Approaching her third year with Illinois American Water, Karen Cotton serves as the external affairs manager. Her responsibilities include media relations, public relations, community relations and corporate responsibility. As the coordinator for the company’s United Way and Water for People campaigns, she has contributed to record-setting giving each year. She is also the spokesperson for six of the state’s 12 districts, including Peoria, Pekin, Lincoln, Interurban, Alton and Cairo. Cotton also partners on projects concerning internal communications, working hard every day to communicate information to employees, customers and key stakeholders.
Cotton has made Peoria and the State of Illinois a better place to live through the passion and drive which push her to take on challenging roles to improve and protect our watersheds. Volunteering to co-coordinate Illinois American Water’s environmental grant program, Cotton worked with water quality and environmental compliance staff to award grants that would protect watersheds in the company’s service area. She also represented the company by helping with the Sun Foundation’s annual Clean Water Celebration.
When Cotton heard about Pontiac High School’s student-created program to stop the flushing of pharmaceuticals into our water sources, she knew Illinois American Water needed to help with the cause. For months, she promoted the program internally and pushed for new funding so the company could offer both monetary and collaborative support. Since then, she has been instrumental in setting up pharmaceutical programs in Champaign-Urbana, Streator and Pekin. Cotton was asked by the director of the EPA to chair its Medication Education Disposal Solutions Communication Committee and speak at the Illinois Potable Water Supply Operators Association.
Cotton volunteers on many water industry committees and environmental projects, but her most important volunteer activity is working at Special Olympics events with her husband, Dr. Brad Cotton. They enjoy giving back to the children who work so hard to excel despite their challenges. Cotton also volunteers at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois Telethon, having begun volunteering with CHOI when she was an employee at OSF Saint Francis. These activities motivate her to work harder and do more to make the world a better place. iBi