes to spend time outdoors with her family in each of Wisconsin’s four seasons. Fun fact: her new baby was her study buddy for the last month or so before the CCC exam—he was just six weeks old when she took the exam!
Teresa Sampson, CCC
Key Accounts Coordinator, Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Shelbyville, TN
Teresa has worked for Duck River Electric Membership Corporation (DREMC) for eight years. She is the key accounts coordinator and also works with economic development.
“The most rewarding thing about my job is developing meaningful relationships with community leaders and the folks that work for the businesses that we serve,” said Teresa.
She periodically teaches beginner and intermediate Microsoft Excel classes internally for DREMC employees. Her passion for instruction and technology has driven her to have career aspirations within DREMC to use technology and instructional design as a method for engaging and educating members about DREMC and its programs and services as well as internal training opportunities.
She previously worked in Human Resources at CalsonicKansei North America, Inc., primarily as a Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) Specialist. She began her career at DREMC in the Control Center as a Dispatcher.
Teresa holds three certifications: Certified Cooperative Communicator (CCC), Certified Key Account Executive (CKAE) and Tennessee Certified Economic Developer (TCEcD) through UT Knoxville. She graduated with an associate’s degree from Motlow State Community College in 2003 and with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management and Human Relations from Trevecca Nazarene University in 2005. She has taken several MBA courses and is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Instructional Design and Technology at Trevecca Nazarene University to be completed in December 2017.
Julie Schramek, CCC
Executive Assistant/Corporate Communications Manager, Cooperative Response Center, Inc. (CRC), Austin, MN
Julie has been at Cooperative Response Center, Inc. for 13 years.
“I really enjoy working with our membership,” says Julie. “I love it when I contact a new member for feedback for a news release about them joining our membership and they rave about our services. CRC works very hard to deliver a positive experience and provide service excellence on a day-to-day basis. When I hear how we’ve made life easier for our cooperative partner, its employees and their membership, my day is made!”
Julie has a communications degree (journalism minor) from the University of Minnesota – Duluth. She was a technical writer and freelance writer before joining CRC more than 13 years ago. In her free time, she spend as much time as possible with her husband and daughters, who are active in church, orchestra and other school activities. She is also chairwoman of the Austin Public Library’s board of directors.
Rebecca Schwartz, CCC
Communications & Marketing Representative, Heartland Power Cooperative, Thompson, IA
Becca has been at Heartland Power Cooperative for two-and-a-half years.
“I feel fortunate to spend each day with a great cooperative family who truly cares about the membership and is dedicated to providing them with the safe, reliable electricity and quality service,” says Becca. “I enjoy telling our cooperative story: from its proud history to the ever-changing landscape we’re in today. The most rewarding part of my job is hearing positive feedback from members and seeing the trust they have placed in us. Trust isn’t built overnight, and it’s a strong testament to the cooperative way of business.”
Becca grew up on Heartland Power lines, and her mother even spent time as a meter reader for the cooperative. Becca and her sister would often ride with their mom, touring the service territory and picking out their favorite mail boxes and dogs. After graduating with a degree in Public Relations from the University of Northern Iowa, Becca spent a year working for an IT company before landing at her home cooperative. Now, Becca and her husband are back on the family’s century farm enjoying the friendship of small town, Iowa. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, hiking, volunteering as a softball coach and helping on the family farm.