Member Spotlight

April 2018

Telling tales and riding trails

No conversation with Mary Howell goes on very long without a “horsey” reference. The communications and public relations coordinator for the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives seems to always find a way to tie her profession and her passion together.

In her work life, Mary contributes to the statewide electric cooperative association’s Cooperative Living magazine and a bi-monthly newsletter for board and staff working at member cooperatives. She also puts her writing, photography and videography skills to good use helping with the NRECA Youth Tour and the state’s annual Lineman’s Rodeo.

When the day’s storytelling ends, Mary’s attention turns to the “tails” in her life — four horses, three cats and a dog she and her husband enjoy spoiling. She has been an endurance rider for 20 years, traveling all around the U.S. to compete with her horses in distance events of 50, 75 and 100 miles.

In addition to tales and tails, Mary also makes room in her busy schedule for CCA. The six-year member has served on the contest and membership committees, as well as planning committees for the 2014 CCA Institute and 2016 CCA Professional Development Workshop.

How did you come to work for a cooperative association?
A childhood friend told me about an opportunity to work for electric cooperatives. Joining the association in 2012 not only returned me to my career roots as a communicator, but also paid better!

What aspect of the position do you enjoy the most?
I love meeting and sharing the story of inspiring co-op members, including our Unsung Virginian and Good Samaritan recipients and each crop of Youth Tour students.

Describe a memorable, on-the-job moment.
Last year, the association’s Unsung Virginian Award recipient Dorse Counts told the audience that when he gets to heaven, “Rappahannock Electric Cooperative better be the electricity provider.” He didn’t realize that the audience included REC CEO Kent Farmer, who met and thanked him afterwards!

How does your participation in CCA help you in your job?
My career languished for many years with virtually no professional development opportunities. I’m very grateful to my employer for supporting my involvement in CCA, and to fellow members for helping me gain valuable ideas and inspiration.

What is your greatest strength as a communicator?
My enthusiasm and ability to meet deadlines.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I skipped 3rd grade but went to 5th grade twice (after the parochial grammar school my brother and I were attending closed unexpectedly and my parents wanted to keep us in the same school the first year we switched).


Name: Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives

Headquarters: Glen Allen, Virginia

Description: Provides training, political advocacy and communications support for 15 electric distribution cooperatives in three states.

My guilty pleasure:
Sudoku. I’m a black belt!

Three odd things you can find in my desk drawer:
a tube of Chapstick, Wal-Mart gift cards for Commonwealth Kitchen recipe providers, and a wallet card listing the seven cooperative principles that I refer to regularly.

If you could enjoy a meal with any famous person, who would it be? What would you talk about?
George Washington, who was an avid foxhunter as well as a military genius. The AMC program “Turn,” filmed just down the road from me in Williamsburg, brought his critical role in the Revolutionary War to life. I’d love to talk about horses with him and learn what he’d think of the modern sport of endurance riding.

What I’m reading now:
“Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War” by Joe Bageant

If it’s spring in Virginia, you’ll likely find me…
out galloping in the woods!