Prior to 2020, Rose Ann Pegoda, market specialist at Mississippi Power, never imagined herself to be an artist. But as of this story, she’s painted and drawn hundreds of pieces of artwork.
Her creative journey started during COVID-19 lockdown. Stuck in the house with her family, she was searching for a new activity to pass the time and connect with her sons. She found inspiration in the form of an old ceiling fan. With the fan blades as their canvases, she put herself and her sons to work as painters.
What started as a quarantine hobby blossomed into a passion that Rose Ann enjoys. She attributes her inspiration as coming from a growth mindset.
“I will see a technique on the internet, and I’ll immediately want to apply it to my art. Or I’ll see a photo someone’s posted, and I’ll want to turn it into a painting for them. I find inspiration everywhere,” Rose Ann said.
This growth mindset parallels her career transition from accounting to marketing, which happened a year after she joined Southern Company 19 years ago.
“If someone asked me, ‘What’s my animal,’ I’d say I’m a zebra, because I see things in black and white,” she said. “But in marketing, I had to start thinking in the gray area a lot. I had to think creatively, but I had no artistic ability that I knew of.”
Many years later, she credits this open-mindedness as the seed that grew into her artistic pursuits.
Today, a large motivating factor in her artwork is connecting with others, just as when she started painting with her children during the pandemic. She gives most of her paintings to friends and family to commemorate meaningful events.
“I hope that they’re inspired by what I paint, and I hope that it’s a lasting memory for them,” she said.
Recently, she created a poster and a series of gift cards that celebrated the lineworkers who were first responders to Hurricane Idalia.
Rose Ann describes painting as her “peaceful zone” and hopes to share that peace through her art. She is still developing her own style, but as she continues to find inspiration from everywhere, there’s no end in sight to her creative journey.
As engineering analyst for Southern Power, Amanda Clower manages assets in the Wind Operations Group. But for her roller derby team, Amanda manages blocks.
As her Roller Derby alter ego, Bagel & Blox, she uses her athleticism to create space for her team and frustrate opponents.
Amanda has been drawn to the sport for years. She attended bouts (the term for roller derby matches) while in college at the University of Alabama and was instantly gripped by the athleticism and skill of the skaters, having herself been an athlete in a variety of sports for most of her life.
In 2022, Amanda finally joined a team: the Tragic City Rollers, a play on their hometown Birmingham, Alabama’s nickname, Magic City.
“I missed having a team that I could rely on and who could rely on me,” Amanda said.
For her, roller derby isn’t simply an outlet for physical activity. What’s most drawn Amanda to the sport is connecting with her teammates and fostering good communication practices.
“It’s so important to know what my teammates’ abilities are and how they prefer to be talked to when we’re out there,” she said.
Outside of practice and monthly bouts, she is close with her team. They are competitive yet lighthearted, only calling each other by their derby names (Amanda goes by “Bagel” for short). One of her teammates, Melissa Byrd, is also a technician at Alabama Power. The two have formed a unique bond forged through their work environment and roller derby connection.
“Understanding people’s communication styles, both on the roller derby track as well as in the office with Southern Power, has been so important for me throughout my career,” Amanda said.
Beyond helping organizing, training for, and competing in bouts, Amanda’s involvement in roller derby also extends to the community. Her team has partnered with a local organization, the Magic City Acceptance Academy, a school that provides an inclusive environment of learning to students grades 6th-12th. The Tragic City Rollers help raise funds for the school and shine a light on its mission.
Trae Caton has taken Safety First and instilled it into his community. From his role as fleet specialist at Alabama Power Company to his dedication as a volunteer firefighter, he has committed his life to making his community a safer, better place.
Working for Southern Company is something of a family tradition for Trae: his father has worked as a utility fleet technician and as also a fleet specialist and his grandfather also worked at Alabama Power for many years.
"I get to live a dream that I think most boys grow up wanting to live, which is being able to go to work with your dad. And I've gotten to do that,” Trae said.
Like his father, Trae became a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Clanton, Alabama, starting at the age of 16..
But Trae hasn’t stopped his community involvement there. He has used skills gained from his career and has put his energy into improving public safety. He started by repairing police vehicles.
“I was the kid who tore apart toys and tried to put them back together,” he said.
In addition, Trae is helping to modernize the radio technology used by local police and other first responders and is serving as interim director of Chilton County 911. The new public safety radio network, now being implemented countywide, replaces analogue radio technology that had been in use since the 1970s. It is already empowering first responders to seamlessly communicate both among each other and with other departments outside their jurisdiction.
“We’ve already seen the benefits of it from natural disasters here,” Trae said.
Trae also practices Safety First in his leadership role with the Clanton chapter of the Lions Club, an international organization whose mission is to strengthen communities and provide support to those in need.
He helps establish and implement emergency management and logistics for large events, such as the annual Chilton County Peach Festival. He also helps fundraise and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty to help build things that improve the community, such as a garden for Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy, creating a safe space for children recovering from abuse.
Growing up with parents actively involved in their community, Trae learned the power of giving back. Now a devoted husband and father, he's passing these values on to his own children, ensuring that community remains a central theme in their lives.
Late night television gave Cole Billingsley a window into the world of Major League Baseball. His natural talent and practice provided the rest.
Growing up in Alabama, Cole spent many nights staying up past his bedtime to watch the West Coast-based Los Angeles Dodgers. Those nights spent dreaming of being a major leaguer paved the way for his own baseball career.
A high school and University of South Alabama baseball standout, Cole was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2016 MLB draft.
Cole was in spring training for four days when he was sent home along with every other athlete as much of the world shut down because of COVID-19. He was released from the team shortly after.
“Transitioning from baseball to ‘real life’ was a really tough time because sports were the only life I’d ever known. My life revolved around baseball. I was on a little bit of an identity search,” Cole said.
Translating his baseball skills to a wellness coordinator position in Operations Business & Shared Services at Southern Company made sense. His background in nutrition, functional movement and recovery from injury helped his transition, and he’s able to use the skills he gained during his sports career every day now in his role at Southern Company.
“I’m very happy where I’ve ended up, and I don’t think I’d be here without baseball,” Cole said. “Baseball opened doors for me that otherwise would have never been opened and I will always be grateful for that.”
Outside of his day job, he does find ways to stay close to the sport he loves. Cole coaches the Birmingham Stars, a travel baseball team for player ages 13 and under.
For the past 10 years, Alexandria Wild has served as a permitting engineer for Georgia Power’s Environment Affairs group. She is also the mother of Emerson (“Emmy’), who was diagnosed with a mutation of the KCNT1 gene. This is a rare disease that causes severe epilepsy and developmental delays.
For Emerson, this means she is unable to roll over or sit up, has limited movement of her limbs and can’t make eye contact. She also experiences 10 to 20 seizures a day.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for the genetic disorder, but progress is being made.
“Emmy is currently part of a data gathering study sponsored by a pharmaceutical company and we have since learned about the possibility of clinical trials starting soon,” Alexandria said. She has found support through the KCNT1 Slack Epilepsy Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating research and drug development.
Despite the rarity of KCNT1 gene mutation (one out of every 2 million people), Tammy Williams, a collections specialist who also works for Georgia Power, has a daughter who was diagnosed with the same condition. At 12 years old, Bailee was recently diagnosed after experiencing symptoms her entire life. Alexandria and Tammy were introduced through a shared neurologist.
On June 10, the KCNT1 Slack Epilepsy Foundation was invited to participate in the Million Dollar Bike Ride (MDBR), a bike event that fundraises research for a variety of diseases, and Alexandria participated. These donations are used to help fund clinical trials working to find effective treatment and a cure.
Joining the cause was Katherine Giometti, a TMC Supervisor for Georgia Power and Alexandria’s friend, who organized Team KCNT1 Atlanta for the 10-mile ride and fundraising campaign. The team has raised $8,122 and counting and donations for MDBR are being accepted through the end of June.
Alexandria graduated from Auburn University where she met her husband, Matt. Alongside their daughter Emerson, they have a rescue dog named Tilly. As a family, they enjoy camping, traveling and enjoying delicious food.
KCNT1 Slack Epilepsy Foundation: https://kcnt1epilepsy.org
Link to donate: https://givebutter.com/KCNT1AnnualFund23
Amy Hall, a charitable giving program manager at Georgia Power, has found a new passion outside of her work – rock climbing. Two years ago, her friends recommended the sport to her, and she hasn't looked back since. For Amy, rock climbing has been the perfect fit as it allows her to tackle new challenges and build a unique bond with her climbing partners based on trust and safety.
When asked about keeping Safety First with rock climbing, Amy was brutally honest. “One of the first things you are told when you go through orientation at the gym is that rock climbing is an inherently dangerous sport,” she warned.
While rock climbing can be dangerous, Amy emphasizes that the sport can be done safely with proper precautions. Before climbing, it's essential to review safety checks, commands and redundancies every time to ensure safety. Indoor climbing gyms typically require certified belayers or safety controllers of the rope while you climb and lower you down when you are finished, along with large floor pads to protect against falls. Outdoor climbers must also wear helmets at all times in case of falls or loose rocks.
Amy's preparation for climbs is similar to a workout. Stretching and warming up are crucial to injury prevention, particularly for her hands, shoulders and hips. Power and agility in climbing come mainly from the legs and core, making it an excellent full-body workout.
“There’s excitement, anticipation and some anxiety wondering if I’ll be able to figure out all the ‘problems and sequences on the wall,”
“There’s excitement, anticipation and some anxiety wondering if I’ll be able to figure out all the ‘problems and sequences on the wall,” she said. “The drive and determination kick-in as I climb higher while my hands and arms get tired. All of that can lead to a bit of tunnel vision where all the other worldly distractions of emails that need to be read and laundry that needs to be folded fade away and you’re forced to only focus on solving the puzzle in front of you.”
When asked what she would say to potential climbers, Amy said: “Anyone who may be interested in getting started with rock climbing should know that everyone starts exactly where you in the beginning – so don’t let that intimidate you. Also know that everyONE and everyBODY can climb – don’t let the stereotypes, assumptions and the athletes you see on advertisements fool you in to thinking you can’t do it, because I promise you can.”
Let us introduce you to LaQuitcha Walker, aka Lady Q. She's not just a senior HR specialist for Southern Company Services, she's also a talented clean comedian who has performed at venues like the Laughing Skull and Kat's Café. I've had the pleasure of seeing her in action and let me tell you, she's hilarious!
LaQuitcha's love for making people laugh started at a young age. She quickly realized that she had a talent for it and loved bringing joy to others.
However, it wasn't until someone else recognized her comedic talent and invited her to perform at a women's conference at church that her career as a comedian began. She told stories about her life and the people in it, and people loved it. Word spread, and Comedian Lady Q was born.
One of the things that sets Lady Q apart is her commitment to clean comedy. She intentionally avoids profanity and derogatory language because it's not a part of her upbringing.
“We are very creative humans. There are things women do and/or say, that only other women would understand,”
“Profanity is not a part of my character, and being raised in a Christian home, anything other than modest behavior was not tolerated,” LaQuitcha said. “My parents didn’t use profanity, so it’s just not a part of my vocabulary. Don’t get it twisted … I know how to cuss, but I just choose not to!”
Lady Q finds inspiration for her comedy in the everyday experiences of life. She's an observer of people and situations, and she sees potential material in even the simplest things. But her favorite source of material is women.
“We are very creative humans. There are things women do and/or say, that only other women would understand,” LaQuitcha said.
For anyone interested in pursuing a career in comedy, Lady Q's advice is simple: be yourself, relax and practice, practice, practice. Take classes, perform at open mics, and most importantly, have fun.
When she's not making people laugh, Lady Q is a devoted wife and mother. She attended Morris Brown College in the 90s and has two adult children, Jasmine and Derrick, as well as three bonus children, Corey, Courtney and Torey. She also has two grandbabies, Jayce and Kenzie.
Beverly Ceasars is an engineer at Alabama Power but outside of work she may simply be known as singer-songwriter, The Bev.
Beverly discovered her love and talent for singing at the tender age of 8. Her roots and vocal training started at church. She joined musical ensembles in high school and went on to sing with the Auburn University Gospel Choir. During her time at Auburn, she joined the international music fraternity, Sigma Alpha Iota, which promotes interactions among those who share a commitment to music.
Whether it’s singing lead or background, Beverly’s singing has taken her all sorts of places. She has performed everywhere from Atlanta to Birmingham to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her talent has also resulted in her singing alongside some popular artists. Among them, Beverly has performed on the same stage as popular R&B artist Chrisette Michele. She has also teamed up with local talent like Kibibi Jones and Lillian Aleece, who both sing jazz, blues, gospel and R&B
When asked about her other love, songwriting, Beverly said she uses life as a source of her inspiration for her songs. “There is plenty of material provided when simply living and processing all the things that life brings and takes away,” she said.
““Do it scared! Nerves will always come about when you’re performing or executing something you’re passionate about,”
For those who would like to sing in front of groups big or small but struggle with stage fright, Beverly has a great piece of advice: “Do it scared!” Beverly believes the more someone puts themselves out there, the easier time they will have when it comes to addressing their fear.
“Nerves will always come about when you’re performing or executing something you’re passionate about,” Beverly said. “But don’t let nerves or fear stop you. Implement healthy vocal practices and take deep breaths. You got this.”
Beverly has worked for Southern Company Services for almost two years. Her stage name, “The Bev,” was inspired by her best friend from college who thought adding “The” before “Bev” would make it stand out more. Her favorite songs to sing are “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears (Lalah Hathaway’s cover).
Jeff Baker is a staff environmental affairs specialist for Alabama Power. His primary duties include performing threatened and endangered species surveys, as well as various aquatic surveys. His team also conducts wetland delineations, supports environmental compliance for various company departments concerning environmental issues and works cooperatively with conservation partners throughout the state.
However, his love for animals and conservation extends well beyond work hours. Jeff’s interest in conservation started when he was young.
“I remember watching ‘Nature’ on PBS with my dad as a kid and being amazed by how every animal had a unique job or role that they had adapted to perform,” Jeff said. “The part that captivated me was how each species seemed to develop the most incredible and unique skillsets to survive in their particular habitat or surrounding.”
Jeff’s work with the Alabama Bat Working Group is beneficial to bats, which help the state’s ecosystem, agriculture and economy. The group coordinates an annual Bat Blitz, which is a time when experts and trained bat lovers converge to capture, count and study the bat population in a particular region.
“I’ve said it before, but the award really should go the entire biology team, Chad Fitch and Dylan Shaw included, here at Alabama Power,”
“Bats that eat insects help control pests that can destroy crops. This saves farmers money on pesticides,” Jeff said. “Some bats are also important pollinators, pollinating many of the plants that humans and animals use for food. They also help fruit trees spread around the landscape. Without bat conservation, insect pest populations would increase; damaging our forests and timber and making it tougher for plants to do their job.“
One of Jeff’s proudest moments was being named Biologist of the Year by the Alabama Chapter of the Wildlife Society earlier this year. The Wildlife Society is composed of experts in wildlife and conservation, including many colleagues, which made the award all the more meaningful to Jeff. But he attributes much of his success to the team he works alongside.
“We also have a lot of internal partners and it’s their professional attitude and commitment, the support of our management team, and working collaboratively with many of the external conservation partners in the state that help continue Alabama Power’s long history of environmental stewardship.”
Jeff has been a biologist at Alabama Power for 17 years. He received his bachelor's degree in environmental science with an emphasis on biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a master's degree in fisheries at from Auburn University. He lives in Pell City with his wife, two children, and pets. He has always been partial to chimpanzees, but his favorite animal among those with which he works is the endangered Black Warrior Waterdog or the similarly threatened flattened musk turtle.
Allison Gregoire is a media relations and social media coordinator at Nicor Gas and an aerial fitness instructor in training.
Allison, once an avid kick boxer in Atlanta, moved to Naperville, Illinois, for work and she set her sights on a new outlet for physical fitness.
“I turned 30 last year and was looking to challenge myself while also making friends in a new town where I truly knew no one,” said Allison. In her pursuit she came across AIR Fitness.
Aerial fitness uses a soft, usually silk, hammock to support and suspend the body and uses supported body weight and gravity to strengthen muscles, improve posture, and align joints.
Allison said the class came with a learning curve, but she didn’t shy away from the challenge.
“The first few classes were extremely challenging for me – there are so many small muscles that you are using during aerial that you aren’t traditionally working out,” Allison said. “I struggled to invert and do different moves in the air. It took me six months to get down one of the most common moves in aerial – funny enough, it’s called “the Georgia Twist.”
Not only did Allison master the Georgia Twist with time, now she’s ready to teach others. After 15 months of classes, she’s in the final stages of becoming an instructor. That is a testament of her dedication but also just how much anyone can join and learn. “I’ve had scoliosis since I was 12 years old and have never been able to do a split in my life! I was literally held back in ballet in second grade due to lack of grace and coordination. My advice to new students is to not be scared to try something new. Always challenge yourself but only go as far as you are comfortable that day.”
Jacob McDonald is a senior engineering analyst at Southern Power. He manages the operation and maintenance of solar facilities for the company including budget creation and management, contract negotiations and performance monitoring.
During his free time, Jacob has served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT with the Sumiton Fire and Rescue Service in Sumiton, Alabama for four years. It is an advanced life support (ALS) department which means there are paramedics on duty who can provide the highest level of emergency medical services possible outside of a hospital.
“My involvement with the department consists of responding to fires, wrecks and medical emergencies around the clock outside of my work hours with Southern Power,” he said.
“The opportunity to serve and help in the community where I live is incredibly rewarding. As a volunteer firefighter, you get to help people on some of the worst days of their lives. You really can make a difference in their life or potentially save their life, which is an awesome feeling.”
Jacob’s interest in becoming a volunteer firefighter stemmed from his relatives and neighbors being members of these volunteer organizations.
“There was never a lightbulb moment that made me want to be a firefighter, but it was really something I always thought would be neat since I was a kid,” he said. “As I got older, I was exposed to the fire/EMS service through relatives and neighbors and thought I would give it a shot and I got hooked very shortly after doing so.”
Jacob also enjoys spending time with his wife, Lacey, and two children, Jaxon and Josie golfing, hunting and bass fishing.
Yvonne Murray is a part of the Southern Power team as a state and local affairs policy manager. Outside of work you will probably find her … outside. She enjoys hiking, camping and fishing.
“As a kid I always loved outdoor sports and the beach, but I think I really found my love for it as an adult,” Yvonne said. “I have made so many memories around a campfire in the middle of the woods.”
When she’s not hiking or camping, she’s enjoying more daring hobbies like tinkering with Jeeps to go off-roading and rock climbing. Yvonne’s interest in cars can be traced back to her childhood.
“I was fortunate to grow up with a dad who loved cars. I can remember just hanging out in the garage with him as a kid and enjoying watching him work,” Yvonne said. “When I was in college, I worked selling parts – wheels, tires, motor builds, turbos, exhausts. It was through those hobbies that I met my husband. He used to build motors for one of our competitor shops. Over the years, Jeeps were always something we went back to.”
When asked about advice she would impart to newbies and those interested off-roading, she said to start slow, have the right equipment and keep safety first.
“I would recommend a vehicle that comes equipped with 4WD and push-button lockers. There are plenty of off-road parks that you can get a feel for beginner and intermediate level rides,” Yvonne said. “Some of the off-road clubs offer beginner rides and classes.”
Regarding rock climbing, Yvonne said keep Safety First in all you do. Listening to those more experienced than you is also important.