Faith is Carolene Mays-Medley’s guiding principle
By Leslie L. Fuller
On the first day of June, the Hyatt Regency Hotel’s Cosmopolitan Ballroom in downtown Indianapolis was a beehive humming with activity as some 400 utility commissioners, regulators, and industry professionals from 14 states circulated around the room’s tables, each decorated, not with flowers, but symbols of Hoosier pride: popcorn containers festooned with checkered racing flags; basketballs; and footballs.
The crowd took their seats when Carolene Mays-Medley, president of the Mid-America Regulatory Conference (MARC), strode to the podium; a petite yet powerful figure in a red jacket, a black skirt cut just above the knee, and patent-leather heels.
All eyes were on her as she confidently greeted attendees, welcoming them to the 2014 MARC conference.
Before each member was a full-color conference agenda outlining workshops about gas, pipeline safety, electricity, water, cyber and physical safety, along with social events at area attractions including the NCAA Hall of Champions, Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Mays-Medley is a Democrat who served in the House of Representatives from 2002 to 2008. She was also president of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper as well as Indiana Minority Business Magazine from 1998 – 2010. In March of 2010, Mays-Medley accepted an appointment by former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels to serve on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC). But on this particular day last summer, Mays-Medley was in full MARC-mode.
She enthusiastically introduced Indiana Gov. Michael Pence, causing him to respond, “I’m deeply moved by your kindness and more than a little embarrassed…thank you for your praise.”
Pence, a Republican, then told conference attendees that he felt “honored” to appoint Mays-Medley vice chairman of the IURC, the first African-American woman to hold the post.
The symbolism was not lost on Mays’ childhood friend Marya Jones, daughter of late Indianapolis Urban League founding president, Sam Jones.
“To me, it speaks volumes that as a Democrat commissioner, she was named vice chair by a Republican governor,” the IURC administrative law judge said. “She is just really gifted when it comes to working with people and understanding what benefits the larger good versus petty politics. She is a tremendous advocate and a huge asset to the IURC.
TRIAL BY FIRE
Yet mere months before Mays-Medley’s appointment, the IURC was shrouded in scandal, and many were doubtful if it would be able to take its assigned turn at hosting the MARC event in the Circle City.
Back in September 2013, Mays-Medley, along with longtime associate and friend Jim Atterholt, found herself fighting to restore the tarnished image of the IURC following the abrupt departure of former IURC chair David Lott Hardy amid scandal and criminal misconduct charges.
Those charges, later dropped, centered around conversations Hardy had with Duke Energy executives in which he discussed the possibility of cost overruns on Duke’s Edwardsport plant being transferred to Indiana consumers.
The revelations were highly damaging to the commission, which is tasked with overseeing more than 600 utilities operating in Indiana, and with the mission of assuring that utilities use “adequate planning and resources for the provision of safe and reliable utility services at reasonable cost.” The IURC is also a fact-finding body that hears evidence in cases, in order to fairly balance the interests of the public and the utilities.
After the Indianapolis Star reported that the IURC was trying to raise funds for the MARC conference from utility trade groups doing business in Indiana, watchdog groups including Citizens Action Coalition and Common Cause Indiana denounced the plans as suspect.
At the time, new IURC chair Atterholt addressed the concerns in a statement that the agency would either host the event without funding from trade associations that included regulated Indiana utilities as members, or decline the event altogether.
Later, Atterholt would liken the media furor and public outcry he and Mays-Medley faced, to a trial by fire made bearable through the bond of their shared Christian faith.
“Separately, I don’t think either one of us would have gotten through that,” he said. “During those times of adversity, the ultimate bond was coming to a shared faith. We spent many times in prayer together, led by Carolene.”
Atterholt, who left the IURC to become Pence’s chief-of-staff, went further, describing a spiritual kinship with Mays-Medley.
“She lives her faith and she shares it with everyone from all walks of life,” said Atterholt. “There’s no separation of society with Carolene. She treats everyone equally. She’s my sister in Christ, I’m her brother in Christ.”
COOL UNDER PRESSURE
Allison Melangton, former president of Indiana Sports Corp, similarly described her experience of Mays-Medley coming through for her, although in a very different high-pressure situation: preparing for the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium.
In her role as president and CEO of the 2012 Super Bowl Committee, Melangton recruited Mays-Medley, who agreed to serve as Indianapolis Super Bowl chairperson of administration, a role Melangton described as a natural fit.
But there was enormous pressure for all the members of the Super Bowl committee, starting with its first press conference, when the predominantly male corps of sports journalists less than gallantly pointed out that there seemed to be a surfeit of women on the committee, Melangton said.
That pressure only increased as the eyes of the world turned to Indianapolis.
The cost of a 30-second spot on the NBC-televised Feb. 5, 2012 match between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots was $3.5 million, and ceremonies included Kelly Clarkson singing the National Anthem, with Madonna, LMFAO, M.I.A., Nicki Minaj and Cee Lo Green on the halftime show
The broadcast reportedly broke the record for the most-watched program in American history, resulting in more than half of all Americans watching at least part of the game, which concluded with a 21-17 win by the Giants.
However, “the real beneficiary of all that airtime and all those viewers was the city of Indianapolis,” according to Forbes online magazine, which praised the city’s “perfect execution, Midwestern hospitality, and eminently walkable downtown.”
Through all the myriad hours of prep work leading up to the city’s hosting a successful Super Bowl, Melangton said she found Mays-Medley to be her rock.
“For both Carolene and I, our faith defines who we are,” said Melangton. “She’s called me many times and said, ‘take a breath.’ She’s the right person, she somehow knows. During the Super Bowl, she would call and leave me little prayers on my voicemail.”
Melangton said the high-stakes experience of the Super Bowl was just the latest chapter in a long friendship.
“I first got to know Carolene probably 20 years ago,” said Melangton, who recently left the Sports Corp to take a new position as vice president of events with Hulman Motorsports.
“I was working at the Sports Corp and we got to be good colleagues and friends. In 2005 at the women’s basketball tournament, we had a great time working together. When Super Bowl came up, she gave us hundreds of volunteer hours. She got me a great staff. She was committed and dedicated to the success of the Super Bowl.”
Melangton described Mays-Medley’s best qualities as “her warmth, her sincerity, her laugh, her godliness, and her compassion for others.”
“She’s incredibly competent, she has great people skills, and she gives whatever she’s doing her all. She gives 100 percent. That builds success. I think when you find women executives, we struggle to stop and smell the roses. Carolene is one of those people who is very disciplined about that. She pauses to remember the things that give joy.”
MAYS-MEDLEY, THE MENTOR
When Mays-Medley left the media industry to embark on a new career in utilities, she and the newspaper and magazine’s owner, William “Bill” Mays, felt Shannon Williams was best-equipped to lead the company.
“Carolene hired me shortly after I graduated college,” said Williams, current president of the Recorder newspaper and Indiana Minority Business Magazine. “I was a quiet, yet determined person who at the time didn’t have much experience. Carolene saw something in me then that I didn’t even see in myself and by hiring me, she gave me an opportunity that I will be forever grateful for.”
In the years to follow, Williams worked closely under Mays-Medley in various leadership roles, learning the business.
“Carolene is an astute businesswoman. She’s incredibly intelligent and has always been committed to doing things exceedingly above and beyond. From the very beginning, I was captivated with her skill set, work ethic and her ability to transform a struggling publication to one that is ranked amongst the top nationally. It was truly a blessing for me to learn from such an extraordinarily talented woman.”
Williams says Mays-Medley is one of the best, both in business and in life.
“Carolene is exceptional all around. She not only impacted my life professionally, but also personally,” said Williams. “After my mom passed away in 2002, Carolene became the greatest influencer of my life. She has not only taught invaluable lessons professionally, but also personally and spiritually.
“One of Carolene’s greatest gifts from God is her discernment,” continued Williams. “She would often recite scriptures to me or leave biblical notes in my office when she sensed I was feeling down or needed encouragement – even when I tried to hide my feelings of hurt, particularly as it related to my mom’s death. Carolene always knew when I needed a special word. And she does the same thing even now that we don’t work together. She will call me when she has an inclination that something is wrong with me. I know those times are when God is using her as his messenger. I love the woman that she is and the many components to our relationship; from a mentor/mentee perspective to true friends and sisters.”
Williams says while Mays-Medley has “an amazing professional and civic repertoire with countless accomplishments,” faith and family are most important to the IURC commissioner.
“Many people marvel at Carolene’s success, and while she’s grateful for it, the most important aspects of her life have always been her Christian beliefs and her family.”
Mays-Medley was born 53 years ago in Evansville, IN to Theodore “Ted” Jr. and Bruceil Mays. A couple years later her younger brother, Theodore “Teddy” III who was born.
“Carolene has been a bright spot in my life since the day she was born,” said her mother. “She is a loving, kind, and giving daughter.”
Bruceil says Mays-Medley has always been eager to work – even as a young child. She recalls a time when Mays-Medley was seven years-old and her enthusiasm to work was especially obvious.
“We would visit my mom in Nashville during the summers and Carolene would read the paper for jobs in the want ads. She would actually call people and see if she could work for them,” Bruceil said with a hearty laugh. “She did get a job during those times. There was a local grocery store nearby and Carolene would sweep the floor everyday for a nickel.”
The family moved to Indianapolis in 1975 when Ted was hired to lead the Christamore House, a community center on the city’s Westside. As executive director, Ted was instrumental in increasing the presence of the organization, making it financially sound, and establishing fundamentals that Christamore House still uses today.
“My dad had a really strong work ethic and that’s where mine came from,” said Mays-Medley. “Growing up, he worked three jobs to improve our circumstances. He would work all day, come home, eat dinner and take a short nap before he would go to another job at midnight, work until 6 a.m., then come home, take a shower and go back to work.”
The strong work ethic that Ted possessed early in his life continued throughout his entire professional career.
“When my dad retired from Mays Chemical Company, they had to split his position between three people,” recalled Mays-Medley of her father who passed away in 2009 of cancer.
Like her father, Mays-Medley says her mother also had a strong work ethic and effectively balanced being an elementary school teacher and a quality parent.
“My mom is an amazing woman and her work-family balance was phenomenal,” said Mays- Medley. “When my brother and I were growing up, mom worked fulltime and also went back to school fulltime to get two degrees. Although she worked so hard, she always took care of the house and I don’t ever remember not having a hot meal. Every morning she cooked breakfast and every evening we had dinner.”
While Mays-Medley dotes on her own mother for being a super-woman, Jones, her childhood friend and co-worker at the IURC views Mays-Medley as a modern-day wonder woman.
“How she gets it all done, is a wonderment to me,” said Jones of her friend’s ability to be an effective professional and a loving, capable family member. “She is a tremendous family person and adores her mom. She loves her husband, stepsons, and her daughter, Jada. She balances work and life quite wonderfully.”
Mays-Medley married Indiana Parole Board member, Fred Medley January 1, 2008 during a private ceremony in Las Vegas. Since then, the duo have blended their families which consists of Mays-Medley’s 17-year-old daughter Jada, and Fred’s sons Frederick II, 24, Niles, 12, and Chase, 10.
Fred says his wife’s ability to effectively multi-task the duties of her professional and personal lives is one of the characteristics that he fell in love with.
“I love so many aspects of Carolene, but I especially love and appreciate the wonderful wife and mother she is as well as her capacity to be such a strong and essential asset to the state of Indiana through her current role at the commission. I am incredibly proud of her.”
Fred, a disciplined Marine veteran says there is one characteristic his wife possesses that could use some improvement.
“While trying to balance everything, she drives me crazy from time-to-time because she is always late,” he jokingly said.
TURNING NEGATIVES INTO POSITIVES
In 1989 Mays-Medley was living in Dallas and married to another man who was verbally and physically abusive.
“My lowest point in my adult life was during my initial marriage,” recalled Mays-Medley. “My ex-husband actually held a gun to my head one day and said, ‘I’m going to kill you and kill myself.’ I knew I had to get myself out of that situation.”
Mays-Medley says she had an epiphany one particular evening when she was home alone, healing after being beaten by her then-husband.
“I had a black eye and some bruises. I remember praying and crying, and walking up the stairs in the house. There was a landing on the stairway and I fell to my knees, and I prayed,” said Mays-Medley. “I said, ‘God, I’m going through this, and I pray that someday you will use me to help other people.’ And he did.”
After going public with her story of domestic violence, Mays-Medley said she began to see that negative time in her life turn into a positive because it helped others heal from their own domestic violence situations.
“I still to this day have women come up to me and say my story of abuse saved their life,” she said. “What a blessing! Many people will say, if someone like me could go through that, and tell my story, they realize they weren’t alone. And they knew they’d be okay if they walked away. That touches me so much more than anyone can ever imagine. And I know God is using that part of my life, as low as it was. That’s one of those exceeding above moments. What Satan means for evil, God means for good. God turns it around.”
Mays-Medley says the one message that she would want to convey to people about overcoming adversity – in one’s professional or personal life – is to use difficult times in your life for good, to fulfill your purpose.
“In the midst of adversities in our lives, God is always with us. We have to use that adversity for the good and to help others,” Mays-Medley empathetically said. “Don’t take things we go through for granted because there is a positive message in the end for our lives and others. We are all striving for something. The question we have to ask ourselves is are we fulfilling it.
“Those negative things in my life have really opened doors to give back and help others. I want to take the darkness in my life and use it as a light. My purpose is to live a life that will be a light for others to do God’s work. That is what I am hoping and wanting to fulfill.”
Mays-Medley at a glance
Many people know Carolene Mays-Medley for her professional acumen. Others know her for her turbulent past as a domestic violence survivor. And some people know Mays-Medley for her strong Christian values.
Here is a snapshot of the multi-tiered Mays-Medley, who friends and colleagues praise for being great at all aspects of her life.
* The daughter of Ted Jr. and Bruceil Mays
* The sister of Teddy III
* The wife of Fred Medley
* Mother of daughter Jada, 17 and step mother of Fred II, 24, Niles, 12, and Chase, 10
* A member of Eastern Star Church and Heartland Church, both in Indianapolis
Mays-Medley is vice-chairman and commissioner for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. She also serves as chairperson of the Critical Infrastructure Committee for the National Association of Utility Regulatory Commissioners and on the Water and Washington Action Committees.
Mays-Medley was president of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper and the Indiana Minority Business Magazine from 1998 – 2010. She served in the Indiana State Legislature as a state representative from 2002 – 2008.
Prior to breaking into the media and political industries, Mays-Medley was manager of national accounts at Mays Chemical Company and held various management positions at Occidental Chemical Company.
Some of Mays-Medley’s community service efforts include:
* 2013 Indianapolis Super Bowl Bid Board and Super Bowl Board of Directors
* Indiana Sports Corporation Board and Executive Committee member
* Peyton Manning’s PeyBack Foundation Board
*Capital Improvement Board
* Child Advocates Advisory Board
* Ivy Tech Community College and IUPUI Presidents Diversity Cabinets
Mays-Medley’s role as vice-chairman and commissioner for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is quasi-judicial and includes hearings that can be as short as 15 minutes, or as long as several weeks. There is a large amount of reading and research involved for preparation of cases, panel discussions and speaking engagements.
Mays-Medley is recognized as a leader and speaker in the areas of cyber and physical security and currently serves on the New Mexico State University Center for Public Utilities Advisory Council and the University of Missouri Financial research Institute Symposium Advisory Board.
Last year, Smart Grid Today selected Mays-Medley one of the 50 Smart Grid Pioneers of 2013. The listing was comprised of leaders working on smart grid solutions to power challenges around the world.
Did you know?
Did you know that Mays-Medley was a finalist for an appointment by President Barack Obama? She made it to the final round of consideration for the Midwest Regional Director of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Mays-Medley withdrew from consideration upon receiving the appointment by former Gov. Mitch Daniels to serve on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
5 Rules for Success
Since Carolene Mays-Medley has accomplished such great success personally and professionally, IMBM thought it would be motivating for readers to understand what principles guide Mays-Medley. Below, the accomplished executive shares her 5 rules for success.
1. We are all put here for a purpose and given an opportunity to help others, so give back.
2. Give 100 percent to all you do – even if you don’t like all aspects of it.
3. Treat others with respect and dignity. If your title, position or money were gone, think of how you would want to be treated.
5. Don’t apologize for your success.