By Ryan Cornelius, CCC, Communications Manager, Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, Tipton, Missouri
It didn’t take Jimmy Autry long to get back into the co-op swing of things.
Autry, one of the more influential co-op communicators of his time, retired from Flint Energies in Warner Robins, Ga. in November of 2017. He spent more than three decades as a communicator for not only cooperatives but also municipals along the way.
After retiring, Autry didn’t waste any time. He moved to Rock Hill, S.C. to be closer to family and he even found a co-op.
“I did it because we moved 10 miles from my two granddaughters,” he said. “It’s all about family and that’s why we wanted to get close. I’m served by a cooperative again. I’ve met new friends with the folks at York Electric Cooperative.”
So, what’s the man that has a CREC Award named after him doing now?
“The important part is what I’ve told so many people,” he said. “Retirement is not the end of anything, it’s just turning over the page of what you’re going to do next. I’ve been fortunate.”
Autry has a part-time gig with SEDC where he’s working on a few projects and represents the technology company at meetings across the country.
Autry is also doing a little consulting work. He was with communicators from Missouri’s electric cooperatives in mid-October. He’s not actively seeking out work, but he’s open to it.
“If I was going to look for full-time (work), I would have stayed at Flint, the best cooperative I could have ever been around,” he said. “They were really good to me there. I’ve actually been back a couple of times. I’m going to emcee their annual meeting every year.”
He’s up for sharing more of his knowledge if the opportunity presents itself.
“I’m absolutely open to it,” he said. “Like I tell people, I’m an old guy. I love sharing what I’ve learned. I hope the information is worthwhile still. My calendar has been pretty full, but now it’s my choice on how I fill it up.”
According to Autry, despite the fact that there’s not much need for employees with dark room photography and IBM Selectric typewriter skills, he said the challenges electric cooperative communicators face today aren’t that much different from 30 years ago.
“It’s a really exciting time,” he said. “As I left, folks would say to me that the millennials are coming in and they do stuff differently. I got to thinking about that, when I went to my first cooperative and I was 25-years-old, I guarantee my boss said, ‘what a young whipper-snapper, does he know what he’s doing, is he going to run this program?’
“When I first came to work, we used to wish that members would be more engaged with their co-op, it was like that in 1980 and it was like that when I left. The same kind of challenges are there, but there are also new and different challenges. I’m (thankful) I got to see the 50th anniversary of the co-op program and the 75th anniversary of the co-op program. It’s a great program that’s going to be around a long time.”
It hasn’t all been about co-op communication. Autry has also found time to do what he loves, serving others.
“We’ve found a great church,” he said. “I’m working with a homeless shelter, Children’s Attention Home. I’m doing a little PR and marketing work for them. It’s been really good. Very fulfilling.”
Want to contact Autry? Have him speak to your co-op? Drop him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.