Duane Highley, president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) and Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), recently received the 2019 J.C. Brown Award for CEO Communication Leadership.
The J.C. Brown award memorializes the late J.C. Brown, former editor and publisher of NRECA’s RE Magazine, who was dedicated to using communication to connect electric cooperatives with each other as well as with their members. The panel of five judges consisted of communication and management experts in academia, business and industry, including electric cooperatives.
“Communication has always been and will always be a key to the great success of our nation’s electric cooperatives. I am honored to receive the J.C. Brown Communication Leadership Award,” Highley said upon receiving the award from National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jim Matheson.
After joining Arkansas’ electric cooperatives in 2011 as CEO, Highley directed the renovation of the lobby at the Little Rock headquarters to include banners showing the seven cooperative principles, floor-to-ceiling vinyl wraps and line worker images. The goal of the effort was to ensure that anyone entering the offices would immediately gain an awareness of Arkansas’ electric cooperatives business purpose.
While at AECC and AECI, Highley has deployed an executive strategy system and business success measurement process. The results of these tools are regularly shared with directors, employees and member cooperatives to improve operations and management processes.
The letter nominating Highley mentioned articles, editorial opinions and issue papers he has written along with his “highly engaging and comprehensive” communication style that appeals to audiences, including directors, policymakers and consumer-members.
Employees have given the AECC and AECI high marks on corporate culture communication — 77% in 2016 and 82% approval in 2018.
The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative.
The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to approximately 500,000 homes, farms and businesses in Arkansas and surrounding states.