Vanessa Cooksey

Vanessa Cooksey, senior vice president of community relations for Wells Fargo, received the 2018 Corporate Executive of the Year Award from the St. Louis American Foundation.

Photo by Wiley Price

I recently celebrated my 10th anniversary as a St. Louisan. In 2008, when I moved to St. Louis, Bill Shaner, then president and CEO of Save-A-Lot Food Stores, could have easily said, “I got you here, now you go figure it out!” Instead, he was intentional about ensuring my success in the company and in the community.

He immediately introduced me to Kathy Osborn, Donald M. Suggs, Marlene Davis, Michael McMillan and Valerie Patton. This changed my trajectory and my life. Each of these phenomenal leaders not only taught me how to live in St. Louis, but also how to lead in St. Louis, and I am grateful they are still doing it today.

I joined Anheuser Busch Inbev in 2011. While working with Margarita Flores and David Peacock, I learned that leaders get the best results from teams who are having fun, learning and being creative.

I joined Wells Fargo in 2013.  I am fortunate that my leaders, Molly Porter and Joe Nadreau, empower me to lead and influence with courage and humility – especially in the face of significant challenges, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

I believe the best experience a person can have is to be loved intentionally and unconditionally. I am blessed that I have a mom, husband, son and a whole bunch of friends in St. Louis, like Jasonee Foster, that not only love me in this way, but they also support and champion my passion for and commitment to make the St. Louis and the world a better place.

I also share the 2018 Corporate Executive of the Year Award with my team. I am grateful for those able to join me today – Ashley Williams, Courtney Hemmer and Vianey Beltran. This award salutes the value of community relations in business.

Often times, awards for corporate executives go to people in the business line or on the revenue side. Folks often think our jobs in community relations are cushy and that all we do is hand out big checks in nice suits and pretty dresses. That’s only a small part of it.

When it is strategic, thoughtful and intentional, community relations is dynamic, it is hard and it is unique. It touches every employee, in every function at every level, and connects them in meaningful ways to the community in which they live and work.

My St. Louis success story is grounded in being intentional. Today I ask us continue to be intentional about developing the talent around us, both in our companies and in this community. Look not just at the people that you like or that make you comfortable but find ways to engage and include all of our region’s talent, especially our young people and our elders, so that everyone in our St. Louis community will grow and prosper.

Edited from remarks made at the St. Louis American Foundation’s 2018 Salute to Excellence in Business on Friday, November 30. Vanessa Cooksey is senior vice president of community relations for Wells Fargo.

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