Meet a real-life Energy Advisor: Stephanie Johnson can plant your field—and make you a necklace

selfie 2Stephanie Johnson came to Jasper County REMC via Michigan Avenue advertising agencies and wears two hats as the marketer who learned the ropes of Energy Advisor-hood. She can find the energy sucks in your home and most likely sell you a Cadillac.

How’d you become an Energy Advisor?

My husband was transferred to the area and I was looking for a job. I was lucky enough to land this job as the marketing and member services manager. Then I became Energy Advisor right away by going through Wabash Valley Power’s training program.

What’d you do before?

I worked at advertising agencies, with heavy industrial accounts—usually national, multimillion-dollar accounts. I started my career on Michigan Avenue in Chicago working on whiskey and beer, Chevrolets and Cadillacs.

What’s the last hobby you picked up?

I make jewelry out of vintage pocket watches from the 1800s. I take them apart and make new things out of them. I went to the bookstore and bought a book that looked cool. Then I was smitten.

My husband and I also have volunteered to be Guardians on the Honor Flights out of Lafayette assisting WWII, Korean War and Vietnam veterans who didn’t have anyone to travel with them.

Stephanie Johson's creations

Some of Stephanie Johnson’s creations.

I volunteer at the Jasper County Historic Society and put together monthly displays from the archives for the Jasper County Library in Rensselaer. I have unearthed some real treasures from the archives that the public had never seen. It’s amazing what a great collection of local history is in our museum.

What’s the best vacation you ever had?

My husband used to play rugby. He had the opportunity to go on tour with a team for 13 days in New Zealand, and I went along. We stayed with players and really got to know the culture, the people. It was fascinating.

What do you remember most from that trip?

[Laughs.] Oh, we’re not putting that in the interview. Lemme think of the second most-memorable thing.

One of the players was invited to a local grade school so rural that the kids had never seen an American. He was this 6’4”, 250-pound guy who sat down in one of those little chairs and talked to the second-graders. He was so touched by getting to talk to those kids and break down some stereotypes. It was really memorable to see how this trip changed that man.

If you could switch lives with a person for one day, who would it be?

Charlotte Beers. She was CEO of the first ad agency I worked for, and she was just about the first female CEO in that industry in Chicago. She worked for the Bush Administration as the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

She was probably one of my first inspirations and the first woman to appear on Fortune Magazine‘s issue featuring the most powerful women in America. She’s something else.

In a world without electricity, what would you miss most?

Hmmm. I’m reflecting back to our last ice storm. What did I miss? Running water.

What’s the last book you read?

Lincoln’s Battle with God, by Stephen Mansfield. It’s part historical and part speculation. Lincoln was known during his time for not being a Christian man. The book’s about how people held that against him and how it worked for him in other situations. He was an atheist at times and also religious at times.

When I’m not reading historically based novels, I read fashion magazines.

What’s the best thing that happened to you yesterday?

I got an invitation to a conservation and land management conference. My husband and I have a business called Bluestem Acres, LLC. We plant and maintain conservation properties for water quality and habitat. We currently manage about 500 acres for ourselves and other parties. We are looking forward to meeting other landowners who are interested in conservation.

How’d you change your energy habits at home after you took this job?

I changed the light bulbs, sealed or replaced the windows, and insulated the attic. I also started hoping my propane furnace would die so I could put in a heat pump.

Has it happened?

Not yet.

What’s the number one thing members want to know?

How they can lower their bills.

What’s the number one thing you wish they knew?

That they have complete control over their bills. They control what goes on and off. I think a lot of times they just don’t realize that what they do is what’s running up the bill. Now, they can use our SmartHub app to see their daily electric use so they can turn things off right away to lower the bill.

There’s another thing I wish they knew: How much livestock costs them in energy. Last winter we had more calls than ever about high bills. Turns out it was because people were keeping chickens. Last winter, our members heated a lot of chickens. Those coops were nice and toasty, but not many members had given thought to how much that was going to cost them. I tried really hard not to offer the solution of chicken soup. A lot of these chickens are pets. They’re collectible livestock.

If you weren’t an Energy Advisor, what would you want to be?

A jewelry designer or tour guide in the Galapagos Islands. Hey, you asked!