Editor's Note: Electric cooperatives have always attracted standout leaders who helped guide the program through tough times. From the beginning, when heroic efforts locally and nationally were needed to ensure the movement took hold, to battles in the 1970s and ’80s for the survival of the Rural Electrification Administration, to the existential deregulation fights of the 1990s, co-ops have always been blessed with bright, passionate advocates who emerged from within their ranks.

The industry is once again facing challenging times, as broad transitions in power generation, consumer expectations, laws and regulations and grid technologies drive rapid and systemic changes. Add to that an ongoing wave of retirements that will, according to NRECA numbers, see some 20,000 of the program’s 80,000 employees head for the exits in the next 10 years, and it’s clear the time for a new crop of co-op standouts has arrived.

This first-ever RE Magazine compilation of co-op stars was conceived out of a desire to identify and showcase now the employees whose talents and passions will one day be remembered as critical to helping co-ops find the opportunities to thrive amid today’s gathering challenges.

We asked for nominations in mid-June and hoped to receive 20 or 30. We got 83! All thoughtfully and sincerely written by colleagues whose admiration and pride were evident. Their ages, geographic locations, career paths and co-op tenures ran the gamut. But what came through in all was an unequivocal embrace of the co-op mission to serve our members, an undeniable expertise and confidence, a deep well of creativity and a willingness to go the extra mile.

From the 83 nominations, a panel of five NRECA judges was given the unenviable task of choosing 20 whose stories, dedication and uniqueness shone through.

This is the inaugural class of RE Magazine “Co-op Rising Stars.”

Jessica Johnson

Community and Member Relations Administrator
Poudre Valley REA
Fort Collins, Colorado
Age: 30 | Joined co-op: May 2015


Jessica Johnson joined Poudre Valley REA in 2015 as a community relations specialist, a brand-new position, and has thrived as the co-op’s priorities have shifted over the years. Promoted earlier this year to her current position, she is now in charge of all of the co-op’s community initiatives.

“Jessica is an influencer and a positive force within the cooperative,” writes Jeff Wadsworth, the co-op’s president and CEO. “When it comes to making a positive difference in the lives of our members or the cooperative, Jessica is all in.”

Johnson’s knack is developing relationships with community leaders, schools and members and bringing them together to work toward a common goal. As pandemic restrictions eased, she was looking forward to launching some new projects, including a school grant program to support STEM in local classrooms, a revamp of the co-op’s Community Connections program to support local businesses hit hard by COVID-19 and hosting Poudre Valley REA’s first-ever Fall Fest.

“We’re getting back into the groove of events and big sponsorships,” says Johnson. “It’s exciting to be making connections and interacting with members again. I’m thankful to be a part of a cooperative where supporting our community is highly valued.”

Kelsey Schrempp

Executive Assistant and Manager of Office Services
Kansas Electric Power Cooperative
Topeka, Kansas
Age: 36 | Joined co-op: February 2013


Kelsey Schrempp is among the 2021 Rising Stars who either got promoted to their current position or started around the time of the COVID-19 lockdown last year—and she has proven to be a standout during a challenging time.

When Schrempp was promoted from administrative assistant in March 2020 to a supervisory position, she “grabbed the reins of her new role with vigor, energy and a dedication to efficiency on behalf of [Kansas Electric Power Cooperative],” writes CEO Suzanne Lane in her nomination.

Schrempp was instrumental in helping KEPCo pivot to virtual board meetings for 36 trustees last year and this year. By figuring out how to use technologies “in ways we had not done before,” writes Lane, she streamlined processes, saved money and engaged employees and members.

Schrempp also made a name for herself before the lockdown. As chair of the G&T’s first-ever “Employee Experience Team,” her efforts dramatically increased employee engagement scores as noted in employee satisfaction surveys.

“She is largely to credit for this upward trend,” writes Lane.

The pandemic will always stick out in Schrempp’s mind as a unique and memorable period of time in her career.

“It’s been so exciting to be a part of an organization that demonstrates true grit and resilience under really difficult circumstances.”

Justin Lundgaard

Distribution Operations Technician
Pedernales Electric Cooperative
Johnson City, Texas
Age: 41 | Joined co-op: November 2008

Drones and Spreadsheets

Over the years, Justin Lundgaard has climbed a lot of poles at Pedernales Electric Cooperative as an apprentice and journeyman lineworker. Today, he still focuses on outages, but now it’s with drones and spreadsheets instead of hot sticks and rubber gloves.

As the co-op’s first distribution operations technician, Lundgaard identifies and corrects mapping and line diagram errors and investigates outages.

“Justin has turned it into an indispensable role that allows for safer and quicker response times for line crews,” which lowers outage restoration times, writes PEC District Director Jason Murray.

Murray estimates that Lundgaard has helped identify and correct thousands of mapping errors that prevent outages. Over the past three years, since Lundgaard’s been in the job, there have been “significant improvements” in the co-op’s System Average Interruption Duration Index, he says.

Lundgaard still suits up for outage events caused by extreme weather. And as an active-duty Air Force reservist, the Marine Corps veteran also participates in veteran outreach and recruiting programs.

Lundgaard gets a charge “just knowing that I helped build the community. I see poles that I’ve built and remember who I worked with. I enjoy that, and I love the guys I work with.”

Rebecca Williams

Data Analysis and Mapping Manager
Glades Electric Cooperative
Moore Haven, Florida
Age: 29 | Joined co-op: July 2013


At Glades Electric Co-op, Rebecca Williams has made a name for herself by catching the bad guys.

Using her keen analytical skills to study voltage discrepancies in AMI data, Williams has unearthed hundreds of thousands of dollars in power theft, most from illegal grow houses. This year alone, the co-op has detected more than $513,000 in theft compared to about $31,000 in 2019.

“She has significantly shortened the amount of time a grow house is on our system—from months or years to weeks or even days," writes the co-op's chief technology officer, Jesse Wallace, in her nomination.

By reducing power theft, “she's helped keep members' hard-earned money in their pockets, where it belongs."

Williams started at the Florida co-op as a part-time dispatcher in 2013. But it didn't take long for supervisors to notice her work ethic and attention to detail and hand her more responsibility, eventually creating her current data analysis position in 2019. As the co-op's voltage sleuth, she developed a system to predict which current abnormalities indicated instances of power theft.

As mapping manager, Williams has mastered a GIS application to render visual representations, which also has helped lineworkers.

She's always on the hunt to do more with data and maps.

“I love to be challenged, and I am thankful that I have been given the opportunity to take this information and turn it into something of value."

Shannon Mikula

Special Projects Counsel and Geologic Storage Lead
Minnkota Power Cooperative
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Age: 35 | Joined co-op: November 2018

'Cooperatives Are the Innovators'

A former private practice attorney, Shannon Mikula's job still includes “legal counsel." But now she immerses herself in the finer points of rock layers and CO2 models as a lead for geologic storage development on Project Tundra, the co-op's ambitious carbon capture and storage initiative.

When the project team was preparing its “permit to construct" application for the carbon facility, Mikula's work ethic was evident.

“Her co-workers often voice amazement at how quickly and thoroughly she can absorb new, highly complex and technical subject matter—and how much she enjoys doing it," writes Audit and Risk Senior Manager Theresa Brorby.

Mikula's ease in communicating with a variety of stakeholders from drilling and geophysical contractors to project investors and local landowners paved the way for submission of the nation's largest ever geologic carbon dioxide storage facility permit application. The applications are currently pending with state regulators.

That step “is perhaps the most important milestone in Project Tundra to date," says Dan Laudel, project manager and the G&T's environmental manager.

Mikula says it's “exciting to come to work every day" to manage cutting-edge projects and technology that will improve people's lives.

“Rural electric cooperatives are the innovators and are willing to take calculated risks for the benefit of our membership."

Chad Simon

Communications Specialist
Sam Houston Electric Cooperative
Livingston, Texas
Age: 43 | Joined co-op: November 2018


Chad Simon knows the value of engaging photos and stories as a former combat photographer for the U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Iraq.

“Chad has a special talent for finding engaging stories and asking the right questions of his subjects,” writes Sam Houston EC’s communication manager, Rachel Frey. “His stories help build connection and trust with our employees and members.”

Simon first brought his talents as a photographer and communicator to electric cooperatives as a summer intern for Midwest Energy in Hays, Kansas, at the age of 38.

“I would walk around and introduce myself as the 38-year-old intern, whereas most interns were 15 to 20 years younger than me,” says Simon, who went back to college to finish his degree after retiring from the military in 2014.

Now at Sam Houston EC, Simon often finds himself out in the field with his camera shooting everything from co-op events to storm restoration. Last year, he was part of a mutual- assistance crew at Jeff Davis EC in Jennings, Louisiana, after Hurricane Delta.

“After spending 16 years in the Marines, storm restoration is right up my alley,” he says.

When Simon’s boss encouraged him to research how the co-op can get involved in electric vehicles, he jumped at the chance.

“That’s one of the great things about working [at Sam Houston],” he says. “They encourage employees to improve the co-op even if the topic may not directly relate to their position.”

Abby Anderson

Member Services Representative
Piedmont Electric Cooperative
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Age: 29 | Joined co-op: January 2020

'Give It to Abby'

Abby Anderson’s background in sales and customer service makes her a perfect match as the go-to person for Piedmont Electric Cooperative’s complex member service situations.

“Whenever I have an important project or task, my gut reaction is always to give it to Abby,” writes her supervisor Brandon Reed. “Members love her, and she’s adept at explaining difficult topics, and her follow-through is second-to-none.”

Anderson is relentless in her efforts to help members who’ve fallen on hard times. When the state ended its pandemic-related moratorium on utility disconnections and required customers to settle unpaid bills, Anderson swung into action. She and another rep contacted the co-op’s 4,000 members affected by the decision and informed them of payment options. Six months later, they followed up.

In one case, a struggling farmer had her service shut off mid-operation. Anderson reached out to discuss payment arrangements and was able to get an appointment with the state’s social services, which led to $1,000 in assistance. The farmer is now closer to paying off her bill.

“She was concerned because she’s running a whole business herself,” says Anderson. “Every minute of every day is planned out…so anything that I can do to take that off their plate and kind of get them lined them up for success with the co-op is my goal.”

Trey Cannon

Director of Generation Projects
Cooperative Energy
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Age: 41 | Joined co-op: June 2007

Leadership at a Young Age

When Trey Cannon came to Cooperative Energy in Mississippi as a “co-op student” employee in 2003, some of the utility’s oldest generation facilities were still in operation. Today, he’s in charge of transforming units in the G&T’s 2,000-MW fleet into modern, efficient and flexible natural-gas or combined-cycle plants.

Cannon signed on full time with Cooperative Energy at age 27 as a plant engineer. By 37, he was managing conversion of the Benndale Station. Now, at age 41, he’s one of the youngest-ever members of the G&T’s management team.

“Trey has achieved significant career and leadership success at a young age, earning him greater responsibility and even greater respect among his peers,” writes Corporate Communications Manager Sara Peterson.

Cannon leads a team of seven full-time employees, one co-op student and about 300 contractors as they strive to “repower and revitalize” another facility: Plant Morrow.

“We’ve been able to keep all of the individuals fully employed through the repowering process, because we put together a plan to utilize their talents and skills in the construction of the new combined-cycle plant,” he says.

The Benndale and Morrow projects are using cutting-edge generation technology, says Cannon, which is all the more rewarding as the G&T not only modernizes its soon-to-be-2,500-MW fleet but fulfills “our mission of improving the quality of life for our members.”

Paul Crutcher

Electrical Engineer
Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative
Paxton, Illinois
Age: 38 | Joined co-op: June 2018

'An Amazing Team Player'

Paul Crutcher has greatly improved Eastern Illini EC's use of technology since joining the co-op from Ameren, an investor-owned utility headquartered in Peoria. He has hastened the co-op's use of electronic mapping through multiple use cases and accelerated the decision-making process for a new AMI system, which the co-op will implement next year.

“Paul continues to look for innovations and products all the time," writes Vice President of Operations & Engineering Bradley Smith. “He is always coming up with more projects than I can give him."

Crutcher also has helped the co-op churn out two important documents: a full lifecycle construction work plan for overhead and underground lines and a cost-of-service study.

Crutcher manages a staff of five and is generous with his knowledge and time, says Smith. “He's an amazing team player, and there are people from all departments that come to him for help."

As a small co-op—EIEC employs 56 and has about 13,500 members—Crutcher appreciates the “team environment.

“We're a little spread out, but we get along really well. It's usually a low-stress environment, even when we're very busy."

Erin Hane

Human Resources Director
United Power
Brighton, Colorado
Age: 41 | Joined co-op: April 2018

'We'll Figure Out How'

“Some people think of human resources as the 'no' group," says United Power's Erin Hane. “'No, you can't do this. No, you can't do that.' I like to think of myself as, 'We'll figure out how we can get there.'"

Under Hane, “the atmosphere has become more positive, more inclusive and more collaborative when dealing with employees as a whole," writes United Power Marketing and Communications Manager Heidi Storz.

“People were afraid to come into human resources. They actually avoided it," says Hane. “And now people come in again. That's our metric for how we're doing these days … people aren't afraid to talk to us."

Hane and her team of three have put in place new procedures and policies that head off issues and improve training offerings for employees. Her previous union experience helped the co-op navigate a new contract with call center employees, who had just organized, and negotiate three-year successor contracts with bargaining units at the two other employee unions.

Employee turnover at United Power has dropped to 2% so far this year from 17% in 2017, a result Hane labels “a possible side effect" of her efforts.

“Actively answering questions and spending time providing the 'why' behind things for people really goes a long way," she says.

Kelsey Gustainis

Engineering Manager
Tri-County Electric Cooperative
Aledo, Texas
Age: 26 | Joined co-op: August 2018

A Passion That Stands Out

When Kelsey Gustainis started at Tri-County Electric Cooperative shortly after graduating from Texas Tech University, she was already an experienced engineer. While a college intern at another Texas co-op, South Plains EC, she filled in for two employees: a system planner who went on maternity leave and her mentor, a senior engineer who left to work at another co-op.

“She demonstrated her ability to carry on the advanced work of a full-time employee as an intern,” says Janet Rehberg, her supervisor and Tri-County’s vice president of engineering and chief strategy officer. “Her passion for engineering, the co-op and community truly make her stand out.”

Gustainis started at Tri-County in 2018 as an operations engineer and was promoted in mid-June. Along the way, NRECA chose her to join its Analytics, Resiliency and Reliability Member Advisory Group, and the co-op asked her to present its 2021 workplan proposal before the board.

She says she’s proud of her rapid ascent at the co-op and in how her automated operations and engineering processes can “make everyone else’s job easier.” She cites a project that uses software to turn raw SCADA historical data into highly visual reports to help engineers in system planning.

“If you have a passion for what you’re doing here, there’s a vast amount of opportunity at Tri-County that’s unparalleled,” says Gustainis. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

Jason Fish

Line Superintendent
Niobrara Electric Association
Lusk, Wyoming
Age: 42 | Joined co-op: July 2001

'The Go-To Guy'

Whether it's on a power pole or a wrestling mat, Jason Fish instills discipline, integrity and focus. At Niobrara Electric Association, his steady rise from journeyman to line superintendent over 20 years shows he's a respected leader.

“Jason is a go-to guy," writes Twyla Barker, the co-op's HR/benefits administrator. “People gravitate toward Jason for his style of leadership, intelligence and work ethic. Peers trust his judgment and feel secure in his handling of any task, because they know his level of commitment and his integrity."

Fish's favorite part of his job is mentoring young apprentices.

“I like seeing guys start out and progress, both on the job and maturity-wise. A lot of times, they come in and they're not mature, so I like seeing them growing up and becoming better at their craft and just becoming better people."

There are a lot of similarities between coaching young wrestlers, which he does at Lusk Rawhide Wrestling, and teaching line apprentices on the job or at the Cody Hotline School, where he teaches.

“I'm the one who comes up with strategy, game plans and methods, but the linemen and athletes are the ones who perform," he says. “They are the ones that deserve all the credit."

Kyle Chester

Business Account Executive
Dakota Electric Association
Farmington, Minnesota
Age: 36 | Joined co-op: November 2019

'An Ability to Connect the Dots'

Kyle Chester has made it his mission to promote Dakota Electric Association’s energy programs to government agencies and businesses and ensure each offering meets the member’s needs. Since November 2019, the organizations he’s signed up for the co-op’s load management, energy rebate and other plans consume some 35,000 megawatt-hours annually.

“Kyle’s ability to connect the dots between programs and goals has become an extremely valuable asset for Dakota Electric and the community,” writes Jeffrey Rainey, the co-op’s economic development director.

Chester says his favorite part of the job is matching programs to organizations. The U.S. Department of Energy is considering his concept of an “Electric First Municipal Campus” in the city of Burnsville for a Connected Communities grant. If funded, the project will show how groups of buildings combined with distributed energy resources can reliably and cost-effectively serve as grid assets.

But sometimes, “it’s the fun, small projects” that are the most rewarding, he says. Those include presenting a local sheriff’s office with a pair of electric bikes for trail patrols and enrolling 165 workforce housing units in “Cycled Air Conditioning,” an energy conservation program that saves members money on the hottest days of the year.

“In the end, my job is making sure the city or organization I’m working with is successful in what they’re trying to do. Finding those win-win opportunities is what really keeps me going.”

Katie Pfennigs

Communications and Marketing Supervisor
Flathead Electric Cooperative
Kalispell, Montana
Age: 35 | Joined co-op: March 2016

'Stone Age to the Space Age'

“We like to say that Katie Pfennigs very quickly took us from the stone age to the space age," says Ross Holter, Flathead Electric Cooperative's director of energy and member services.

Pfennigs plays down the compliment, but her accomplishments with the co-op's marketing and communications efforts do speak for themselves.

Under her leadership, the co-op completed a corporate rebranding, rebuilt the website, digitized member paper interactions and put scholarship and grant applications on a web-based platform.

Improving those “bread and butter" communication functions built a foundation for other areas, says Pfennigs. One such innovation was a new text-based outage-notification system, an effort she admits can be “a hard hurdle" for electric utilities.

“I believe we should tell our members what we know as soon as we know it, but there are a lot of fears in the industry."

Pfennigs played a key role in the cross-departmental effort that made the opt-in text-messaging system possible.

“We've really tried just to meet our members where they are, and where they are in a lot of cases now is online and on their mobile device."

Early next year, Pfennigs will become the co-op's community relations manager, a promotion she's looking forward to.

“I love what I do, improving processes to make communication better for our members and helping the industry advance."

Bonnie Baty

Broadband Marketing and Services Manager
Cullman Electric Cooperative
Cullman, Alabama
Age: 46 | Joined co-op: July 2017

'She Took the Challenge'

After spending a few years overhauling Cullman Electric Co-op's social media and digital presence with improved analytics and greater member engagement, Bonnie Baty recently took the lead in marketing its new broadband service, Sprout Fiber Internet. Since launching in January 2021, Sprout has already connected over 700 members.

Before the co-op embarked on the endeavor, “we had been told fiber would become an all-consuming monster project," writes Communications Manager Brian Lacy in Baty's nomination. “She knew it. She took the challenge anyway and has spent countless hours and many long nights learning about a new technology and the new business model."

Baty has worked on the project from its inception but has ended up in an unexpected role.

“What started as a marketing coordinator's position has evolved into a multi-faceted B2B sales/customer service/public relations/advertising role," she says. “I love customer service. And I love project management. I thoroughly enjoy what I am doing."

Baty is proud to have a hand in Sprout's success.

“I'm excited about what this is going to mean for our community and our future. In 10 years, Cullman County will look totally different than what it looks like today."

Michael Jennings

Engineering Manager
New Hampshire Electric Cooperative
Plymouth, New Hampshire
Age: 34 | Joined co-op: February 2020

Thinking in a Different Way

Michael Jennings understands that members want two main things from their co-op: reliable, affordable electric service and access to technologies that will give them greater control over their energy use. In the short time he’s been at New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, he’s delivered results on both.

“One of his greatest strengths is his ability to think about the distribution system in a different way to help NHEC achieve its strategic vision of supporting our members’ increasing adoption of distributed energy resources,” writes CEO Steve Camerino in his nomination. “At the same time, Michael is helping to lead our cooperative into the future so we can meet our members’ changing needs.”

Some of Jennings’ biggest accomplishments include implementing an aggressive substation transformer replacement program and enabling the co-op to take new steps in distribution automation. With an eye toward the future, he’s also supported integration of the state’s largest battery storage system as well as improving the co-op’s capacity to absorb individual distributed energy resources.

Along the way, Jennings has won accolades for building a positive, inclusive work environment that allows his team to thrive.

“We’ve been very active in taking advantage of opportunities as they’ve come up. We’re doing the most for our members day in and day out on projects that have a large impact.”

Jennifer Hoss

Assistant General Counsel
Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: 39 | Joined co-op: June 2020

'Make a Difference Where You Live'

Jen Hoss is one of several 2021 Rising Stars who started her job during the pandemic—working remotely with no opportunity to acclimate in person. Since joining Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. in June 2020, Hoss has been instrumental in closing two Rural Utilities Service loans worth more than $200 million and is helping to develop the G&T’s 2030 strategic plan.

AECC General Counsel Lori Burrows first met Hoss when she was an attorney at the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

“I knew her to be a quick study, affable and easygoing,” writes Burrows in her nomination. “Jen is strategically minded and business-focused and is an asset to our team and a credit to cooperatives everywhere.”

Hoss says she’s dedicated to attracting a more diverse pool of young professionals to the G&T, the energy industry and the Little Rock region. She recently moderated a panel on trends and expectations of young professionals for Arkansas Women in Power. As a board member of Create Little Rock, a chamber of commerce initiative, she co-chaired Pop Up in the Rock, a three-day live event showcasing the city, and is an active member of the Junior League of Little Rock.

It’s all part of her personal motto of community engagement.

“I think it’s important to make a difference where you live, even if it is not the same place where you grew up.”

Dwight Miller

Director of Safety Training and Loss Prevention
Ohio's Electric Cooperatives
Columbus, Ohio
Age: 57 | Joined co-op: July 2007

'Turning Out the Next Generation'

As an established authority in lineworker safety and training for Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, Dwight Miller was a bit embarrassed when he learned he was a 2021 Rising Star.

But as the founder of one of the few indoor lineworker training centers owned by co-ops, he’s turning out the next generation of rising star instructors to guide tomorrow’s crews.

Since the launch of Central Ohio Lineworker Training (COLT) in 2017, the majority of Ohio and West Virginia co-op lineworkers have gone through the program, a national model where apprentices learn safe work practices and the craft of linework itself.

“Many of the changes that are taking place in the Ohio cooperatives’ safety programs can be traced back to the efforts that Dwight has made to establish the training facility, as well as many of the other creative initiatives that he’s instituted,” writes Steve Savon, OEC safety and regulatory consultant.

Helping co-op employees get back home safely to their families every night has been Miller’s passion since he first entered the business as a contract lineman in 1985.

“It was easy to see that the investor-owned utilities had the great apprenticeship programs, and the co-ops just kind of got the crumbs. It was no secret that our programs were less than stellar,” says Miller. “‘It doesn’t have to be that way,’ I thought. That inspired me to make a difference through a great apprenticeship program.”

At COLT, Miller has ceded daily teaching duties to three instructors.

“It was the right thing to do, to give it to those who are currently taking things to a completely different level, way beyond my capabilities.”

Carol Ward

Manager of Broadband Operations
Roanoke Electric Cooperative/Roanoke Connect
Aulander, North Carolina
Age: 35 | Joined co-op: September 2015

Dedication and Tenacity

“Roanoke Connect is my baby,” says Carol Ward. “I’ve been with it from the very beginning, from the time that we connected our first subscriber in 2017 to now.”

Ward’s dedication and tenacity have helped Roanoke Electric’s broadband initiative flourish, from its early years to now, when it recently signed up its 1,000th customer.

“Carol has been a major contributor to making our new startup company successful,” writes President and CEO Curtis Wynn. “The future of our cooperative hinges on the success of this project, and because of her and others, this project will be highly successful.”

Ward’s background in customer information systems was an asset as she took on the huge task of merging the co-op’s electric and broadband businesses into one billing system, which they finished in May.

“We had one system for broadband and one system for electric,” she says. “It was kind of hectic.”

Ward’s favorite aspect of her co-op job is the camaraderie and family-oriented atmosphere. When Roanoke Connect scores another success, everyone celebrates—just like a family.

After the subsidiary hooked up its first subscriber in November, “the installer sent us a photo showing that it was connected,” she says. “We almost cried. It was just so exciting.”

Cortney Branham

Director of Energy Services
Central Rural Electric Cooperative
Stillwater, Oklahoma
Age: 32 | Joined co-op: January 2013

'I Just Love to be Able to Help'

Since coming to Central REC in 2013 as a facilities laborer, Branham has risen through the ranks, first becoming an energy services and business development representative and finally her current director job, where she oversees a staff of nine.

“In that role, Branham has led the co-op in our transition to the utilization of dashboards, data and analytics, which has helped us improve processes and make better-informed decisions,” writes CEO Hunter Robinson.

For Branham, using data to justify business decisions is a “cool process.”

“Data adds so much value to the co-op, for us to be able to have a gut feeling about something and then go look at the data and be able to verify, ‘Yes, that’s what the data’s telling us as well.’”

Branham taught herself Tableau, an interactive data visualization software, and is skilled enough to teach others. That fluency has been invaluable in diagnosing potential staking and line designs as the co-op’s broadband subsidiary, CentraNet, adds more members.

Software proficiency also has resulted in quicker installations of new orders and more balanced workloads for staking technicians and other crews.

“I’m here to provide a service or improve the quality of life for co-workers and members and empower them to do whatever they want to do… build a house or start a business. I just love to be able to help.”