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Today is May 23, 2022

Ron Stewart retires after 32 years of ECM service

Ron Stewart retires after 32 years of ECM service

Following more than three decades of service for the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi, longtime Senior Vice President of Communications Ron Stewart has retired.

Under Stewart’s leadership, one of his most ambitious accomplishments was transforming ECM’s flagship monthly publication, Today in Mississippi, from a tabloid newspaper to a magazine.

With a print circulation of close to half a million readers, Today in Mississippi has the largest print circulation of any publication in the state.

“Mark Bridges, retired Support Services manager, and I always had the goal to create a magazine. We had to wait for a while because it wasn’t economically feasible at first,” Ron said.

The magazine format was launched with the September 2019 issue following two years of prep work.

The magazine was just a part of Ron’s responsibilities.

Working with the state’s electric co-op leaders and communicators to serve their members was the key part of his job.

“The most important task was always placing the focus on the members of our local electric cooperatives. Our team was always committed to that, whether we were assisting with communications for TV, radio, signs, brochures, billboards, or the magazine. It was always about promoting the services offered along with the priorities, philosophies of the co-ops to its membership,” Ron said.

ECM Chief Executive Officer Michael Callahan said Ron didn’t just work for the cooperatives, but that he truly believed in the cooperative business model and the seven cooperative principles.

“Ron was a dedicated employee who worked until the job was done and gave it all he had and more. He understands that it was the state association’s job to provide ‘service’ to our member cooperatives, and service was what he did,” Michael said.

Michael also called Ron “a true southern gentleman.”

“Always eager to help and hardly ever a cross word left his lips. Ron was a man that feared the Lord and lived his life accordingly and was dedicated to his wife and family. I will miss Ron and so will the cooperative community, not just in Mississippi, but all over the country.”

Lydia Walters, who spent years working with Ron when she was a communicator with Dixie Electric, is now ECM’s vice president of communications.

“For more than 25 years, I have had the pleasure of working with Ron on numerous projects. He has always been supportive and encouraging,” Lydia said.

“Ron came to the co-ops when corporate communication was in its infancy. He excelled at advancing Today in Mississippi in his early career and developing the newspaper into a magazine in his later years. His work and dedication will be missed by the cooperative family, specifically the cooperative communicators.”

Ron, who was born in Wheeling, West Virginia but raised in Jackson, worked with cooperatives for 47 years.

Before going to work at ECM in 1990, Ron worked for MFC Services, an agriculture cooperative, starting in 1974. Ron, who had a background in graphic design, was the cooperative’s director of marketing.

When Ron started at ECM in 1990, he first came on as the director of administrative services. He was then asked to take the helm of the communications department.

When Ron came to ECM, he also took over the association’s Youth Leadership Program.

The program provides high school students with leadership training and the opportunity to learn about electric cooperatives and the role they play in members’ quality of life. The program includes cooperative universities at the co-op sites, an annual workshop in Jackson, where the students meet Mississippi lawmakers, and a yearly tour to Washington, D.C. to visit the nation’s capital and to meet other youth cooperative leaders from around the country.

Ron said the Youth Leadership Program was his favorite part of the job.

“That was the most rewarding part of my work. I’ve always been passionate about investing in our young people. The positive impact you can make on a young person’s life is very important to me,” Ron said.

Affectionately called “Daddy Ron” by the youth leadership students throughout the years, Ron was their parent for a week in Washington, D.C.

“I would treat them like my own son or daughter,” Ron said.

Over the years, Ron has also volunteered his time to work with other youth groups and student organizations. He presently serves on the foundation boards for 4-H, the Future Farmers of America, and the Distributive Education Club of America.

Now that he has retired, Ron said he plans to spend more time with his six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Ron lost his wife, Barbara, in 2019. The couple were married for 37 years.

Ron, the son of a Baptist preacher, said he is also looking forward to dedicating more time to the ministries of his church, First Ridgeland Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon.

Ron said he’s going to miss ECM.

“I express my appreciation to our cooperatives and my ECM team for supporting me throughout my career. I’m going to miss all the relationships here and across the state. I made a lot of friendships over the years,” Ron said.

“This job has been an important part of my life. It’s been fun and rewarding, and if I had it to do all over again, I would take the same path. God has truly blessed me.”

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