A fond farewell

Posted on Mar 22 2018 in LaGrange County REMC

Sherryl Rhinesmith, manager of the shared communications and marketing department of LaGrange County and Noble REMCs, is saying goodbye to those she considers family.

“Working with all the people here is absolutely awesome. We’re a family. I’ve been blessed with, not just one, but two co-op families,” Rhinesmith said. “Both LaGrange County and Noble REMCs have relatively small employee groups where it’s easy to get to know each other. That’s what I’m going to miss the most — the people I work with and the members I’ve met.”

After more than 19 years with the cooperatives, Rhinesmith announced her plans for retirement last year and served her last day at the REMC on March 29.

She began as an accountant for LaGrange County REMC Feb. 1, 1999, before transitioning to her role of member services manager four years later. In her position, she also served as energy advisor and helped mold the department as it evolved into the age of social media and new avenues of communication.

Beginning her career writing press releases and being responsible for the Electric Consumer each month, she’s become a certified Key Account Executive; created and implemented the co-op’s Member Advisory Committee, which earned her a spot on the cover of the national Rural Electric Magazine in June 2012; transitioned the energy advisor to its own position; and planned and prepared for each year’s annual meetings.

She continued to take on more responsibilities as LaGrange County REMC and Noble REMC joined their communications and marketing teams together as a shared service in 2013.

Rhinesmith hopes as younger generations become members, they see value in the cooperative as those before them were able to see more tangibly.

“There still are some who remember when poles were set and wires were strung, so it means something to them. They knew from the get-go that they were members, that their parents worked hard, a group of farmers banded together to get electricity to our rural communities. The younger generation doesn’t have that connection,” Rhinesmith said. “We want to be relevant. We want to have value for all of our members.”

Rhinesmith said one of the highlights of her career was serving as photographer on two Honor Flights for northeast Indiana veterans, for which LaGrange County REMC and Noble REMC are sponsors. The honor was humbling and indescribable, she said.

She’s also served as president of the Marketing, Member Services and Communicators section of Indiana Electric Cooperatives and last year was the recipient of the C. Tom Taylor Member Services Award. The award is presented annually to an Indiana electric cooperative member services, marketing or communications employee who has demonstrated excellence in leadership, attitude and commitment to electric cooperative principles.

Over the years, she’s also been a leader in the community as part of a number of local organizations, including the LaGrange County Chamber of Commerce, LaGrange County Purdue Extension and United Fund of LaGrange County.

“Sherryl has epitomized the cooperative spirit during her career. She worked diligently to serve our members and impact our community,” LaGrange County REMC CEO Mark Leu said. “We will certainly miss her, but wish her the best in retirement.”

Rhinesmith will stay a vital part of the community, continuing to serve on the Parkview LaGrange Hospital Board and hoping to begin teaching porcelain art classes.

She lives in rural Wolcottville with her husband, Bob, and plans to spend part of her retirement traveling and visiting family.