SAN DIEGO — Jo Ann Emerson, former CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), today received the Clyde T. Ellis Award, the highest honor bestowed on an individual by America’s electric cooperatives. The award was presented by outgoing NRECA President Mel Coleman, CEO of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, and accepted on Emerson’s behalf by her husband, Ron Gladney, during the closing general session of NRECA’s annual meeting.
“Jo Ann used her political savvy and her natural ability to lead NRECA,” said Coleman. “She lit up every room she walked into with her warmth and authenticity. In many ways, her service as CEO reminds me of the way my fellow Arkansan and the first General Manager of NRECA, Clyde Ellis, provided pivotal leadership during the formation of our national association. Ellis was known as ‘Mr. Rural Electrification,’ and in my opinion Jo Ann occupies a place in history right beside him. Like Clyde Ellis, Jo Ann’s leadership was marked by her efforts to strengthen NRECA’s international program. She helped bring light to communities around the globe and give people a promise for a better tomorrow.”
Emerson became the fifth CEO of NRECA on March 2, 2013, after serving as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Missouri’s 8th congressional district, from November 1996 to January 2013. During her time in Congress, Emerson—unwaveringly dedicated to addressing the needs of her rural district—became Republican Co-Chair of the Rural Caucus, a platform from which she advocated on behalf of all rural Americans. Prior to her congressional service, Emerson pursued an active career in public affairs and grassroots communications. She served as senior vice president of public affairs for the American Insurance Association, director of state relations and grassroots programs for the National Restaurant Association, and deputy communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. She holds a B.A. in political science from Ohio Wesleyan University, in Delaware, Ohio.
“During my first several months at NRECA, nothing has struck me more than the profound impact Jo Ann has had on this organization and the entire electric cooperative community,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. “Through conversations with colleagues and members it’s become crystal clear to me that Jo Ann’s ability to lead this co-op family so well stems from the fact that she was such an integral part of it, every single day. She fully embraced the electric cooperative movement and gave it a strong voice and clear direction in Washington. It is a privilege to follow in her footsteps and build on the many accomplishments she achieved.”
“Jo Ann was never more proud of her professional accomplishments than when she worked as NRECA’s CEO,” said Emerson’s husband, Ron Gladney. “This was the perfect job for her. Throughout her life she has always been loyal, hardworking and dedicated. In addition to the services it provides to people in the United States and throughout the world, the most wonderful thing about NRECA is that it is an organization that cares – it cares about its employees, it cares about the customers it serves, and it cares about thoughtful progress. It is the cohesion and human element of NRECA that so attracted her and to which she remains so dedicated to this day.”
The Clyde T. Ellis Award memorializes NRECA’s first general manager (CEO). NRECA’s board of directors confers the award to honor individuals for exemplary contributions that promote the principles and progress of rural electrification and the development and use of national resources.
More than 5,500 representatives from electric co-ops across the nation are attending NRECA’s Annual Meeting celebrating its 75th Anniversary. The meeting runs from Feb. 23 through Mar. 1 in San Diego and sets NRECA’s legislative and organizational agenda for 2017. Co-op representatives also hear from NRECA officials, key public figures and business experts about issues affecting electric cooperatives and their consumer members. The Annual Meeting is held in conjunction with TechAdvantage, a technology learning event and expo that features more than 280 exhibitors showcasing their state-of-the-art technologies, equipment and services.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.