Virginia Electric Co-op Chief Wins National Leadership Award for Communication Innovation

(Tucson, Ariz.) —Kent D. Farmer, president and CEO of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC), Fredericksburg, Va., was awarded top honors in the cooperative industry’s “Spotlight on Excellence” program. The announcement of Farmer’s selection for the 2016 J.C. Brown CEO Communication Leadership Award was made at the yearly national conference for co-op CEOS sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

The judges committee recognized Farmer for his efforts to build a communications program that reinforces the co-op principles of member-ownership and democratic governance. At a truly member-driven co-op, co-op employees and leaders need to hear from members – a tall order when the service territory touches 22 counties. To this end, REC held annual “Get Connected” events and conducted telephone town hall meetings and surveys. One judge noted that Farmer “supports the use of any communication channel that is most effective to reach members and employees.”

Farmer himself plays a very active role in the co-op communications, reaching out to elected representatives, regulators, business leaders and young people. He has taken the co-op message to public meetings across the territory, with a special emphasis on education. Farmer has been influential with incorporating the co-op business model into college level curriculum and in the development of new industry-focused trainings in rural areas.

In announcing this award, NRECA Interim CEO Jeffrey Connor told the audience of co-op leaders that that “leading an electric cooperative requires commitment to reaching out to all the members, meeting them where they are on and urging them to become engaged.  Kent Farmer is an innovator and collaborator who is committed to inspiring a culture of excellence and that culture of excellence is evident in REC’s communications to its members and workforce. “

“Now more than ever, need leaders who understand that active, continuous communication with the members forms the bedrock of a consumer-centric utility,” observed Connor.

In addition, Farmer was the recipient of the 2015 Germanna Community College Distinguished Philanthropist of the Year Award and received the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce 2013, Prince B. Woodward Leadership Award. “I applaud Kent for his focus on training and for his contributions to his co-op and to the community,” added Connor.

The J.C. Brown award memorializes the late J.C. Brown, who – as editor and publisher of NRECA’s RE Magazine – is best remembered for his dedication to communication as a vital link connecting electric cooperatives with each other as well as with their consumer-owners.  The panel of five judges consisted of communication and management experts in academia, business and industry, including electric co-ops.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.