After nearly 40 years of dedicated service, Chief Communications Officer Keith Stapleton has retired from Sam Houston Electric Cooperative. He directed member services, communications and billing, and many consumer-members of the Cooperative may remember interacting with Stapleton at annual member meetings or community events.
“As one approaches retirement, it’s easy to become nostalgic and get caught up in reminiscing about the past,” Stapleton said. “But I am so proud of how far Sam Houston Electric Cooperative has come. We often say our employees are ‘the best in the business.’ Please know that is not an exaggeration. It is absolutely true.”
Sam Houston EC and its employees appreciate Stapleton’s dedication to serving our consumer-members with great care and for helping guide the Cooperative during his career.
“Keith Stapleton played a vital role in the leadership of our Cooperative during his tenure at Sam Houston Electric Cooperative,” said Doug Turk, CEO and general manager. “We wish him the best in his retirement. One mark of a great organizational leader is that they selflessly take the time to prepare the future leaders of the organization. Keith did just that during his time at Sam Houston EC.”
Following Stapleton’s retirement, Ricky Harrell was selected as the first chief member services officer in the history of the Co-op and will manage the member services and billing departments. He previously served as the manager of member services from 2008 to 2022, where he oversaw that department and billing.
“My short-term goals are to continue to provide excellent service to the members and other departments within the Co-op,” Harrell said. “My long-term goals are to make sure the employees have the tools and training necessary to provide excellent, proactive service well into the future.”
Harrell started his career at Sam Houston EC as a meter reader in 1988. By 1990, he was a purchasing agent, and he was promoted to Coldspring branch manager in 1994. He stayed in that position until being named manager of member services. He also is a graduate of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Management Internship Program.
“These changes allow us to better position the Cooperative to meet members’ expectations and our Cooperative’s initiatives,” said Ryan Brown, assistant general manager. “Keith had a wealth of knowledge and experience in our industry, and we are excited to see Rachel and Ricky flourish in their new positions.”
Rachel Frey was selected as the chief communications officer following the retirement of Stapleton and will oversee member and employee communications and community relations.
“I am excited about this opportunity,” Frey said. “I want to work with our employees to expand our ability to connect and communicate with our consumer-members.”
She joined the Cooperative in 2014 as a communications specialist. She has earned the NRECA’s Certified Cooperative Communicator credential and graduated from the association’s management internship program in 2021.
“Ricky and Rachel have the experience and background that they need to help lead our cooperative during its next chapter,” Turk said. “I am confident that they will work hard to help ensure that our Cooperative thrives in the future.”