Vice President of Public Affairs & Member Services, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation
From a young age, Sandra Byrd wanted to have a career helping people. At first, she thought that she would become a doctor, but medicine wasn’t her calling. She obtained a degree in social work from the University of Arkansas, and followed it with a Juris Doctorate from the Washington University in St. Louis. Her career direction was set when she was asked to help on a case centered around the controversial Grand Gulf Nuclear Generating Station. Since then, she has worked almost exclusively in the energy and utility sector attempting to keep energy service as reliable and affordable as possible.
Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia; moved to Arkansas in 1978
First Job: Worked as a Christmas present wrapper
Favorite Food: Cheese dip, waffles and homemade vanilla ice cream (but not at the same time!)
What was your first big break? After one week working on the Grand Gulf litigation going on at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, I fell in love with state and federal utility litigation, and have remained in the energy and utility sector to this day.
What attracted you to your career? Since our state has a higher poverty level than most, I am proud to serve our state’s electric cooperatives – our mission is to provide the most reliable electricity at the most affordable cost for the rural towns and communities that we serve.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? Being the mother of my son, Chris. It’s a joy watching him pursue his dreams.
What’s something that others would be surprised to know? I was very active in vocal performance in high school, and I was encouraged by my voice teacher to go to New York to pursue a potential stage career.
What do you love most about what you do? Working in an industry that literally “keeps the lights on” while keeping bills affordable.
What quality do you most admire in other women? Women, by nature, are strong, versatile and tenacious multi-taskers. We can lead organizations at the same time as we nurture families and raise children. I honestly believe that we are the glue that keeps everything together!
Person, past or present, you admire most: My parents. They have been my role models, my supporters, my advisors, and my best friends. I am blessed to still have them in my life.
Personal motto? Life is short; live it well and treat everyone as if it is your last day.
What talent do you wish you had? I would love to have instant recall of facts or information that I had read or heard, and also be able to spontaneously deliver a speech or presentation with little to no preparation.
Hobbies: Photography (particularly sunsets); traveling across the U.S. and abroad.
Childhood nickname: Sandy. Now, the only time I hear the name “Sandra” is when my mother is unhappy with me!
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? I would love to live on a beach at the ocean or on a lake. That’s my retirement goal.