The next chapter


Tom Purkey serves as Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.


The next chapter

by Tom Purkey, Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

OK. Where do I begin? I have a real-life story to tell you — one with a happy ending and, yes, some tears. I moved from Oneida to Nashville 24 years ago, bringing my wife, Sharon, and our four wonderful young children. I had lived in that small Scott County town for 30 years, since I was 11. And Sharon had lived her whole life there until we decided that moving to Nashville could provide new, positive opportunities for the whole family.

We loved the people, the church and the school there in Oneida, but I realized that the opportunities for our children to go to a university and find employment near home would be much greater in Nashville. So when I got an offer of another job in the electric cooperative business, we made the move to the Tennessee capital. But, again, not without tears.

Tom and Sharon, with children, from left, Elizabeth, Jonathan, Marc and Justin, are honored at their church in Oneida before departing for Nashville in 1987.

I had spent 13 years in management of the local Plateau Electric Cooperative, so coming to Nashville to work for the organization that represents all 23 of the state’s electric cooperatives, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, seemed to be a good fit. And it truly was.

Although the number of employees that I was responsible for dropped from 58 at Plateau EC to 11 at TECA, my dealings at the statewide organization put me in contact with so many more people across Tennessee. My first few weeks on the job were scary. I tried to immediately learn the names of a few thousand people involved directly and indirectly with the cooperatives, but I soon realized that my lofty goal to personally know every one of these fine folks right away was impossible. I had to accept the fact that it was a daily process that I could never quite finish.

So how did we adjust to having moved to “big-city” life from a small, rural town? Not surprisingly, the kids hit the ground running, fully immersing themselves in school and church activities.

I’m sure other parents reading this are well aware of the logistical responsibilities we have to our children. Well, since our children had become so active in their new surroundings, Sharon and I quickly adjusted to our new hometown as we shuttled our kids to and from their various activities. Of course, we met the parents of our kids’ new friends, and once we got to know other parents, life became much easier.

One important fact I have learned is that life is made of relationships. No matter what your profession, religious background or leisure activities, the most effective way to accomplish your goals is through relationships.

The electric cooperative business in which I have worked for the past 37 years has been about just that: relationships. I’ve served as TECA general manager for 19 years and was also general manager at Plateau EC for 10 years. I learned that I could do nothing on my own without the help of the competent staffs with whom I worked. I cannot begin to fully express my gratitude for all they’ve helped me accomplish at the local co-op and statewide association.

Sharon, Tom and family are all smiles in a recent photo.

Effective Jan. 13, 2012, I am turning the page of my life to a new chapter … Retirement. Tears are mixed with joy as I remember the people with whom I have worked over the past 24 years in Nashville as well as the 13 years I spent with the folks at Plateau Electric Cooperative.

I would like to thank my wife, Sharon, who knows my imperfections but loves me in spite of them and is always by my side. And many thanks to the 23 electric cooperatives that have entrusted me to represent them and their member-owners in Nashville and Washington, D.C., in dealing with all the legislative issues of the past 24 years.

And especially thanks to my staff here in Nashville who really know what cooperatives are all about and have made it easy and wonderful for me to serve in the position I have held for the past 19 years.

I am looking forward to spending more quality time with my grandchildren (oh, yes, and my children) and my lovely wife of 39 years.

I realize that “time” is more valuable than any retirement benefit that I could accumulate by staying longer, so I must move forward to enjoy the next chapter.

It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve the people in Tennessee in the capacity of executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. May God bless you as each of you writes your own chapters.

And Sharon and I wish you a Merry Christmas!


  • Megan McKoy-Noe
    December 13, 2011

    Tom, thank you so much for sharing your experience and for devoting your life to electric cooperatives. We really are a family, and it’s been a treat to be in teh same family with you. I wish you all teh best as you start a new adventure in life!


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