By Abbey Sprague, CCC, Communications/Marketing Coordinator, Midland Power Cooperative, Jefferson, Iowa

Bethany Akridge, CCC, Communications Coordinator, Coastal Electric Cooperative, Midway, GA

In 2000, Bethany served as a Washington Youth Tour delegate from PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, Andalusia, Ala., where she later interned, and then worked as an Information Specialist for nearly five years. She loved it. She stayed home when her daughter was born, but returned in 2016 to help the co-op during maternity leave of two of its employees. When her family was moving to the Savannah area, she applied for a job opening at Coastal, where she has been Communications Coordinator for two years. “It's a good example that once you work for a co-op, you never really want to leave the co-op family,” said Bethany.

“I enjoy bringing to light the human side of what we do. Behind the electricity, behind storm restoration, behind every community project, behind the decisions we make, are people – people with talents and passions for their work, people who have a great sense of humor, people who make big sacrifices, and people who count on those people. Telling that story makes every day fun and meaningful,” said Bethany.

She and her husband started a church a year ago and she is a mother of three. So she doesn’t have much free time, but she loves to travel and explore new places near her home. She also loves to read and host get-togethers in her home.

She has a bachelor's in print journalism and public relations from Troy University. She worked part-time for several small, hometown newspapers during college, and was editor of her college and high school papers. “I'd say that's where I learned to find the "gold" in a story, how to interview people and how to determine what is important to a reader,” Bethany said.

She is thankful that Joe Sikes from Canoochee EMC and her VP, Mark Bolton, persuaded her to earn the CCC designation. She is also thankful for her friend Christi Scruggs from PowerSouth, who went through the program at the same time and made it more fun and a little less nerve-racking.

Porter W. Gable, CCC, Communications Coordinator, York Electric Cooperative, Inc., York, SC

Porter has been with York Electric Cooperative for ten years and currently serves as the Communications Coordinator.

“Anytime I am able to be creative to tell the co-op story or have the opportunity to help others is a great day for me,” said Porter.

In her free time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, reading and spending time with family and friends. She is a 2008 graduate of Wofford College and she is currently working to obtain an MBA from Queens University.

“Although I was a finance major as an undergrad, I always enjoyed writing. As a liberal arts school, each class at Wofford stressed the importance of excellent verbal and written communication. This helped me hone my skills and prepared me for my roll at YEC. Being able to do something that makes me happy each day – and get paid for it – is a blessing. They say if you are doing what you love, you never work a day in your life. I’m finding that to be true. Earning the CCC designation was challenging, yet one of the most rewarding experiences I have had. I look forward to learning and working with communications professionals from other cooperatives across the country, continuing to share the cooperative difference with our members for years to come,” said Porter.

Leslie Guisinger, CCC, Director of Marketing and Communications, Hancock-Wood Electric Co-op, Inc., North Baltimore, OH

Leslie is in her fourth year at the Hancock-Wood Electric Co-op. In January 2019, she was promoted to the Director of Marketing and Communications. Prior to that she was the Communications Coordinator.

“I enjoy the creative aspect of the position most and interacting with our membership during community events,” said Leslie.

In her free time, Leslie enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. She also enjoys reading, cooking and watching the latest Netflix series. She received an Instapot and is looking forward to trying it out.

Leslie has a bachelor's degree in communications from The University of Toledo, and prior work experience as a reporter at a countywide newspaper.

“I feel great receiving this certification knowing the extra hours I put into studying for the test directly impacted my knowledge about the cooperative industry,” said Leslie.

Leigh Holmes, CCC, Senior Communications Representative, Seminole Electric Co-op, Inc, Tampa, FL

Leigh joined the Communications Department at Seminole Electric Cooperative, a G&T in Florida, nearly seven years ago.

She enjoys having the opportunity to work with and support Seminole Electric’s member cooperatives.

In her free time, Leigh enjoys outdoor activities such as bike riding and golfing, but if the Florida heat and/or rain is too intense, she enjoys relaxing at home, reading, and baking sweets!

Megan Lawrence, CCC, Manager of Member Services and Marketing, Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc., Lindsay, OK

Originally from Tonganoxie, Kansas, Megan received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Agricultural Communications from Oklahoma State University.

Prior to working at Rural Electric Cooperative, she was an associate editor for Farm Talk Newspaper in Parsons, Kan. Farm Talk is a weekly, regional agricultural newspaper covering Kansas, southwest Missouri, northwest Arkansas and northeast Oklahoma. She wrote stories about farmers, ranchers and agricultural news in those areas.

Megan has been with the REC since January 2012, as the Manager of Member Services and Marketing. “I enjoy being able to assist our members and help find solutions to their needs. I also enjoy working with our youth and educating them, along with our membership, about the cooperative and what it can offer,” said Megan.

Nikki Ricciardi, CCC, Communications Specialist, Mountain View Electric Association, Inc., Falcon, CO

Nikki joined the Mountain View Electric Association, Inc. team as the Communications Specialist in December 2015. “Joining the MVEA team has been life-changing because I get to come to work every day and work with the team that I always dreamed of, in an industry with an unsurpassed legacy and a future that inspires me on a daily basis. I thank my direct supervisor for ‘picking me’ often,” said Nikki.

“As MVEA’s Communications Specialist, I wear many hats! From targeted member engagement event planning to serving as the CEO’s ghostwriter, I use every tool in my co-op communicator tool belt. Being part of the behind-the-scenes strategic process that goes into telling our co-op story and developing innovative approaches to increased member engagement is rewarding and a tremendous point of pride,” said Nikki.

She and her husband enjoy exploring Colorado’s mountain towns and spending time with family. They also enjoy weekends with their Dobermans (Bella and Franco), both adopted through animal rescues.

Nikki earned a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications with a minor in Political Science from Mesa State College. Ultimately, she pursued a career in community-driven communications. “I find inspiration and golden nuggets of knowledge from my previous career experience in higher education, public education, municipal government, and integrative medicine,” said Nikki.

Her parents were MVEA members for more than 30 years. They moved recently, and still praise the electric co-op business model and the level of service they received from the co-op. Nikki said, “In fact, I used to drive by MVEA’s Falcon office every day on my way to high school. It took me 20 years, but I finally got to park my truck in the MVEA employee parking lot. I am so proud to be part of the electric co-op community!”

Christi Scruggs, CCC, Digital & Creative Services Coordinator, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, Andalusia, AL

Christi has been with PowerSouth for 15 years, and served as the Media & Communications Coordinator from 2008 until 2018. Last year, her role changed to Digital & Creative Services Coordinator. Now she is responsible for not only traditional communications, but also for digital and printed media.

“Because I work at the G&T, I enjoy the opportunity to work with our members on a variety of projects to achieve their communications goals. The professionals at our distribution systems have such great ideas, and I love seeing them come to life! The best part of working in the cooperative network is the sense of camaraderie and true spirit of cooperation amongst such a vast and diverse group of creative and talented individuals,” said Christi.

Most of her free time is spent with her family – watching her children play sports, worshipping with her church family and loving being together. Her hobbies include crocheting, reading, baking, visiting Hobby Lobby with her daughter and watching reruns of ER.

Christi earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Arts with an emphasis on Graphic Design and a minor in Journalism from Auburn University at Montgomery. She earned a Master of Science in Strategic Communication from Troy University.

“Two of my cooperative sisters joined me in pursuit of our CCC designations, which made the journey so much easier. Their support and friendship meant the world to me – from keeping each other accountable throughout the process to our pre-exam study session and post-exam sigh of relief,” said Christi.

Debra S Shaw, CCC, VP of Member, Public and Government Relations, Newberry Electric Cooperative, Newberry, SC

Debra has been VP of Member, Public & Government Relations with Newberry Electric Cooperative since 2007. Prior to that, she worked at Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative for ten years.

“The best thing about my job is the opportunity to give back to the community through annual events such as our annual Shred-a-thon and Child Safety Day. I also enjoy coordinating our WIRE (Women Involved in Rural Electrification) Chapter. It’s very rewarding to be in a position to make a difference in the lives of others, as well as the communities in which we serve,” said Debra.

In her free time, she enjoys taking pictures, walking, relaxing on the lake and exploring wildlife. She is also very active in her church, at both the local and state level. She enjoys spending time with her two fur babies – Ava, a miniature Yorkie, and a Pomeranian named Sophia.

Nicole M. White, CCC, Communications Manager, Cuming County PPD, West Point, NE

Nicki has been at Cuming County Public Power District for nine years. Her favorite part of working there is talking with and meeting customers of the PPD. “People are so interesting to talk to and learn something about. It’s always fun to see where people are from and what brought them to the area,” said Nicki.

She spends most of her time outside of work with her husband and three boys; Sage 12, Jackson 5 and Nathan 3. She also enjoys going to their family cabin on the lake, going on walks, visiting with friends, traveling and decorating for the holidays.

Nicki has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications from the University of South Dakota. She has a variety of work experience including many years in customer service, technical training and marketing.

“When I started working for Cuming County Public Power District almost 10 years ago, I had no idea what the electric industry was all about. I had no idea how large the industry is and what an impact it has on every person, farm and community. I quickly learned that working for CCPPD isn’t just a job, it’s a career and it has given me many opportunities,” said Nicki.

She added, “My co-workers helped keep me going on this CCC path. They were supportive and always asking how the studying was going. My family also really helped me by taking care of the boys so I could study without interruption. It was definitely a struggle, but I am so happy with the outcome.”

Bonnie E. Whitfield, CCC, Communications & Community Affairs Coordinator, Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc., Defuniak Springs, FL

Bonnie has been with CHELCO for seven years. She has been Communications & Community Affairs Coordinator for two years.

“I love my Youth Tour program and working with our leaders of tomorrow. I love anything to do with giving back to our community,” said Bonnie.

In her free time, she enjoys crafting and doing events for friends, as well as doing fundraisers for non-profits in her community.

Bonnie has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Public Relations from the University of West Florida.