Electric co-ops and a culture of safety

There is a children’s book titled Safety 1st, Safety Always. As you can imagine, it encompasses many of the traditional safety lessons parents should teach their children. We drill youngsters about safety from an early age because we know how important it is to protect ourselves and those we care about. In the spirit of May being National Electrical Safety Month, let’s take a look at how electric cooperatives have been stepping up to the plate when it comes to safety at the co-op.

Up until 2007, there was an alarming national trend among electric co-ops, which was the fact that the number of “lost time” accidents was increasing. Lost time is defined as anything resulting in an employee missing time at work; these accidents could range from a sprained ankle to the ultimate tragedy of a fatality.

This is why Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange, which insures the vast majority of electric co-ops nationwide, initiated a campaign called a “Culture of Safety.” It was designed to create a much greater awareness about safety issues at all electric co-ops.

Through the use of strategy labs across the country, Federated brought together co-op CEOs and general managers, operations supervisors, safety directors and linemen to better understand how each group viewed safety. In doing so, differences in perceptions regarding safety within cooperatives were identified, allowing for much needed conversations and evaluations of how to raise awareness and improve local safety cultures. The “Speak Up, Listen Up program is designed to empower anyone who sees a potentially unsafe situation to Speak Up and encourages everyone to Listen Up to their concerns. The results have been dramatic, with more than a 30 percent decline in the number of accidents over the past nine years.

As a member, you too have a role. If you see any potential dangerous situations or practices, you should report them as soon as possible to your local electric cooperative.

The implementation and success of the Culture of Safety program demonstrates a very important point. If we are intentional about our actions, we can indeed change the culture in our organizations. The same is true for our families, our teams and any groups we may belong to.

We also know that living our cooperative principles and values is equally important. We have the best business model because it puts you, the member-owner, at the center of our efforts.

We look forward to being your safe electricity provider and energy advisor long into the future. For more information about electric safety, visit everydaysafe.org.

Adam Schwartz is the founder of The Cooperative Way a consulting firm that helps co-ops succeed. He is an author, speaker and member-owner of the CDS Consulting Co-op. You can follow him on Twitter @adamcooperative or email him at aschwartz@thecooperativeway.coop

Energy savings beyond belief

Avoid Energy Scams

Avoid Energy Scams

A quick search of the Internet reveals many great ways to save energy around your home. Simple things, such as adding insulation or using energy efficient light bulbs, are simple and relatively inexpensive ways to save small amounts of energy. The same search will also reveal “amazing” products that claim to cut up to a third of your energy bill – without you changing anything about your energy use habits. Claims like this sound too good to be true, and there is good reason for that. These claims almost always turn out to be exaggerations or downright lies.

An energy efficiency scam is generally easy for a person who works at an electric co-op to spot and identify. However, it isn’t so easy for most people. Scams generally center around misstatements of science or confusion over utility programs.

A popular scam is a little box that promises to save you energy. The box is a device that supposedly saves energy without the consumer making any changes to behavior, turning anything off or adjusting the thermostat. The people who sell these boxes often claim outrageous energy savings—sometimes as much as 30 percent or more. They often use terms, such as power conditioning, capacitors and power factor, all of which are legitimate industry terms.

The sales pitch usually goes something like this: The device being sold will control alternating current, power factor and reduce the cost of electric bills. It will condition your power and make appliances last longer. The device uses no power and has no moving parts. It will make the motors in your home run better. The sales material often claims that the utility doesn’t want you to know about the device. That last part is actually true – because it is a rip off. Variations of the product have been sold to both residential and commercial customers.

There are several questions that you should ask a salesman (or yourself!) when reading an ad for the next magical cure-all:

  1. Does it violate the laws of science? Some products claim that they are capable of “changing the molecular structure … to release never-before tapped power.” Changing the laws of science is no easy task. If the inventors truly can do this, the product will surely be sold at every store in the nation, and they will become very wealthy. They won’t be mailing out flyers or operating from a poorly designed web site.
  2. Was the product tested by an independent group like a national lab or university? If the performance of the product was not tested and certified by a lab or other entity not connected to the company selling it, then be skeptical. Call the third party group and talk to them. Sometimes scammers lie about the tests.
  3. Is it too good to be true? In today’s economic times, saving money is top of mind. We want something to be true so that we can save money, improve our lives and feed our families. But wanting something to work doesn’t mean it will.

Sometimes energy scammers contact consumers directly, either by calling or stopping by and claiming they represent the local electric co-op. Never give anyone personal or financial information who claims to be an employee of the co-op without confirming their identity. If they call, ask for a call back number, then verify their identity with your co-op. If they stop by, ask the person for a valid employee ID.

The key is to be skeptical and ask questions. Asking tough questions and being skeptical will not offend honest people. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Brian Sloboda is a technical research analyst specializing in energy efficiency and renewable energy for the Business Technology Strategies (BTS), a service of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Meriwether Lewis EC Helps DCDL Media Expand Services

DCDL Media of Waverly is getting a little help from their friends at Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in the form of a zero-interest loan to grow their services for Humphreys County. The loan is made possible by MLEC’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).

Owned by Connie and Dean Duke, DCDL Media has been serving the area for several years. MLEC loan funds will be used to complete a project several years in the making to help insure quality emergency broadcasting for the citizens of Humphreys County using WQMV AM1060. With MLEC’s help, DCDL will purchase the FM license and equipment needed to communicate important news and safety information to area residents during emergency situations.

As the loan is paid back over ten years, MLEC can loan it out again for other economic and community development projects. The RLF was established in 1996 with co-op funds and a grant from Rural Utilities Service. Since its inception, the RLF has awarded almost $846,000 in the MLEC service area and is in support of the cooperative’s goal to help local communities grow.

Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, your trusted source for safe, low-cost, reliable electricity, is non-profit and member owned, serving over 33,500 meters in Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lewis and Perry counties. Visit www.mlec.com to learn more.

Are you prepared for severe weather?

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are carefully monitoring the tomorrow’s threat of severe weather. Electric co-op crews will be on standby to restore power if outages occur.

The American Red Cross recommends an emergency preparedness kit with these supplies in case of a prolonged or widespread power outage:

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Flashlight (Do not use candles during a power outage due to the extreme risk of fire.)
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and required medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • If someone in your home is dependent on electric-powered, life-sustaining equipment, remember to include backup power in your evacuation plan
  • Keep a non-cordless telephone in your home. It is likely to work even when the power is out.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full.


Tennessee’s electric cooperatives also remind members to stay away from downed wires or damaged electric equipment and to use caution when running a generator.

Click here to find contact information for your local electric cooperative.


On the Safe Side from Touchstone Energy Cooperatives on Vimeo.

James Baker Recalled as Co-op Giant

Former NRECA President James O. Baker Dead at 77

By Derrill Holly, ECT.coop

James O. Baker, a former NRECA president and longtime Tennessee co-op executive who helped shape the nation’s rural electric cooperative program for more than a generation, died April 11. He was 77.

Baker began his career at Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Cooperative in 1960 as a newly minted electrical engineer, fresh from Vanderbilt University. Over the years, he was an active and visionary champion of co-op issues in Tennessee and at the national level through NRECA.

“Co-op leaders often say that we are ‘standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Mr. Baker was truly one of those giants,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “He was a servant and a leader who had great passion for the people of rural Tennessee.”

James O. Baker, NRECA President (left) and Martin Lowery, NRECA staff greet members during NRECA’s 1997 annual meeting. (Photo By: NRECA)

James O. Baker, NRECA President (left) and Martin Lowery, NRECA staff greet members during NRECA’s 1997 annual meeting. (Photo By: NRECA)

The Donelson, Tenn., native spent much of his life in Murfreesboro, where he worked 19 years in Middle Tennessee EMC’s engineering department before becoming assistant general manager in 1979. He assumed the co-op’s presidency the following year and held that post until his retirement in 2003.

“Mr. Baker’s leadership helped build one of the nation’s strongest electric systems to serve the members of Middle Tennessee Electric, and our cooperative continues to benefit as a result,” said Chris Jones, the current president and CEO of the Murfreesboro-based co-op. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Baker’s daughter, Connie; his son, Mark; and all of the family.”

Baker became Tennessee’s representative on the NRECA board in 1985, and was elected to numerous leadership posts in the 1990s, serving as president for two years beginning in 1997.

“Jim was a strong advocate of strategic planning and served as the chair of the NRECA board strategic planning committee prior to being elected to the officer ranks of NRECA,” said Martin Lowery, NRECA executive vice president, member and association relations. “I remember very clearly his perspective on planning in his often-used phrase, ‘What gets focused on gets done.’ ”

According to NRECA officials, Baker’s influence in strengthening the association’s resolutions process to provide guidance for member co-ops on critical policy issues was among his major achievements.

He was also the driving force behind the creation of NRECA’s transmission and distribution engineering committee in 1991, which continues to keep co-ops current with changing technology and helps the Rural Utilities Service maintain its support for engineering standards.

“Throughout his tenure on the NRECA board, Jim was always looked up to by his fellow board members as a soft-spoken leader and voice of unity,” Lowery said.

Become a Co-op Voter

When was the last time you voted?

As member-owned electric cooperatives, voting is already in our DNA. It’s how we maintain an electric utility which is responsive to the consumers it serves. But voting also plays a crucial part in our representative democracy. Federal, state and local elections offer an opportunity to exercise a civic responsibility — to select the best leaders for our communities.

Yet in places all over America, even those served by electric cooperatives, citizens aren’t exercising that right.

In the 2012 national elections, voter turnout dropped overall, but the decline in rural counties was 18 percent—twice that of the nation as a whole.

And when voters miss the chance to vote, they also lose the opportunity to communicate their concern to our leaders about the issues that matter to us, where we work, live, and raise families.

Reliable electricity, access to rural broadband and the quality of our healthcare system are just a few issues we all care about. Still, they only become priorities if enough people show elected officials that they are paying attention. Registering to vote and voting are the most effective ways to send this message.

When we go to the polls with the cooperative principle of “Concern for Community” in mind, we instantly improve our political system. It’s a system designed to produce a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” People like you and me.

I’d like you to join me in a new initiative to get every eligible person registered to vote—you, me, our family and friends—and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER.

America’s electric cooperatives are launching a campaign to help get out the vote and insert issues important to co-ops into the public discussion. Called “Co-ops Vote,” this effort will help boost voter turnout in areas served by cooperatives across the country to ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear every day, and especially on Election Day.

Here’s what you can do to help. Visit the Co-ops Vote web site, WWW.VOTE.COOP, and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER to support your community and electric cooperative when casting your vote in 2016. The web site will give you information on your elected officials and candidates, the voter registration process, election dates and locations, and background about eight key co-op issues we want our elected leaders to understand: rural broadband access, hiring and honoring veterans, low-income energy assistance, cyber-security, water regulation, rural health care access, affordable and reliable energy, and renewable energy.

Co-ops Vote is a non-partisan program developed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. With 42 million members across the nation, electric co-ops are a powerful voice on national issues that have a local impact.

If you have any questions, please visit WWW.VOTE.COOP. I hope to see you at the polls!



Col. Littleton

By Claire Sellers, Duck River Electric Membership Corporation

“How’s your conduct?” This is a phrase you will hear quite often in the small town of Lynnville, located in Giles County. Col. Littleton himself uses this greeting often. The appropriate response is always: “Stellar.”

Col. Littleton is an American fashion designer and business owner. Best known for handmade, upscale leather goods and specialty products, Col. Littleton’s manufacturing center is in Lynnville.

After establishing his business in 1987, Col. Littleton today supplies more than 500 stores across the United States. His leather goods and other products are featured in catalogs such as Orvis and Sundance. Col. Littleton also works with other businesses to incorporate their logos and
brands on various leather products. Two storefront locations in downtown Lynnville are
open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

“We are in the process of moving our manufacturing down the road,” says Col. Littleton, an honorary colonel in Tennessee and Kentucky. This move means all of Col. Littleton’s products will be manufactured on the Duck River Electric Membership Corporation system. His workforce totals 40 employees.

“My goal is for our customers to have unique, one-of-a-kind products,” says Col. Littleton. “No two pieces are the same. Each piece of leather is different, and that’s what we want.”

Products are designed exclusively by Col. Littleton himself and made to have a vintage look and feel.
Different vintage military pieces are used as inspiration. Personalization is an option available to customers. Add customization to a knife or leather product to make it uniquely yours.

“We strive to be stellar in everything we do,” says Col. Littleton. “We aren’t in the needing business. We are in the wanting business. We strive to have stellar customer service and stellar products.”

An order from Col. Littleton includes a Moon Pie, an opportunity to review the product and a “How’s Your Conduct?” sticker.

“Each box that is shipped out will become a guest in someone’s home,” says the Colonel. “It’s all about
presentation. We care about the packaging as much as we care about the product that’s in the box.”

Customers of Col. Littleton include presidents, governors and numerous musical and Hollywood
celebrities. “I learn something new every day,” says employee Lynn Stevens. “I get to see the product when it’s still an idea.”

Each of Col. Littleton’s exclusively designed products is inspected seven to eight times before being packaged and shipped.

History is something that is important to Col. Littleton and his wife, Susie. The couple restored the Andrew Jackson Tavern and moved it to Lynnville from Belfast, Tenn. The tavern, which dates to the early 1800s, today serves as Col. Littleton’s office. An 1874 schoolhouse that has also been restored by Col. Littleton is used for company meetings.

Along with leather products, Col. Littleton has a CD featuring a collection of stories and music. Visit the store and browse through the truly remarkable leather goods inventory.

For more information, contact Col. Littleton at 1-800-842-4075 or visit colonellittleton.com.

April 2016


2016 Youth Leadership Summit

Co-op Release



NASHVILLE – [HIGH SCHOOL NAME] student [NAME] and [HIGH SCHOOL NAME] student [NAME] were in Nashville March 21-23 for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual Youth Leadership Summit. These students were chosen and sponsored by [CO-OP NAME].

Speaker Beth Harwell welcomed attendees to Nashville on Tuesday morning, March 22, in the House Chamber of the Tennessee State Capitol and spent time explaining her role as Speaker of the House and the process that is required to pass legislation.

Rep. Kevin Dunlap also addressed the group and encouraged students to stay active and involved. “You are already leaders or you would not be here today,” he said. He also helped students understand the role electric cooperatives play in rural Tennessee. “The electric co-ops were created because there was a problem: rural Tennessee did not have the privilege of electricity,” said Dunlap. “Our leaders and citizens worked together to form the electric cooperatives and solve the problem.”


Senators Mike Bell, Richard Briggs and Ferrell Haile and Representatives Kent Calfee, Kevin Dunlap, Dan Howell, Jay Reedy and David Shepard joined Harwell and Dunlap for a town hall meeting with students in the House Chamber.

The theme of this year’s summit was “Small Towns, Big Ideas,” and attendees were encouraged to use their talents to improve rural Tennessee. “Local electric co-ops, school officials and guidance counselors chose these deserving students to attend the summit based on their interests in government and strong leadership abilities,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “During this year’s Youth Leadership Summit, we taught these exceptional students that advances in technology have created unique career opportunities in their hometowns. They will be the next generation of leaders in rural Tennessee, and we want to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities they will face.”

“These students will soon be our community leaders — and electric cooperative member-owners,” said [CO-OP LEADER NAME, TITLE]. “We want them to share our passion for rural [REGION, COUNTY, COMMUNITY…], so it is an honor for [CO-OP NAME] help prepare them for the opportunities that are ahead. We need their talents and leadership more than ever.”


The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

# # #



Trent Scott | Vice President of Strategy | 731.608.1519 | tscott@tnelectric.org


Meriwether Lewis Electric Co-op helps local business with loan

The Spalon in Linden will be relocating and expanding its services with the help of a $50,000 loan from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative. The interest-free loan was closed Feb. 29, and made possible by MLEC’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).

Owned by Jennifer Keeton of Perry County, The Spalon provides massages, tanning, skin treatments, and salon services. The loan allows her to settle into a different location more conducive to a spa atmosphere and offer more services to new and established clients.

As the loan is paid back over ten years, MLEC can loan it out again for other economic and community development projects. The RLF was established in 1996 with co-op funds and a grant from Rural Utilities Service. Since its inception, the RLF has awarded almost $750,000 in the MLEC service area and is in support of the cooperative’s goal to help local communities grow.

Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, a Touchstone Energy® cooperative, is a non-profit organization offering reliable, low-cost electricity to over 33,500 members in Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lewis and Perry counties.