June 2020

A Camera Bag and

a Heart of Gold

Sherrod earns co-op service honor

Wherever Bill Sherrod went, so too went the extremely worn, medium-gray camera bag always slung over his shoulder.

“It’s more than 30 years old, but still does the job,” he’d always say whenever someone subtly suggested it might be time for a new bag.

Comfortable and familiar, like the man himself, Sherrod’s camera bag has stories to tell. It’s gone on countless adventures with him over the years, attending hundreds of events or sitting by his feet as he’s interviewed memorable people and then told their stories within the pages of Cooperative Living.

The bag has been with Sherrod for his 25 years of service to electric cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, a career so impressive that it recently earned him the 2020 Distinguished Service Award from the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.

In presenting the award, Richard G. Johnstone Jr., president and CEO, explained that Sherrod has embodied the cooperative spirit through his excellent stewardship of Cooperative Living.

“All of us involved with the electric cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware are thrilled that the Awards Committee unanimously felt that Bill’s 25-year career has been so exceptional in both achievements and service that it’s worthy of being celebrated and honored,” Johnstone says.

Sherrod’s dedication to his job — and to the cooperatives served by the association — always shined through. On Christmas 2018, following a tragedy at Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative, Sherrod canceled his holiday plans so that he could be at the cooperative’s headquarters the next day as backup for a “public relations nightmare,” according to Shawn Hildebrand, then CEO of the co-op.

“Bill was always willing to help, whether coming to the aid of a co-op or just to talk,” Hildebrand says.

Asked about the last-minute change in his holiday plans, Sherrod’s response was a testament to his character:

“Christmas is about giving to others and about kindness, and I feel like the lucky one for being able to be there for the folks at the cooperative. Really and truly, that’s what Christmas is all about.”

A Richmond-area native, Sherrod graduated from Randolph-Macon College in 1977. He is a past editor of the Times- Virginian in Appomattox, Va., and began his journalism career with a newspaper in Lewes, Del.

Since joining the VMD Association in 1994, he had many roles rising to the post of vice president of communications and public relations. He currently holds the title of senior editor at Cooperative Living. In 2006-07, he served as president of the National Electric Cooperative Statewide Editors Association.

According to Johnstone, Sherrod is the epitome of what the Distinguished Service Award represents — a leader, a mentor and an extraordinary ambassador for the electric cooperative community. But Sherrod was more than just a master of the written word, a meticulous editor and a skilled photographer. He was memorable to all who crossed paths with him during his role with Cooperative Living.

“Anyone who has been around Bill likes him and enjoys his company. He’s a class act and well deserving of the Distinguished Service Award,” says Greg White, president and CEO of Northern Neck Electric Cooperative.

John C. Lee Jr., president and CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, has been a colleague of Sherrod’s for the last 20 years. “In addition to being a guy who is incredibly capable with a pen and a camera, Bill is a really good person. In fact, he’s the bar by which we all ought to judge ourselves as humans,” he explains.

For a quarter-century, Sherrod has reached into that trusty camera bag to tell the story of the people and places that make co-op territories special, all while leaving a lasting impression on those around him.

“Bill’s exceptional communications skills have enabled us to tell the cooperative story to millions of readers who rely on that information to improve their daily lives,” says Fletcher “Bob” Jones, chairman of the VMD Association’s Board of Directors. “He is a trusted friend and adviser, and this award reflects the immense pride we have in Bill Sherrod.”