Listee Features — Utilities

Becky Friedman


First cultivating her skills with an Associate of Science in paralegal studies, Becky S. Friedman is the owner of Fireplace Outlet, Inc., which she began out of the back of van alongside her husband. Today, they operate out of two locations and provide installation, servicing and maintenance for fireplaces; custom mantel installations; and have recently branched out into tiling. Furthermore, Fireplace Outlet stands out among its competitors for the full-service nature of their business. Many other businesses subcontract out various aspects of a project, but Fireplace Outlet manages everything in house from beginning to end. They notably even liaise directly with their vendors instead of going through a middle-man supplier, a practice which only began because of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Valinda Miller-Valcich


Holding considerable expertise in finance and landscape design, Valinda A. Miller-Valcich was inspired to her career out of her great love of plants and being outdoors. First studying interior design at the George Washington University’s Mount Vernon campus in 1985, she completed a Bachelor of Science in architecture at the New York Institute of Technology in 1987. Marrying her husband, Mitchell “Mickey” Valcich, in 1988, she began work at her husband’s companies almost immediately, and has since made a name for herself in the fields of waste management and lawn care. Ms. Miller-Valcich has excelled as a landscape designer and the vice president of Mickey’s Lawnscapes Inc. since 1988 and as the chief operating officer of Mickey’s Carting Corp., their

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Barbara Mcgowan


Inspired to a career in local government after seeing how many people were confused by information from various government offices, Barbara J. Mcgowan began her career as the aide to the commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago after earning her high school diploma and attending college. Following this, she spent time as the officer manager for Mayor Harold Washington’s Political Education Project, before returning to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District as commissioner and vice president in 1993, roles she continues to hold to this day. In her dual roles as commissioner and vice president, Ms. Mcgowan is responsible for providing clean drinking water to the residents of Cook County, overseeing roughly 2,000 employees and 7 water

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Now holding considerable expertise in fireplace design, Lisa Moskal initially pursued studies in cardiovascular science at Union County College, where she earned an Associate of Arts in 2004. Following this, she began a career in customer service as a flight attendant with United Airlines, where she later worked as a member of the sales and marketing department. After leaving United Airlines, she started doing work in fireplaces with Flare Fireplaces and became certified through the National Fireplace Institute. It was during this time that she fell in love with the process of designing fireplaces and, inspired by her mentor, Al, from Flare Fireplaces, was driven to open her own company. Ms. Moskal achieved this dream when she founded The Cozy

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Elaine Damschen


A master of marketing and business operations and customer service, Elaine Damschen realized her professional potential after her electrician husband, Todd, required assistance on the business side of his electrical company, Mainstream Electric, Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing. Initially starting out as a schoolteacher, she found her involvement to be an organic process and the couple ultimately decided to diversify their business to accommodate heating & cooling and plumbing. Serving as the company’s president and co-owner since 2000, as well as a member on its board of directors, Ms. Damschen attributes her success to small, everyday incremental actions and decisions and her unwavering perseverance, even when she did not have the full energy to complete tasks. Prior to dedicating herself to

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Phyllis Packard


From the time Phyllis Whitcomb Packard was young, she dreamed of a career in the arts. She worked hard to make that dream a reality, and eventually became a fiber arts instructor at the University of South Dakota. With her foot in the door, Ms. Packard wasted no time in proving her aptitude in the field. She quickly advanced to positions in the Art Department at Yankton College and Worthington Community College, art consultant with the South Dakota Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, originator and manager of prison industry Tapestry Weaving of Black Sheep Weavers, and executive director of the Vermillion Area Arts Council. She has also participated in more than 75 invitational shows thus far.

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Respected for her detail-oriented nature and her ability to communicate with employees, Marjorie A. Nyquist Mero excelled in the utilities field. She started out as a clerk at the Southern California Gas Company, and grew into more advanced positions like engineer technician and job analyst at Power Co. and compensation supervisor at the Washington Water Power Co. (now the Avista Corporation). Ms. Mero knew she had found her niche when she joined Avista. She was promoted to compensation administrator after nine years in her previous position there, and to compensation manager two years after that. She retired from the organization as a human resources strategist in 1998. While she was with Avista, she also garnered experience with the Consumer Credit

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Josephine Johnson


For more than three decades, Josephine Powell Johnson dedicated herself to advancing at the Carolina Power & Light Co. She joined the utility company in 1961, and steadily worked her way from administrative assistant to the first female district manager. Ms. Johnson is proud to have been able to pave the way for other females in the industry. Although she loved her job, she decided to retire in 1997. She attributes her longevity and success to her determination; she put her whole self into everything she did. She also credits mentors like Herman Perry, Harry Oberbee, and Burt Grant. Part of Ms. Johnson’s job at the Carolina Power & Light Co. was community outreach. She met the requirement through positions

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