UMAC’s Communicator of the Year
Each year, our organization recognizes a communicator who has completed outstanding work in ministry within his or her role with an annual conference, agency, local church, extension ministry or affiliated organization. Some criteria we use:
- Active professional, currently serving in a communications role.
- UMAC member (nominations are made by UMAC members for UMAC members)
- Recent striking achievements in communication (i.e., previous/current year)
- Broad impact of the contribution
- Vision-thinking beyond the present/immediate demands of the job, breaking new ground.
2020 — Todd Rossnagel
The United Methodist Association of Communicators named Todd Rossnagel, director of communications for the Louisiana Conference, as Communicator of the Year during their annual gathering. The traditional in-person gala had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and was streamed online for the first time.
UMAC chair Mark Doyal welcomed Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, area bishop for the Louisiana Conference and President of the Council of Bishops, into a Zoom recording for the announcement.
“Words cannot even begin to describe the commitment, dedication, and servant spirit of Todd Rossnagel,” Bishop Harvey said. “Todd is gifted as a communicator, can see things through the lens of a camera most cannot. He has a way of telling a story that stands on the shoulders of greats like Charles Kuralt and Steve Hartman. Todd can weave a narrative that teaches, preaches, and can tug at your heart and the depth of your soul.”
2019 — Mary Catherine Phillips and Tim Tanton
Mary Catherine Phillips, communications director for the Alabama-West Florida Conference, helped the conference navigate a crisis when a prominent church member become a focal point of national news, which in turn placed his local church, the bishop and the annual conference in the media spotlight. She also led coverage efforts when powerful Hurricane Michael caused catastrophic damage.
Bishop David Graves, episcopal leader for Alabama-West Florida, said, “When I was elected bishop, a communicator came up to me and said, ‘I need your cell number.’ She didn’t need my cell number — but I sure needed hers.”
The co-winner this year was Tim Tanton, chief news officer of United Methodist News Service. Tanton led newsgathering efforts during a tumultuous time leading up to the special session of General Conference and oversaw the launch of UMNews.org, among other feats.
Via video, Dan Krause, chief executive of United Methodist Communications, praised Tanton’s tireless efforts.
“Tim recognizes the importance of on-the-ground, localized reporting,” Krause said. “We are blessed that he proudly claims his calling and lives it out with United Methodist News. Tim firmly believes that it takes faithful, unbiased and objective reporting to effectively serve the worldwide church.”
2018 · Deborah Coble
The United Methodist Association of Communicators named Deborah Coble, director of communications for the West Virginia Conference, as Communicator of the Year for 2018 at their annual gathering on March 9 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
UMAC chair Mark Doyal welcomed Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball to the podium to introduce the communicator, who has served her episcopal area since July 2016.
“West Virginia was devastated by floods in June 2016 in areas where people already lived below the poverty level with few resources.” Ten days before Deborah Coble was officially hired to the communicator’s position, she was already on the scene. “Our new communicator came in and gave people hope,” the bishop recalled. “She took pictures. She wrapped her arms around people. She gave a smile.” And she helped tell stories that “resulted in over $2 million in contributions from across the connection.”
While response to natural disaster filled the opening months of her job, Coble went on to develop creative projects that touched many lives around the state. “With Deborah leading we reached 2,400 plus new disciples,” Steiner Ball reported. There were new initiatives that connected people, in meeting and online, in moving from membership to discipleship and a Lenten campaign that addressed the opioid epidemic.
“Congregations are coming to the Day of Resurrection seeking to determine how they can break the cycle addiction,” the bishop concluded.
Coble’s team members joined her on the stage as she accepted the honor saying, “This is yours, too.” She began, “I was a TV marketing and promo gal until God took a 2 x 4 and said, ‘I want you as a pastor.’ I believed there was a way to merge those two together.” She came to the job of the West Virginia Conference Communications Director from Iowa. There she was serving as a pastor while offering expertise in communication to the Iowa Conference and districts.
The criteria for nomination as Communicator of the Year include recent striking achievements in communication, broad impact of the communicator’s contribution, and vision-thinking beyond the demands of the job. From her leadership in reporting an epic flood to her pastoral approach to team building, Deborah Coble is indeed breaking new ground as the 2018 Communicator of the Year.Co-workers called Conover “a passionate, fearless leader who sets the bar high for quality of work.” Others called her “an innovator who thinks outside the box and inspires team members to be creative.”
2017 · Carolyn Conover
The United Methodist Association of Communicators (UMAC) named Carolyn Conover, director of communications for the Greater New Jersey Conference, as Communicator of the Year for 2017 at their annual gathering on March 23 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“Carolyn has been a gift to our conference,” said Greater New Jersey Bishop John Schol, who nominated Carolyn for the award. “She has helped us move forward and accomplish things we would never have been able to without her leadership.”
Bishop Schol says Conover, a lifelong United Methodist who never had worked for the church, left a higher paying job in Manhattan to come work for the conference in June 2013, shortly after Super Storm Sandy and at a critical time.
“It was the second largest storm in the history of the United States; 1.7 million people were without power, thousands of people were without homes and the Greater New Jersey Conference was without a communications director,” said Bishop Schol. “We needed to hire someone immediately to help with communications and fundraising.”
Bishop Schol says Conover helped the conference raise nearly $18 million dollars in disaster relief, which helped rebuild and repair 250 homes and restore many lives after the hurricane. He said her leadership helped put the Greater New Jersey Conference on the map for recovery efforts in the state of New Jersey.
“The United Methodist Church was a key player in helping restore homes and lives after Super Storm Sandy, largely because of Carolyn’s work with foundations, corporations and the government,” said Bishop Schol.
Some of the other work Conover is credited with includes: developing a new website—saving the conference $6,000 a year, upgrading the paper—saving close to $10,000 and effectively growing the communications team from two to six people.
Co-workers called Conover “a passionate, fearless leader who sets the bar high for quality of work.” Others called her “an innovator who thinks outside the box and inspires team members to be creative.”
2016 · Mark Doyal
Mark Doyal is the director of communications in the Michigan Area, which encompasses the soon-to-merge Detroit and West Michigan conferences. He comes to communications ministry after years of running an advertising agency.
He “brings a non-anxious presence, wisdom and guidance that has been described as invaluable,” said the Rev. Arthur McClanahan, Iowa Conference’s director of communications and 2013 Communicator of the Year.
He is someone who makes the extra effort to tell the church’s story, McClanahan said, recalling how his friend once stuck his neck and head out of a moving car to capture important video.
Doyal has guided church leaders in communicating about crises, whether they are the church’s response to environmental disaster or all-too-human controversy. He also has helped conferences move toward unification and helped Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey make the difficult announcement that she planned to retire because of health concerns.
“I can’t recount all the many ways he has helped this area,” Kiesey said. “He is a great gift to me personally, to the area, and to The United Methodist Church.”
2014 — Phileas Jusu and Julu Swen
2013 — Rev. Arthur McClanahan
2012 — Lisa Elliott Diehl and Kathryn Witte
2011 — Rev. Larry Hollon
2010 — Mark Barden
2009 — Robin Russell
2008 — Mike DuBose
2007 — Jane Dennis
2006 — Rev. Steve Horswill-Johnston
2005 — Dana E. Jones
2004 — Dawn Hand
2003 — Jacqueline E. Vaughan
2002 — Rev. Alvin J. Horton
2001 — Rev. Robert Robertson
2000 — Alice Smith
1999 — Rev. Boyce Bowdon
1998 — Reb. Jame (Jim Skillington)
1997 — Shirley Struchen
1996 — Rev. Dan Gangler
1995 — M. Garlinda Burton
1994 — Betty Thompson
1993 — Bettie W. Story
1992 — Robert Lear
1991 — Laura Okumu
1990 — Rev. Elizabeth Beams
1989 — Tom McAnally
1988 — Rich Peck
1987 — Rev. Judith L. Weidman
1986 — Chester Vanderbilt
1985 — Roger Burgess
1984 — Rev. Spurgeon Dunnam
1983 — Rev. Donald R. Wood