New hire at CMEEC attended 2016 Kentucky Derby trip

Norwich – The recently hired business development director at the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative attended the controversial 2016 trip to the Kentucky Derby for one day, 18 months prior to his selection for the new position at the cooperative.

Jacob Pagragan, announced Tuesday as the new director of customer and community prosperity at CMEEC, attended the Friday activities at the 2016 Kentucky Derby trip, along with his wife, Emily Pagragan. Her parents, Will and Jackie Henrickson, attended the Saturday activities of the trip.

Will Henrickson is chairman of a southeastern Connecticut peer review board in which CMEEC CEO Drew Rankin is a member, Rankin said Thursday in an email response to questions about the appointment.

Prior to joining CMEEC, Pagragan was Northeast sales executive for the National Rifle Association, responsible for building, maintaining and managing business relationships. Prior to that position, Pagragan served nine years on active duty as an artillery officer in the U.S Marine Corps, where he also received certifications in sales and public speaking, the press release said. He remains a member of the Selected Marine Corps Reserves as an executive officer for the Golf Battery 3rd Battalion 14th Marines.

Rankin said the Pagragans were already in Kentucky in May 2016 as part of his obligations with the Marines, and attended the Friday CMEEC Derby activities using tickets that had been purchased for another invited guest who did not attend.

“Jacob filled the vacancy,” Rankin said.

Pagragan said Thursday he had not met Rankin until that Friday event at the Kentucky Derby, and didn’t speak to him again afterward until he started looking for a new position. He found the new CMEEC position listed on LinkedIn and responded to the application.

Pagragan said he has 10 years of leadership experience as an officer in the Marines and five years of salesman and sales leadership experience that made him suited for the new CMEEC business development position.

CMEEC hosted trips to the Kentucky Derby from 2013 to 2016, when public outcry erupted over the money the nonprofit cooperative spent on the trips, $1.02 million collectively for dozens of CMEEC board, top staff, business associates and public officials from throughout the state. 

Pagragan said no one has complained to him directly about his participation in the 2016 Kentucky Derby trip, but “I understand the misconception” that it could appear he was favored for the position.

He said he was interested in the position, because any career advancement in the NRA would have meant transferring to Washington, D.C. and he wanted to put roots down in southeastern Connecticut for his family of six children. The family lives in Essex, and he is looking to move closer to New London, where his children attend school.

Rankin said the position was published in multiple online locations and five applications were received. All were considered, and one withdrew prior to interviews. The applications were reviewed by external experts in director positions, marketing concepts and marketing strategies. Candidates then made presentations and were asked 10 interview questions by a selection panel.

“Based on the rigorous process and results, CMEEC selected Jacob as the most qualified candidate based on his extensive sales, business development and marketing experience, combined with his leadership and organizational skills, formal assessment results, and the interview process, all key factors in the decision,” Rankin wrote in the email.

c.bessette@theday.com

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