Editor's note: When we published our inaugural “Rising Stars" cover story in September 2021, the most popular response by far from our readers was, “This is great! When are you doing the next one?"

It's a reaction that is emblematic not only of the growing number of bright, driven, community-minded individuals who are joining the ranks of America's electric cooperatives, but of the desire among co-op leaders to celebrate and spotlight these talented and passionate employees who are helping shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that co-ops respond well to the many challenges we face and continue to thrive well into the future.

In 2021, we chose 20 winners from among 83 nominations. This year, enthusiastic co-op colleagues were ready and sent in 170! Six NRECA judges read through and scored each of the submissions to determine our 2023 winners. We're proud to honor these 20 Stars and the contributions they're making (and will make) to their co-ops, to their communities and to the electric cooperative program as a whole.

As you read through the profiles, we think you'll agree that these winners are without doubt the kind of smart, creative, humble and multifaceted professionals our co-ops and our members will rely on as the industry evolves and as the program's veteran leaders continue to retire.

So without further ado, we give you the 2023 class of RE Magazine “Co-op Rising Stars."

Kyle Allwine has fond memories of Northern Neck EC as a 12-year-old, when line foreman Randy Thompson helped restore power after Hurricane Isabel swept through his neighborhood in 2003. “He was so nice. He showed us tools and explained what he was doing.”

That personal touch, the “Northern Neck way,” stuck with Allwine, and today it influences everything he does, especially when to comes to making inroads with his peers, members ages 18-45. Allwine and his staff of one keep in regular touch with members through a social media and communications strategy (a first for the co-op), and “meet and greets” with state and federal elected officials have boosted the co-op’s visibility. Members can attend annual meetings online, or if they go in person, they can expect family-friendly activities.

Remembering Thompson’s example, he’s enlisted line crews as ambassadors. Today, they carry little hard hats on trucks as “gestures of goodwill, whether it’s to a family at a home we’re doing work on or a family broken down on the side of the road,” says Glenn Purcell, the co-op’s vice president of technology and services.

Allwine’s community engagement initiatives have “provided us goodwill that money cannot buy.” And the proof is in the numbers: Member satisfaction scores among this group have risen by 2% to 3% since he started.

“Our community is my home,” Allwine says. “I grew up here and I was inspired by our mission to improve the quality of life in our communities because I want a brighter future for my family, friends and neighbors.”

Tyler Bain has spent his entire engineering career at United Power after graduating from the Colorado School of Mines in 2013. When asked what kept him at the same job throughout his 20s, a time of job experimentation among his cohort, he has an easy answer: “I really enjoy it. It’s worthwhile and rewarding, and you definitely get to see the fruits of your labor. There’s never a dull day.”

Bain’s love of data has resulted in new systems at United Power for outage analysis. He’s also helped make energy data more accessible by formatting it into user-friendly, easily updatable charts. As a result, employees and directors can visualize outage and system demand indices and make more informed decisions.

“I get a kick out of seeing a chart or a piece of data that I’ve put together and broadcast throughout the organization. But it’s not just me. It takes a village. We’ve put together really proactive and precise maintenance efforts using different tools.”

An early adopter of electric vehicles, Bain also studied how EVs affect load.

“Tyler has a practical understanding of the utility business that very few new graduates possess,” says Robert Maxwell, the co-op’s vice president of engineering. “He brings to his work and our utility a unique perspective, and we look forward to those continued insights in the future.”

The son and grandson of lineworkers, Bain grew up hearing about volts and currents—something they still discuss today while fishing and hanging out in the mountains.

“We kind of have a passion for electricity,” he says.

Math and science have always been Courtney Bowers’ strongest suits. But it turns out the civil engineer by training also has a gift for inspiring her workers, a sprawling team of 30 responsible for multiple projects: design and construction of transmission lines and substations, land management and surveys and construction contracts. Talk to Bowers about her team and the superlatives flow: “phenomenal,” “incredibly hardworking,” “best team at PowerSouth.”

Bowers was a college intern at the Alabama G&T and later returned as a full-time transmission engineer, the co-op’s first woman in that role. Past noteworthy projects include designing and installing fiber optic cable across its system and a switching station for the first solar interconnection on the G&T’s grid.

But Bowers is most proud of the work ethic and camaraderie she’s helped forge among her team of engineers, drafters, surveyors, arborists and others.

“I’ve tried to be intentional and put a lot of focus on employee development and team building, because when we communicate better, we collaborate better, and that’s when we succeed.”

To encourage collaboration, Bowers leverages software and quarterly “knowledge shares, where we huddle around a table and talk with one another about what our group is doing and lessons learned from that week.”

PowerSouth T&D Engineering and Construction Support Specialist Dennis O’Neal says, “In my 33 years here, Courtney has made the most significant positive impact on our co-op of any individual I can remember.”

“I want my team to know that every role is important. It’s my goal to support and encourage them so they’re equipped with the tools to serve our members each and every day,” says Bowers. “I’m really grateful for the cooperative moments I get to share with our team.”

In five years, Amanda Burnett has risen through SEMO EC’s ranks, starting as a union accountant and becoming the co-op’s CFO, the first woman in that position, in May 2022. A willingness to learn and grow on the job, adaptability to change and keen listening skills were ingredients for success.

When the co-op’s CFO left in 2018, she and a colleague shared the job, reporting directly to the CEO. During that time, they handled all aspects of accounting and finance related to the co-op’s electric operations and its rapidly growing broadband subsidiary.

“The workload was intense, but they worked through it, and Amanda’s leadership abilities bubbled up,” says CEO and General Manager Sean Vanslyke.

Amid the challenges of a heavy workload and increased compliance as a result of the pandemic, Burnett somehow found time between 2020 and 2022 to complete her MBA.

Recently, her team took first place at Utility 2030’s Think-a-Thon Workshop for a proposal to create a nationwide program, similar to the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program, for low-income consumers—an idea that’s now under study by the Utility Collaborative Group. Burnett developed the plan to help “those farmers, local business owners and the family down the road.”

“When I got here, I fell in love with the cooperative business model. It just makes so much sense,” she says. “Working at a co-op is all local and it really changed my dynamic of thinking to know that because of our hard work, you’re not benefiting any one person, it’s going to benefit our entire community. It’s that mentality that helped me succeed.”

Matt Fauver started at Rappahannock EC as a line apprentice followed by six years as a journeyman lineman at the co-op’s Front Royal district office near the Shenandoah Mountains. But today, instead of restoring outages, he figures out how to prevent them as a data analyst for BrilliT, the co-op’s IT services subsidiary.

“That work ethic from working storms to restore power and all the strength it takes to be a lineman to our data analytics team brings a perspective like no other employee,” says Peter Muhoro, REC’s chief strategy, technology and information officer.

Fauver decided to leave linework when he and his wife, Katie, an operating room nurse, were expecting their first child.

“She was always on call, and I was always on call,” Fauver says. “I got called out on an outage at 2:30 in the morning, and we realized, ‘What are we going to do?’”

He eased into data analytics gradually and began working full time for BrilliT in 2022.

“Having someone who can communicate why data is important to linemen, designers and foresters has honestly been a huge help to us,” Fauver says.

For example, the co-op’s tree trimmers enthusiastically endorsed an app tracking tree-related outages he co-developed.

“So now they can get the exact location of where a tree falls. I was telling them, ‘When I was a lineworker, I missed eight straight Thanksgivings and every birthday you can imagine.’ But if you can identify a tree that’s maybe been dead for a year and take care of it, that’s a Christmas or Thanksgiving you won’t have to miss. Our linemen get to be at home and not out working.”

Cori Francis has a somewhat unusual backstory for a Co-op Rising Star.

“My initial plan was to follow investigators at crime scenes and collect the evidence to send off to the crime lab.”

And while it was exciting (“I did find a couple of dead bodies”), she realized the job’s demands would mean lots of time away from home.

“Crime scenes don’t happen 8 to 5, Mondays through Fridays. They happen at night, on holidays and on weekends,” she says. “I knew I wanted a family, and I knew I couldn’t do both.”

Family connections led her to Co-Mo, and her scientific training helped her excel. The co-op promoted her several times, from member care rep to supervisor and then to training and quality assurance analyst, a new position. When Co-Mo’s fiber business began to take off, it struggled to train member service reps to handle the extra workload. Her expertise in process improvement led to a technical training program that allowed new employees to onboard quickly. At the same time, she played an integral role in a software conversion that affected the co-op’s two businesses.

“Cori built confidence in the employees and was able to take on a very new group of people and move them through a period of high growth that benefited the entire organization,” says Corey tenBensel, the co-op’s director of member care.

Recently, Francis was promoted to member care manager, supervising a team of 45.

“My motivation is really just to make sure the people in my department feel valued and happy and feel like they’re rewarded and can express new ideas.”

In 2015, a conversation between Deidra Grantham and Tri-County EMC General Manager J. Michael Davis during NRECA's Electric Cooperative Youth Tour wound up opening a new door.

“We were both chaperones," says Grantham, then a community relations specialist at another North Carolina co-op. “I said, 'Hey, if anything comes available in a management position, but still in communications, think about me.'"

Davis called a few weeks later with good news: The co-op's communications manager was retiring after 30 years.

“Everyone says Youth Tour is the trip of a lifetime," Grantham says. “Well, I'm a poster child for that, because it totally changed my life."

Grantham has made her mark at Tri-County EMC by reinvigorating its outreach programs for its 26,000 members, particularly ones with families. The pandemic in 2020 was a formidable challenge.

“How do we still connect and communicate with our members without contact?" she recalls.

Her solution: the co-op's first drive-through annual meeting, a resounding success that doubled participation to 1,580 this year from 776 in 2019. Adding to the annual meeting's newfound popularity is a “Design Your Bag" contest in which K-12 students submit art and members vote on the designs through social media. The top four go on the annual meeting tote bag.

A one-person shop who “gives everything 200%," Grantham also coordinates several events, including a golf tournament to benefit a scholarship program. “Our community outreach programs are rising and soaring through Deidra's leadership," says Davis. “She believes in the vision of the cooperative and makes it her own."

Heath Ishee was at Dixie Electric for just two weeks when the pandemic forced employees to work remotely. At the time, the co-op was conducting feasibility studies for a proposed subsidiary, DE Fastlink. The crisis “lit up the project,” he says.

“It was like, ‘Everybody’s been sent home, and they need internet now.’ The pandemic fueled everything and everybody to get it done.”

The co-op leaned heavily on Ishee’s background as a system engineer at a propane company, but he soon oversaw the deployment of DE Fastlink’s network—on top of his regular IT duties.

“It was a real juggling act, and the [fiber network] consumed me, but I enjoyed it,” he says.

At the time, most Dixie EPA employees lacked adequate internet at home, and to avoid overcrowding, they worked in shifts or spread out in the auditorium.

Ishee’s “can-do attitude, dedication, knowledge and adaptability were invaluable,” says Communication Manager Amanda Mills. “We were moving at such a quick pace to keep up with federal requirements, and Heath became vital to our operations for both Dixie Electric and DE Fastlink.”

The co-op rolled out a successful pilot project to 100 members at the end of 2020 and signed up another 3,000 by the end of 2021. Today, DE Fastlink has about 13,000 subscribers.

“If you asked us three years ago, that we’d go from nothing to providing a premium service to rural members of our community with a more-than-they-could-ask-for internet in a less than three-year period, it’s kind of unthinkable,” Ishee says.

Grace Malcom crunched data for local law enforcement before joining Delaware EC for better job security.

Now, instead of creating algorithms predicting where and when crime will happen, she develops predictive analytics for the co-op’s vegetation crew—and a whole lot more.

“Grace was hired to help modernize and reimagine our approach to data analytics,” says CJ Myers, manager of metering and cable services. “The co-op had no idea that in such a short period of time, her expertise and tremendous knowledge would improve reliability, enhance our member experience and ensure member money was being spent wisely.”

Malcom’s projects led the co-op to hire more member service reps to reduce wait times and helped engineers map system voltage issues leading to greater reliability.

And that vegetation project? It resulted in a more accurate system for analyzing data on vegetation- related outages.

“This targeted approach was a major factor in making 2022 DEC’s most reliable year ever,” Myers says. Recently, Malcom became team leader of DEC’s renewable energy strategy and innovation team, where she’ll develop a plan to integrate renewables over the next five years.

While Malcom is proud to have worked on such sweeping projects, she says the smaller jobs (like automating field engineers’ work order agreements) are also rewarding.

“I really love knowing that people use the stuff that I made for them every day and that it helps them do their jobs better. And when I’m helping them, I know I did my job correctly.”

On a deeper level, she’s helping more employees embrace data.

“I do think that minds are spinning in a different way than they had previously.”

Jon Mayes became High Plains Power's CFO after handling the books at a variety of businesses, including a hospice organization and Brunton, a subsidiary of the Swedish manufacturer of Fjällräven backpacks. The co-op position, he says, “was almost a perfect meld of my whole background … the nonprofits, the data analytics, the billing side, even the manufacturing with inventory. All of my experiences led me here."

That breadth of experience and acumen in data and financial analysis have “strengthened the financial position of our co-op and lessened the burden on our members," says CEO Darick Eisenbraun.

To put the co-op on sounder footing, Mayes revamped full financial reporting for co-op directors into a consistent, easy-to-understand format, giving them “a better understanding of the dynamic loads at HPP and power cost drivers."

Mayes also led a major software transition that folded several non-integrated applications into one unified system.

“I'm a data guy at heart," he says. “I always try to figure out operational efficiencies, how one click can do everything instead of five different processes."

Mayes is also a big fan of the cooperative business model, especially in rural areas, where people share the load. Through a shared services agreement, co-ops in the region know they can ask him for help on creating financial models to better understand data. By assisting co-ops with these tasks, “we can make a stronger Wyoming."

“I am a Wyoming boy who wants my kids to stay close and have good-quality jobs. I really think cooperatives can and will start to make that difference."

For Tony Michlitsch, if Basin Power succeeds, he succeeds. Over his 19-year career at the Leland Olds Power Plant, the G&T's oldest, he's built an encyclopedic knowledge of every boiler, turbine and pump at the Stanton-based facility. That experience plus his can-do attitude and drive have resulted not just in steady promotions (from laborer to plant superintendent) but contributed to plant modernization and the station's overall success, says Plant Manager Jason Cowan.

“I am truly blessed to work here, and I only want to see Basin succeed, its plants be reliable and efficient in today's market and be flagships for the future," Michlitsch says.

He was instrumental in shepherding the addition of a scrubber and dewatering system at the 656-megawatt facility when the G&T joined the Southwest Power Pool in 2015. And he helped the G&T generate more revenue when he finalized a plan to sell bottom ash, a plant by-product, something on Basin's wish list for several years.

Michlitsch went back to school in 2011 to get his bachelor's degree in energy management.

“I always wanted to do more with my life, so I went back to school while I was still a shift worker. The kids were little then, so that was a pretty big accomplishment for me."

His dedication inspires his coworkers. “I don't think he knows the word 'can't,'" says Cowan of “Reliable Tony," as he's known around the plant. “He's always there for startups and shutdowns. We can always count on him."

A licensed master electrician, John Pantzke turned the difficulties of the pandemic into opportunity.

“I prefer engaging face-to-face with people, so when everything was being locked down, it was very difficult for me.”

During that time, he rolled out Stearns Electric's first licensed energy service team to offer members “the ultimate experience. Now, when the guys are on site, they can promote and explain our other products— devices that qualify for our load management programs and help them lower energy bills. The team I’ve been able to put together so far is second to none.”

Over the last few years, Pantzke also turned the co-op’s interruptible generator program into an asset.

“Members were extremely frustrated by program requirements and the costs associated with failing to control equipment during load control periods. He visited every single participant (over 90 different accounts) to go over the program and listen to their frustrations,” says Whitney Ditlevson, the co-op’s communications supervisor.

Not only did he win over their trust, but enrollment has gone up to nearly 130 today.

On the economic development front—one of the tasks he was originally hired for—Pantzke secured two $1.5 million federal passthrough loans, a co-op record.

“I really feel like I helped bring a very successful co-op up another level,” he says. “When I go home at night, I’m very exhausted, but I’m satisfied.”

A lifelong member of Morgan County REA, Maddie Pollart was hired at the northeastern Colorado co-op exactly one month after graduating from the University of Wyoming with a degree in agricultural communications.

“I'm a small-town kid … in fact, town's kind of a stretch," Pollart says.

That might be true, but she's already made an outsize impact with her 34 coworkers. She rebuilt the co-op's youth safety education programs and helped pioneer the co-op's first member appreciation picnic last year. She also introduced new technology to the co-op by way of a virtual reality headset safety program to train first responders, an initiative she learned about from an Oregon co-op and then promoted at Morgan County REA.

“We like to say we're small but mighty," says Pollart of the co-op's two-person communications shop. “We're always looking at new ways to get out into the community, and I'm so proud of how we've done that."

MCREA's receptionist, Suzi Iungerich, says Pollart's skills helped make that happen. “She gives a huge boost to employee morale with her infectious attitude and has amazing insight and perspectives to offer our ever-growing team.

Maddie will work and rework her project until it's exactly right, because her work is an extension of herself."

It's worlds and cultures apart, but for Joe Priestley, there's a lot in common between his work at Corn Belt EC and the Middle East, where he spent several years speaking four different dialects of Arabic as a battlefield intelligence code breaker for the U.S. Army.

“My heart has always been in my military service, and when you have linemen who go out in the snow and rain at 2:00 in the morning to fix things … it feels very much like where I came from," says Priestley, also a former Army paratrooper. “I had no idea until I started working here of the tight teamwork."

At Corn Belt Energy, Priestley oversees the security and technological aspects of the co-op's administrative side and will soon oversee a major AMI deployment.

Despite the demands of the job, he's approachable, says CEO Don Taylor.

“It sounds mundane, but if anyone walks in his office, he's going to listen and provide the help they need."

Recently, a new director asked if the co-op could educate first responders and firefighters on handling electric vehicle hires. He secured a matching grant through CoBank's Sharing Success program, and today the University of Illinois's fire education group runs free programs.

Priestley pours his energy into his staff of 16, “some of the most absolutely amazing human beings who do amazing work every day."

This is another reminder of Priestley's military days, when as staff sergeant, he developed and mentored privates and specialists.

“Honestly, the greatest thing I'll look back on after I retire is taking someone from having a job to having a career."

Brian Rasa's story is one of tenacity and gratitude. Realizing he was stuck in a dead-end job at a rubber factory (“I wanted something better for me and my family"), Rasa got a job as a grounds and warehouse laborer at Co-Mo. Two years later, he was promoted to service planning technician, where he got a taste of linework.

He set his sights on becoming a line apprentice but couldn't afford line school, and at the time, the co-op hired graduates from local programs. But Rasa didn't give up. After months of discussions with management, he finally became an apprentice and took core classes at the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives in Jefferson City. The rest he learned from his colleagues, and in 2015 he earned journeyman lineman status.

“I'm so grateful to the guys because, honestly, I would not be in this position if it weren't for them," he says. “They were on the fence at first, because I was the first person to come from the outside in a long time. So I had to earn their trust and respect by working hard."

Just as Rasa was determined to become a lineworker, he's also intent on paying it forward as a co-op mentor and speaker at high school career fairs and job expos, where he promotes linework careers. He also began the co-op's first annual memorial golf tournament that honors a fallen colleague and has raised $40,000 over three years for linework scholarships.

Director of Administrative Services Jennifer Mercer says Rasa is one of a kind.

“His coworkers recognize him as an influencer, a true leader within the organization they can emulate."

Andrew Spratta became McKenzie EC’s member services coordinator in 2019 by accident. At the McKenzie County Farmer, Spratta designed ads for clients, including the co-op, looking to fill jobs. One of those positions was the member services coordinator.

“The job had been open for about eight months when a [co-op] manager came in wanting to change up the ad, and he asked me if I was interested.” Spratta turned him down, “but then I got to thinking … maybe I’ll give this co-op job at shot.”

Spratta did that and then some.

Knowing little about co-ops, he dug in and learned all he could. And as he learned more, he resolved to understand and engage the co-op’s 4,700 members the best he could, starting by amping up the co-op’s digital capabilities and raising its profile in the community.

“When I started, we didn’t have a big social media presence. We had some posts, but we didn’t use it as a tool to really communicate and engage with our membership,” he says. “And if you have a well-polished website, people are more likely to trust you and the information you’re sharing.”

Spratta’s efforts have generated member goodwill on many levels. In April 2022, he and then-brand new CEO Matt Hanson made a series of popular real-time videos to update members on power restoration after fierce storms left nearly the entire service area in the dark.

Other projects included a series of safety videos for farmers, outreach to the co-op’s growing Hispanic population and kid-friendly annual meetings.

“Andrew is a standout among our co-op communicators in the state,” says Cally Peterson, editor at the North Dakota Association of RECs in Mandan. “He listens louder than he shares his opinion, and when he does, he desires to be part of a solution. He truly wants to see his cooperative and community succeed.”

Weathering a cyberattack “is definitely an experience that's nice to have after the fact, but you don't really want it," says Jason “Jay" Suckey. He should know; he was a key player in DMEA's recovery from a major ransomware attack in late 2021. The lights stayed on, but the incident shuttered DMEA's systems for several weeks and wiped out about 25 years of data.

Suckey guided the co-op through the ordeal, saying “it took about four months to get to a new normal."

Also noteworthy is the co-op's willingness to share lessons learned on this taboo topic with other co-ops, including at NRECA's Co-op Cyber Tech Conference this year.

“Nobody ever talks about it, and most businesses close the door to make it kind of go away," he says. “But people really do appreciate it, and we've gotten nothing but great feedback for sharing our story."

DMEA Chief of Staff Amy Taylor praises Suckey's approachability.

“He's the type of coworker employees feel comfortable asking about anything. He's patient and understands how frustrating it can be when technology doesn't work and works hard to provide a solution." Suckey is particularly proud of launching two projects: a help desk ticket system and the department's first-ever satisfaction survey, which resulted in “glowing reviews" from employees.

“We don't want our department to be a reason people dread coming to work, so we strive for five-star service with every interaction."

As the daughter and granddaughter of general managers of two Texas co-ops (Grayson-Collin EC and CoServ Electric), Annie Watson is proud to be a third-generation co-op employee. Growing up, “I spent many days at the co-op. It was like my second home."

Right after graduating from Texas A&M University, Watson started at Tri-County EC as a specialist in its brand-new communications department—and has been on the rise ever since.

One of her proudest accomplishments has been restarting this co-op's involvement in the Youth Tour in 2019 after a 30-year absence. And, of course, Watson played a big role, along with her then-counterpart, in building the department from scratch.

“When I started, member communications consisted of a bulletin: a piece of paper that went to our members and a website."

Today, 10 different co-op “touch points" educate and inform members, she says.

Recently, she helped organize a series of pop-up member engagement events in the community. At four events, more than 700 members visited the tent with coupons from a co-op magazine to claim a free gift.

That small act plus other face-to-face conversations “has really helped show that what we're doing is making a difference."

What's more, TCEC's 250-plus employees also view the five-person communications team as a valuable resource.

“Annie's efforts are truly starting to bear fruit," says Gracelyn Harp, a marketing specialist. “Departments are aware of each other, giving them the ability to help each other, to the benefit of the entire co-op."

Editor's Note: Read more about, and see photos of, Watson's co-op themed wedding.

You probably couldn't find two more different working environments: a casino and a rural electric cooperative.

“The casino and gaming industry was very proprietary, very private. Casinos tend to keep to themselves due to the propriety technologies, and you really don't collaborate on things," says Joseph Whiteplume, who ran the computer network at Wind River Hotel & Casino (also in Riverton) for about 10 years. “But in the co-op world, that's what everybody does, cooperation through cooperatives."

As the co-op's first full-time IT/cybersecurity professional, Whiteplume has “taken the lead to become a sounding board" for other Wyoming co-ops—many of them not large enough to hire specialized computer staff—for solving IT issues, says co-op CEO Darick Eisenbraun. In some cases, he's helped co-ops establish their own IT plans and evaluate proposals from outside vendors.

At High Plains Power, Whiteplume's professionalism has transformed the co-op. He set up an email security system, upgraded firewalls, virtualized the server environment, handled a 14-month software migration, created an offsite backup system, and, in 2021, oversaw the installation of fiber optic internet in the co-op's headquarters building.

That commitment “to keeping our cooperative safe is like nothing I have ever experienced before," Eisenbraun says. “He's one of the first people in the building and the last one to leave virtually every day."

Since joining the co-op, Whiteplume's work/life balance has improved exponentially, giving him more time to spend with family, Special Olympics and in his tribal community, the Northern Arapaho.

Whiteplume strives to grow his knowledge about the industry.

“I'm still learning, but at the same time, I'm very lucky, because everyone has been so great and willing to teach."

“My buzzwords are 'Continuous improvement.' I'm always looking to learn more and do more," says Krista Williams, who credits her parents and her “achiever" mindset for her drive.

She's remained true to those words in her personal and professional life.

While working full time, she completed her MBA at Kennesaw State University and earned a project management certification from the Project Management Institute.

At Cobb EMC, one of the nation's largest co-ops, she's led an ambitious initiative that leverages data and old-fashioned collaboration to improve the member experience. Known as “member journey mapping," the comprehensive process involves dissecting members' individual interactions with the co-op, analyzing pain points and recommending areas for improvement.

Journey mapping efforts so far have improved members' experiences with electric service starts and transfers and unplanned outages.

“It's been a huge shift for Cobb EMC. It's getting everyone in the same room, putting the facts together and actually seeing what's happening for the member," says Williams, who's spoken nationally about member journey mapping.

“Even though she is very young, she can foster a culture of accountability for herself and her team," says Nurdan Cornelius, her supervisor.

“She's one of the next-generation leaders for Cobb EMC, and we are beyond grateful to have her."