In 1960, Ouida Cox boarded a train from Arkansas to Iowa, bound for her first CEA meeting. In December 2012 when she retired from her position at Arkansas Electric Cooperative she held the longest-active membership in the organization. “I stuck with it because I loved a lot of the people with the organization. We had some great fun,” she said.

Ouida Cox
Arkansas Electric Cooperative
H.E. Klinefelter Award, 1971
Former Board member
CCA Honorary Member

“My first CEA Institute was in 1973 in Atlanta. Jean Rice and others made me feel welcome and at ease. I remember a wonderful dinner atop Stone Mountain at the old Royal Coach Inn. It now houses something else — offices perhaps — but I look for it every time I pass, remembering my introduction to the finest communication organization anywhere.”

Jerry Kirk
Tennessee Farmers Cooperative
CCA President, 1981-82
H.E. Klinefelter Award, 1988
CCA Honorary Member

“Every good thing, crisis thing, planning thing, I never do original. I turn to my CCA network and say, ‘Help me.’ I never feel alone — there’s always someone there to help me across the hurdles. And when I crossed it, my goal was to help some other young communicator cross it.”

Sheryl Meshke
CCA President. 2003-04
Michael Graznak Award, 2000
H.E. Klinefelter Award, 2013

“The organization hooked me from the first meeting in Asheville,” said Paul Wesslund who joined CEA in 1980 and attended his first Institute in 1981. One of his first ventures into official CCA activities came in the early 80s when he was invited to help lead the group in dancing the Hokey Pokey. “Shortly after that I started to serve on committees, present programs at the Institute, fill Board vacancies, and even got elected president.”

Paul Wesslund
Vice President, Communications
Editor of Kentucky Living
Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives
CCA President, 1987-88
Michael Graznak Award, 1987

“Professionally, it was the best thing I ever did (joining CCA in 1983). I was an English major fresh out of college with no background or information regarding cooperatives. The late Forrest Bradley, then with Mid-America Dairymen and the CCA executive secretary, took me under his wing at my first meeting and introduced me to everybody. It was a kindness I try to repay with every new CCA member I meet.”

Doug DiMento
Director of Communications
Agri-Mark, Inc.
CCA President, 1994-95

“CCA is different from other professional organizations. At CCA, nobody ever eats lunch alone … people are always reaching out. That’s why people come and they stick with the organization. It’s not about what I can get, but what I can give.”

Lani Jordan
Director, Corporate Communications
President, 2000-01
Michael Graznak Award, 1993
H. E. Klinefelter Award, 2006

Best Institute memory: Sipping lemonade on the South Lawn of the White House with fellow CCA members during a reception with President Reagan in 1984.

Best Institute pitch ever: Mark Bagby performing as Arizona Jones to entice us to come to Tucson! Though Greg Brooks as a colonial bell ringer (in Portland) calling members to Williamsburg was a highlight as well. And, going even further back, there was the year Shirley Sullivan and Don Hanes dressed as mobsters to “persuade” us to come to the Institute in Chicago. Shirley could pull off wearing a 1920s flapper costume with the best of ‘em.

Donna Abernathy
DLF Communications Services
CCA Newsletter Editor
H.E. Klinefelter Award, 2007

“I can directly point to the Cooperative Communicators Association as the source for improving my skills and professionalism as a beginning communicator. Not being an academically trained communicator — but being blessed to have a little God-given talent — I needed exposure to both the basics and finer points of our craft. Not only did CCA provide that, it also provided a support system of interested, caring colleagues who also turned into good friends.

Sharing the skills that others shared with me has personal benefits. It pushes me to continue learning and sharpening my skills. As smart as today's young communicators are, it keeps me on my toes. And, of course, belonging to CCA is just plain fun!”

Greg Brooks
Communications Coordinator
Walton EMC
CCA President, 2004 - 05
H. E. Klinefelter Award, 2010

“Watching CEA become CCA (in 1985) was a milestone moment. We were no longer just editors but communicators using other tools like the Internet, broadcasting and later social media, to do our jobs. There was a lot of struggle to change to a new name, but we did it because it reflected the evolution of our jobs.”

Susie Bullock
CCA Executive Director, 1991-2008
H.E. Klinefelter Award, 1998

“CCA has not only made me a better communicator, but also a better person. I remember when (the late) Sandi Wiseman White suggested I run for the CCA Board. I didn’t think I could do it; I didn’t think of myself as a leader like that. But Sandi and Pam Karg talked me into it, and it led to a lot of great things for me.”

Heather Berry
Associate Editor
Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives
CCA President, 2001-02

Rewinding, and pausing, my CCA memory tape reveals:

  • Milling around with a group of CCAers on a crowded street corner in downtown Minneapolis, watching as a movie camera crew prepared to film Prince driving by on his motorcycle (for a scene in the follow-up to his Purple Rain movie). Turns out it was only a stand-in for Prince who rode by – but hey, he did look just like Prince. I believe the film was a well-deserved critical and commercial flop. But there were a number of good bars with live music in the neighborhood.         
  • Along with Pam Karg and Doug Graham, attempting to break the world record for most consecutive trips on the Twilight Tower of Terror at Disney World (not sure why there were no lines that night – perhaps we scared everyone off). All that riding, falling and bouncing must have resulted in a degree of neurological trauma, because later that night – at the now sadly closed Explorers Club – we devised clever alias names, for untold reasons. Hence, Doug would thereafter occasionally answer to Don Deanly, while I, his cousin, became Dean Donley, and our cousin-in-law Pam transformed into Dumpy Donley-Deanly (or maybe it was Deanly-Donley).  One of these days I vow to finish my short story about the Donley/Deanly family reunion and vacation. 
  • Thanks to my lightning-like reflexes, preventing Kentucky Living Editor Anita Travis Richter from capsizing our row boat (and possibly downing us?) in a frigid mountain lake outside Estes Park, Colorado. These Kentucky people know a great deal about horses, but are no good at all on the water!
  • About falling out of my chair with laughter during the floor show on a riverboat in Nashville, watching some young singers serenade Shirley Sullivan, who had been coaxed onto the stage and was vamping it up with these unbelievable facial expressions. Shirley missed her calling – should have been in show biz!

Dan Campbell, Editor
"Rural Cooperatives" magazine

174 Crestview Drive . Bellefonte, PA 16823-8516 . Phone: 877-326-5994 . Fax: 814-355-2452


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