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December 01
07:21 2020


It’s all in the attitude

By Alice Ashby Roettger

Consider a personality elixir of flexibility, optimism and a love of people, then translate it into the workaday world and you have Judi Vaughn CIC, CISR, the National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research 2020 Outstanding Customer Service Representative of the Year.

During her 15-year tenure at Kysar Millennium Leavitt Insurance in Farmington, New Mexico, Judi has received kudos from people in all areas of her life. But let’s go back in that life to the “flexible” character trait. “My dad was an over-the-road truck driver, so we didn’t see him a lot,” Judi remembers. That led to a kind of “two-lives” existence—when Dad wasn’t there and an adjustment when he joined the family unit between trips. “We had to be flexible,” she wryly observes.

“I love the people who work in the business, as well as our clients, and have acquired lifelong friends along the way.”
—Judi Vaughn, CIC, CISR

That trait is implicit in Judi’s response to the prompt that CSR contestants responded to as part of the competition: “Given changes in technology, the consolidation of agencies, and societal influences, discuss four ways your clients’ expectations have changed in the last five years and the two most important changes you expect to see in customer service in the next five years.”

Throughout her essay, Judi, who serves as an account manager at the agency, implies that when one is flexible, one adapts to change in ways that can maintain an already comfortable relationship. In addition, her being able to provide service to a variety of personalities reveals another attribute of flexibility. According to nominator Melinda L. Wilson, an account executive officer with Travelers, Judi’s “down to earth personality allows her to quickly connect with others and build strong ties. … And while we’d all like to say we enjoy working with all of our customers and company peers, the truth of the matter is we all likely have at least one ‘not so easy to work with’ relationship. Judi sees these difficult situations as an opportunity … .”

Judi (far right) with co-workers (from left) Autumn Sutherland, Account Manager; Annette Franklin, Office Manager and Account Manager; and Lindsay Luther, Controller, at the agency entrance.

In her essay, Judi further discusses changes in consumers’ expectations: the “I want it now” mindset that permeates today’s society, the important role that a CSR can play as mergers and acquisitions can make clients feel as if they are just a number, and the changing boundaries of business hours.

This is where Judi’s innate optimism comes into play. “Live life to the fullest,” she says. In answer to the “how are you” question, she always answers, “I’m fabulous,” adding there’s no reason not to be. “I always come into work with a positive attitude. It sets the tone for other people. If you come in with a happy attitude, other people might become happy, too. I love people and want to help them to be happy. I’ve been told that I care too much, but I’m a fixer—both with people and in insurance.”

Melinda from Travelers supports that last statement, pointing out Judi’s “solution-oriented” approach to any problem.

Judi with Gayla McCulloch, owner, and Linda Hagen, long-time employee, of J.A. Drake Well Service and Drake Energy Service, agency clients since the 1980s.

How did Judi come to have a love affair with the insurance industry? “Well,” she replies, after growing up in Wyoming, as many 18-year-olds do, she left a small town for a “new life” and eventually met her husband (now a contract specialist for a coal company). When her son was a toddler, “Insurance fell into my lap,” she laughs. “A friend offered me a filing job at a local agency.

“I accepted, wanting to hear an adult conversation occasionally,” Judi quips. Moving into personal lines, she soon fell in love with the insurance industry. “I love the people who work in the business, as well as our clients, and have acquired lifelong friends along the way,” she adds.

Casey Dove, senior territory manager at Liberty Mutual, affirms what Judi says. “I have worked with Judi for more than 15 years and have always enjoyed her professionalism, knowledge and love for insurance. Judi not only does a fantastic job at taking care of each insured, but she also truly cares and builds relationships of a lifetime.”

Melissa Kittelson of Four Corners Electric Co., Inc., attests to Judi’s professionalism: “She is very good at anticipating our company’s needs and very often has things taken care of before we have even asked.”

The Farmington community also benefits from Judi’s sense of service. Says Mayor Nate Duckett: “Beyond her professional responsibilities, Mrs. Vaughan is also engaged in civic duties within her community. Recently she joined our Children’s Museum director serving our local youth in their LEGO League championship,” during which children are challenged to create programs to make robots work.

Judi with clients Shawna and Kyle Bruhn, who purchased their business in June of this year.

Mayor Duckett has also recommended Judi for inclusion in the 2020 class of the Leadership San Juan Board. In addition, along with others from the agency, Judi helped hand out more than 700 boxes of food for the ECHO Food Bank and had hoped to read stories at Childhaven. Unfortunately, some of those activities have been put on hiatus because of the pandemic.

Amidst all of her work activities, home responsibilities and community service, Judi hasn’t neglected professional qualifications. Says Melinda Wilson, “Judi’s dedication to her job is further exemplified by her attending continuing education courses and her recent promotion to commercial team leader over two offices.” In addition, her title includes the CIC and CISR designations.

One of Judi’s greatest desires is to encourage younger people to enter the industry “because there is a lot to offer. I told my [27-year-old] son that it’s a great gig. He didn’t want to sit behind a desk. I told him that you can be out there,” working in any of a number of non-desk positions. Unfortunately, she says, there isn’t enough information out there that shows younger job seekers the breadth of opportunities in insurance. The industry must get the next generation involved.

Is this Judi’s next challenge?

The author

Alice Ashby Roettger is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. She also serves as an editorial assistant at Rough Notes magazine.


Since 1991, The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research has honored outstanding CSRs. The award is based on a candidate’s contributions to the insurance industry and the community in which the candidate works. In addition, all candidates must submit an essay written in response to a prompt from The Alliance.

The winner receives a gold and diamond lapel pin and $2,000 in cash. In addition, his or her name is inscribed on a sculpture that is housed at The National Alliance headquarters in Austin, Texas.

The winner’s employer receives a scholarship for any National Alliance program, and the nominator receives $1,000.

The four national runners-up receive a gold and garnet lapel pin and $500 in cash.

This year’s other finalists were:

Marcella R. Beasley, MA, CIC, CISR, CRIS, CCIP, MLIS, CIIP, CLP

Alliant Insurance Services, Inc.

Fresno, California


Chelsey McCord, CIC

Hub International Mountain States, Ltd.

Great Falls, Montana


Megan M. Owenby, CISR Elite

Brown & Brown Insurance of Georgia

Alpharetta, Georgia


Leslie J. Quick, CISR, AMCL

Champion Commercial Insurance Agency, LLC

Dallas, Texas

For more information regarding the Outstanding CSR of the Year Award:

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