Speakers

Mark Bagby

Award-winning writer, filmmaker and as a wedding, portrait and commercial photographer and sometimes director of communications and corporate secretary for a cotton marketing cooperative, Mark Bagby joined CCA and began his co-op career in the same year, 1993. Bagby served as secretary, vice president and president during six years of service on CCA’s board of directors. In 2009, he was CCA’s 51st recipient of the organization’s top honor, the H.E. Klinefelter Award, the first member of the Western Region to be so honored, and is an MCC.

Savannah Chandler

Savannah Chandler is the communications coordinator at Walton EMC in Monroe, Georgia. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business with a degree in marketing and minor in theatre, and has been a member of CCA since she began her career at Walton in 2009. In that time, she has earned multiple CCA awards including the highly sought-after best-of-show recognition in photography and programs/projects. Her love and involvement in CCA runs deep. She currently serves on the board, the 2019 institute planning committee, the 2018 professional development workshop planning committee and the education committee. Savannah lives on a cattle farm in Good Hope with her husband Matt, daughter Berkly and son Rhett.

Bob Cohen

Bob Cohen has spent more than two decades as an advisor to cooperative and non-cooperative businesses, most recently with the Braintree Business Development Center of Ohio. Braintree is a regional entrepreneurship and business incubation program serving high-tech, high-growth startups in Northeast Ohio. He has also taught college-level courses in cooperatives and conducted numerous workshops for cooperative employees. He also serves on the faculty of the Dauch College of Business and Economics at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.

Robin Conover

Robin is the editor of The Tennessee Magazine and V.P. of Communications for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, where she began working in 1989 as a communications specialist. Robin has served as photojournalist and production manager and is best known for her award-winning photojournalism in The Tennessee Magazine. Her work has received numerous awards from both the Statewide Editors Association and Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA), where she was named Photographer of the Year five times, most recently in 2017. Conover also received CCA’s 2017 H.E. Klinefelter Award, given to cooperative communicators whose work is considered by their peers to be outstanding.

Ashley Eisenmenger

Ashley Eisenmenger is a graduate of North Central College where she studied Organizational Communication. As a result of premature birth, Ashley was left with significant vision loss and has been legally blind all of her life. An avid runner and triathlete, Ashley has run multiple 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons. In 2016, Ashley ran a marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon. In addition to her marathon debut in 2016, Ashley was also named the Paratriathlon National Champion. She currently competes on her college’s triathlon team and Team USA.

Mark Hirsch

Mark Hirsch
Mark Hirsch spent 20 years as a newspaper photojournalist, photo editor, and visuals editor. Since 2006, Hirsch has been an independent editorial, corporate, and landscape photographer. His clients include companies like Getty Images, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and John Deere Corporation. Hirsch is best known for his photo-a-day book project That Tree which features photos that were all made using only the camera in his iPhone 4S. In addition to his professional photography work, Hirsch also conducts DSLR and Smartphone photography workshops for various editorial, trade, and arts organizations. Hirsch has also taught photojournalism for various Midwest colleges.

Catherine Merlo

Mark Hirsch
Catherine Merlo is an award-winning writer with extensive experience covering agriculture, cooperatives, rural America and more. Based in Bakersfield, California, she helps U.S. businesses report on industry issues, convey key messages and share important stories. Merlo holds a coveted Master Writer award from the American Agricultural Editors Association. She is a CCA three-time Writer of the Year, past president and Graznak Award winner. Merlo earned a master’s degree from the Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California. She formerly served as Western editor for Farm Journal Media, communications director for Calcot, Ltd., and sportswriter for The Bakersfield Californian.

Kevin Osbourn

Kevin Osbourn is the manager of Communications at East Kentucky Power Cooperative in Winchester, KY, where he oversees printing, publications, the website, social media and communications for 16 owner-member cooperatives serving more than one million Kentuckians. EKPC’s team has been recognized nationally for excellence in writing, video, graphic design and printing. Kevin has been a co-op communicator for 23 years. He was also an award-winning journalist/editor covering agriculture, personal finance and business in Kentucky and New York. He and his wife Diane have four children, ages 28, 25, 19 and 12, four cats and a dog named Huxley.

Chellie Phillips

Chellie Phillips is a strategic storyteller with over 20 years of electric utility experience. She is Vice President of Communications and Public Relations for Coweta-Fayette EMC. Throughout her career numerous organizations have recognized her efforts promoting the electric cooperative system. These groups include: the Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA) of Cooperatives, Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA), the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), and the Public Relations Council of Alabama. A graduate of Troy University, she holds a BS in Journalism and Public Relations. She was honored in 2000 as the Hall School of Journalism Outstanding Alumnus in Public Relations. She served as the program director and instructor for the Alabama Council of Cooperative’s Cooperative Youth Leadership Conference from 2004-2015. She served 14 years as the chapter advisor for the Troy University chapter of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority. She is a current board member for Communities In School and is involved in many local organizations. Her spare time is dedicated to writing, photography and updating her blog – www.chelliephillips.com

Joe Priestley

Joe Priestley is Director of Technical Services at Corn Belt Energy Corporation. He has spent the past 15 years in healthcare in CIO positions before finding joy working in the cooperative world. He focuses primarily in the networking, project management and executive management roles. Joe has held numerous industry certifications, including CCNP, CCDP, CISSP and MCSE, and has a background in programming. Joe is a former Army paratrooper and served in the global intelligence community for many years.

Sarah Schmidt

Sarah Schmidt is vice president of public affairs for Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI), headquartered in New Ulm, Minn. In this role, she works closely with senior management to accurately and effectively tell AMPI’s story and vision to a variety of audiences, including dairy farmer member-owners, employees, legislators and customers. She leads the milk marketing cooperative’s communications, government relations and sustainability efforts. Schmidt was presented CCA’s Michael Graznak Award in 2017 and the National Milk Producers Federation’s Outstanding Achievement in Communications Award in 2013. The AMPI communications team has earned several awards in the annual CCA Communications Contest, including two Best of Show honors.

Keith Stapleton

As chief communications officer for Sam Houston Electric Cooperative, Keith Stapleton is responsible for member services, billing, collections, call center, new service, legislative and compliance matters, as well as the Co-op’s communication program. Sam Houston’s communication department has been awarded two Edgar F. Chesnutt Awards, an AMA Crystal Award and numerous Spotlight on Excellence Awards. Sam Houston EC serves 74,000 meters in East Texas.