Highley receives Brown Award for Communication Leadership


Duane Highley, president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) and

Duane Highley, left, with Jim Matheson.

Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), recently received the 2019 J.C. Brown Award for CEO Communication Leadership.

“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 told fellow electric cooperative leaders after 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 that exhibit a “highly engaging and comprehensive” communication style that appeals to audiences, including directors, policymakers and consumer-members.

Under Highley’s leadership, Arkansas Business, a weekly business journal, awarded AECC “Best Places to Work” recognition in 2016 and 2018. Employees gave the organization high marks on corporate culture communication — 77 percent in 2016 and 82 percent in 2018.

Commenting on the year’s award, one of the judges said, “Highley has demonstrated a deep and thoughtful commitment to the cooperative spirit and worked diligently to use a broad variety of communications and marketing efforts to effectively manage and enhance the operations at his cooperative.”

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.