Excellence Award Winners Named at NTCA Rural Telecom Industry Meeting & EXPO

For Immediate Release
Contact: Kelly Wismer, 703-351-2015, kwismer@ntca.org  

Austin, Texas (February 28, 2018)—NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association today recognized six rural telecommunications industry leaders for their achievements and service to the industry during the 2018 Rural Telecom Industry Meeting & EXPO.

The recipients of the 2017 NTCA Excellence Awards are:

Steve Meltzer, senior vice president of JSI (Greenbelt, Md.), received the Associate Member Outstanding Achievement Award for his devotion to advocating for rural telecommunications for nearly 40 years. He has supported the industry through his coordination of toll cost studies, his assistance with FCC filings and regarding important industry concerns such as the Universal Service Fund. Steve also serves on NTCA’s Industry & Regulatory Policy Committee, the Foundation for Rural Service Board and the Associate Member Advisory Council.

Chris McNamara, IT network manager of Nortex Communications (Muenster, Texas), received the Key Employee Award for his extraordinary efforts in helping to expand fiber-based broadband access to 14 schools. McNamara led efforts to expand service into four new communities, signing up more than 150 new business customers. He is known by his colleagues as the “central solutions architect” for the company’s network infrastructure. 

Michael East, president and CEO of South Central Communications (Kanab, Utah), received the Management Innovation Award for implementing business strategies that have significantly improved the viability and profitability of the company. East realized the company’s potential to provide better internet service by increasing bandwidth and speeds throughout 10,000 miles of service territory and 23 exchanges. Under his guidance, South Central has spent the past two years working to provide fiber connections to every premise in its service territory.

Doug Ziegler, former board president of Nex-Tech (Lenora, Kan.), received the Director Life Achievement Award for his 40 years of leadership as a member of the Board of Directors for the company. This leadership was particularly significant during his presidency, as the company experienced phenomenal growth with the creation of a subsidiary operation to offer a wide array of communications services, including voice, video, and broadband, and began operating as a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) in neighboring communities. Ziegler is a grassroots activist for issues affecting rural broadband carriers, and regularly attends state and national industry meetings.

Jimmy Blevins, chief executive officer of Skyline Membership Corp. (West Jefferson, N.C.), received the Manager Life Achievement Award for his leadership in establishing a company culture that is both forward-looking and customer-centric. Blevins began his career with Skyline in 1985 as a staff engineer. He was promoted through the ranks, becoming engineering manager in 1988, plant operations officer in 1997 and chief technology officer in 2004. Blevins assumed his current role as chief executive officer in July 2008. He has introduced and implemented several visionary initiatives during his time as CEO, including developing an e-commerce site for exchange of video programming, repurposing a warehouse as a meeting space, and developing an award-winning solution to help connect low-income students with their school network.

Tyler Graham, a combination technician for GRM Networks (Princeton, Mo.), received the Heroism Award for his diligent and selfless act of rescuing five people, his in-laws and three senior citizens from an electrical fire. On Nov. 17, 2016, Graham visited his in-laws’ home and noticed the smell of smoke. With the help of his father-in-law he searched the area until he noticed smoke coming from the roof. Graham immediately called 911, and then wrapped three elderly women in blankets and carried them out of the home.

NTCA’s Excellence Awards are selected by the association’s awards committee comprised of NTCA members. NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield presented the awards during the 2018 Rural Telecom Industry Meeting & EXPO Excellence Awards Ceremony on February 28.

Video from the awards ceremony is available online.


NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is the premier association representing nearly 850 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. NTCA advocates on behalf of its members in the legislative and regulatory arenas, and it provides training and development; publications and industry events; and an array of employee benefit programs. In an era of transformative technological advancements, regulatory challenges and marketplace competition, NTCA members are leading the technological evolution for rural consumers, delivering robust and high-quality services over future-proof networks that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business. Because of their efforts, rural America is fertile ground for innovation in economic development, e-commerce, health care, agriculture, and education and contributes billions of dollars to the U.S. economy each year.