Senior Vice President, Chief Communications & Marketing Officer
Location: St. Louis, MO
Industry: Energy, Utilities
Jessica Willingham has always embraced new opportunities to build meaningful interactions and make an impact. After receiving national recognition for her decade of work with the American National Red Cross, in 2012 she was asked by the organization to move to Washington, D.C., to lead Ready Rating, the award-winning program she founded and directed.
As a newly single parent focused on providing stability for her young children, she chose to remain in St. Louis and accepted an offer to serve as the director of communications for Laclede Gas Company.
Having worked for corporate and philanthropic businesses in the past, from Corporate Property Investors in NYC to the YMCA Association of Tennessee in Nashville, she quickly realized that a public utility company was a blend of both worlds, caring equally for investors and the families, businesses and communities it serves.
In 2012, with the company’s enterprise value at $1.9 billion, Willingham started building a proactive team in anticipation of company growth. She immediately stood up employee communications, media relations, crisis communications and creative services.
With the strategic decision made to maintain headquarters in St. Louis and grow the company, Willingham led communications and marketing through four acquisitions, which have increased the enterprise value more than sixfold. And by 2015, Jessica was promoted to vice president and became an officer of the company. Shortly thereafter, she led rebranding efforts to transform the parent company — The Laclede Group — and all its business units to the masterbrand Spire.
“In 2011, I took a risk and said ‘no thank you’ to a fantastic career opportunity in D.C., not knowing if I’d ever get another chance at something comparable. As a newly single parent, at that point in my life, it was clear to me that I needed to say ‘yes’ to my family and stay in St. Louis, where my children had their mom and dad in the same location. Knowing my priorities and being able to act on them paid dividends for me as a professional, a parent and as a leader,” Willingham said.
“Having said goodbye to this ‘dream job,’ I found myself completely open to new opportunities that I could have never imagined for myself — including changing industries. Landing in the energy sector, I’ve had incredible growth opportunities and have developed true passion and purpose in this evolving, global industry.”
Willingham is a graduate of Leadership St. Louis and was selected for 100 Wise Women St. Louis. She serves on the Washington University National Public Relations Council and the American Red Cross Rapid Response Public Affairs Team, and she co-chairs the American Gas Association’s Marketing and Communications Committee.
Willingham believes in making a difference in her community and currently volunteers on the boards of United Way of Greater St. Louis, The Magic House Children’s Museum, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri and Forest Park Forever.
Under her leadership, Spire established the Science Lab at the Magic House’s STEAM Center and was a major supporter of the Forest Park East Waterways Project with Forest Park Forever.
After completing a bachelor's degree in Humanities and Comparative Religions, Jessica was inspired to experience eastern culture, religion, and philosophies, and was selected to serve as an Overseas Service Corps worker posted in Chiayi, Taiwan, where she lived in a village with a family for a year. Through her teaching and travels in Taiwan, China, and Japan, Jessica developed a deep appreciation for world cultures, diversity of thought, and inclusion. The experience is one she draws upon even today. One of her favorite sayings is "There's a lot of right in the world."