Devon Chestnut, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager, Cox Communications, Inc.
Continuing to learn as a person and striving for perfection as a professional are hallmarks for this native Ocalan. As a wife, mother and, while working full-time, Devon earned a college degree and switched careers, allowing her to pursue her passion.
Now, she is communications manager over the southeast region for Cox, which includes Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. Devon’s leadership skills and professionalism helped propel her to the presidency of the Florida Public Relations Association, effective in August. She was thrilled for the opportunity to move back “home,” after spending many years in Gainesville.
What was the catalyst that led you to this industry?
After spending many years in retail management, I decided to make a career change and came upon a job at Cox Communications as a supervisor over the in-bound sales team. Not long after beginning my career at Cox, I determined that I wanted to go into the marketing/public relations profession. I enjoyed interacting with the public and using my creativity to create effective and engaging communication. While working 40+ hours a week, with a young family, I earned my Bachelor of Science in Communications and have since acquired my Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and Certified Public Relations Counselor (CPRC) credentials.
What are the biggest challenges facing your industry, and how are you overcoming the hurdles?
Although some people still refer to us as “Cox Cable,” we’ve come a long way from being just the cable provider—now offering advanced video, high-speed internet, telephony and home security and automation services. How people receive their entertainment has changed tremendously, as streaming video content is a growing trend. To keep up with this evolution, Cox continues to invest in our network and expand our services with additional network infrastructure, new technology and by increasing our footprint.
Who are your role models and mentors?
My dad is my biggest role model. He is one of the hardest working people I know and instilled in me a strong work ethic. Both of my parents have always been there for me and are my biggest cheerleaders. I’m also in awe of my husband, who, in his 40s, decided to make a career change and pursued his dream to become a firefighter. As a firefighter/paramedic with Marion County Fire Rescue, he (along with all first responders), plays a critical role in the health and safety of our community. I have many mentors in my life, both professionally and personally. I’m blessed to be surrounded by strong, professional and successful women who are making a significant impact on our community and their profession.
What causes are close to your heart, and how do you hope to advance those causes through your contribution?
Marion County has so many wonderful organizations and nonprofits doing fantastic work in our community. I’m especially fond of causes that focus on youth and education, which is why I serve on the Pace Marion board of directors. Pace has tremendous success in helping at-risk girls recognize their value and reach their full potential. From Connect2Compete, our low-cost internet service for low-income families, to our monetary and in-kind contributions, to allowing me to contribute my time and talents to help others, Cox understands the importance of giving back to the communities we serve and I feel blessed to have a role in that.
What advice would you offer anyone who aspires to become a leader in their industry or community through service?
Take the time to uncover the needs, whether in your industry or community—don’t assume you know. Programs like Leadership Ocala/Marion provide a behind-the-scenes snapshot of our community, uncovering needs and opportunities that otherwise go unseen. Find what you’re passionate about and determine how you can use your time, talent or treasures to make a difference. In addition to community causes, I’m also very passionate about my profession. In August, I will assume the role of president of the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA), one of the oldest public relations associations in the country, with over 1,200 members. I’m excited about the opportunity to partner with amazing public relations professionals from across the state to help grow the association and make it better than ever.
Do you have a mantra?
I believe that everything happens for a reason. Although the reason is not always apparent, and may often feel unfair, you have to look beyond the moment and keep moving forward. In due time, the purpose usually becomes clear.
The best leaders lead by example, so what do you hope your example encourages others to emulate?
To do the right thing and treat others with respect. I don’t care if you’re the CEO of a large corporation or a janitor, everyone has a purpose and deserves to be treated with the same level of respect, regardless of their title.
What is your favorite part of living in this community?
I was born and raised in Ocala. I lived in Gainesville for 16 years and I’m so glad to be back home (moving back to Ocala about five years ago). I love how warm and welcoming Ocala is, and the commitment and compassion citizens, businesses and elected officials have for our community. Ocala has grown and enhanced what it has to offer people who live here and visit, yet it has managed to maintain a hometown feel.