April has seen an increase in attempts to scam electric co-op members. Two recent incidents involved individuals claiming to work for electric cooperatives. Using that trust, the thieves then stole money and property from the members.

Electric co-ops remind members that their employees or contractors will always have identification, drive marked vehicles and will never ask members for private information.

Co-op members are encouraged to contact their local co-op if they notice any suspicious activity or if they wish to confirm the identity of anyone claiming to be a representative of their electric co-op.

[Nashville] – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives join the U.S. Senate in recognizing April 18, 2013, as National Lineman Appreciation Day. The Senate passed a resolution Wednesday honoring lineworkers for their efforts at keeping power flowing.

In Tennessee there are more than 400 co-op linemen who work in the field restoring power during outages and maintaining distribution lines and equipment. Across the nation, more than 19,000 men and women maintain 2.5 million miles of line for electric co-ops, public power districts, and public utility districts.

“The caliber of our line employees is top notch,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Each and every member of our line crews should be commended for their hard work in delivering safe and reliable power to our members.”

A bill introduced by U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) “recognizing linemen, the profession of linemen, the contributions of these brave men and women who protect public safety” was passed by unanimous consent. The resolution resolves that these workers…

  • are steeped in personal, family and professional tradition;
  • are often first responders during storms and other catastrophic events, working to make the scene safe for other public safety heroes;
  • work with thousands of volts of electricity high atop power lines 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to keep electricity flowing;
  • must often work under dangerous conditions far from their families to construct and maintain the energy infrastructure of the United States;
  • and put their lives on the line every day with little recognition from the community regarding the danger of their work.

“It’s time lineworkers were recognized like this,” Callis says. “It’s a great acknowledgment.”

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 to learn more.

Mr. Joe Jackson, retired Director of Youth and Member Relations with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association has been recognized with the Distinguished Service Award from the Rural Electricity Resource Council (RERC). Jackson’s dedicated years of service and career-long efforts in electricity education were highlighted by his supporters in the nomination materials. The award presentation was made to Jackson on March 20th at the RERC’s national conference in Louisville, KY.

The RERC sponsors the award to recognize outstanding individuals for their energy-related accomplishments and educational leadership. “This national recognition is presented to those select individuals whose personal and professional contributions serve as an example to others,” says RERC Executive Manager Richard Hiatt. “Since the first award was presented in 1977, individuals like Joe Jackson have been honored for their demonstrated commitment to helping others,” said Hiatt.

Letters from peers and affiliated organizations praised Jackson’s work with a wide audience of adults and youth. This endorsement from others and Jackson’s personal style were summarized well on the plaque inscription, “We praise you for your dedication and positive attitude, which has motivated your supporters to nominate you for this award”.

The Rural Electricity Resource Council is a nonprofit national association of electric co-ops and companies. RERC’s role is to promote electricity’s value and safe use in all rural applications.

More than 180 directors and employees from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives were in Nashville April 1 and 2 for the 2013 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association Legislative Conference. Attendees met with their legislators on Capitol Hill to help them better understand electric cooperatives and the issues that impact them.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn also addressed the group, discussing in detail how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is overstepping its boundaries and stifling job creation. “The EPA audits businesses looking for ways to fine them,” said Blackburn. “Their attitude is not helpful, and that is not what the Federal government is supposed to do.”

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain an active presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to be certain that the interests of co-op members are protected. “Electric cooperatives are not-for-profit, member-owned and -regulated and accountable to their communities. These are important distinctions that legislators must understand,” says David Callis, general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The decisions made by legislators can have enormous effects on our members’ electric bills, so our job is to inform and educate them on the impacts of proposed legislation.”

Most issues affecting co-ops this year revolve around local control. “We believe that our members are best served when local decisions are made by local board members elected to run the cooperative,” says Mike Knotts, director of government affairs with TECA. “We are concerned when legislation limits a board’s ability to act in the best interests of its members.”

“Educated and informed legislators are a key component of low-cost, reliable power in Tennessee,” says Knotts. “Co-op members make a powerful impression when they come to meet with their legislators.”

More than 90 legislative visits were made during the conference, and 63 house and senate members attended the co-ops’ legislative reception.

by David Callis, Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

From an early age, we’re taught to speak for ourselves. It’s part of the process of growing up and developing our own identity. “Please, may I have some more?” eventually gets you more food. Pointing out that your malicious sibling broke the lamp may keep you out of trouble.

You gain confidence and a sense of self-worth.

Mark Twain put it this way: “Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians. … You cannot shirk this and be a man.”

When we speak for the electric cooperatives of Tennessee, we do so out of a sense of duty and responsibility. We also do this because we are the electric cooperatives. Our directors and officers are members of the cooperatives. So, we are the members that we represent. We know what our communities need, and we know what is harmful to our communities. We work hard to get the facts right.

And we speak up for ourselves.

Co-ops are ingrained into the communities we serve. When people rely on you, it’s important that you do your work honestly and with unquestioned integrity. Your community’s reputation is on the line — as is ours. We take that charge seriously. It’s important to us that we get the facts correct when we speak.

You’ll always see our names on the byline of any story.

Doing so eliminates confusion. When the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association addresses an issue, either in the media, legislature or community meetings, you can take confidence knowing that we’re being honest and forthright — in the light of day, in the glare of the spotlight.
A number of “news” sources these days allow anonymous posting of comments. In fact, it’s become a vocation for a certain segment of our society. No identification, minimal fact-checking and, all too often, no honesty.

It’s also difficult at times to tell where some news stories originate. Some entities use willing third parties — obscure entities with important-sounding names and clever acronyms — to push their agenda. To use Spiro Agnew’s term, these “nattering nabobs of negativity” exist mainly to promote someone else’s scheme without attaching their names. The days of needing a news bureau and skilled pressmen are gone; all that’s needed now is a cool-sounding name, a website and flashy graphics.

All too often, those entities specialize in duplicitous, fact-deprived stories, usually aimed at maligning someone else’s good name. Not patently false, but rarely identifiable as the truth. And far, far away from being fair and honest.

The goal is twofold: It purposefully creates confusion about an issue and hides the identity of the entity that’s up to no good. Online, drive-by character assassination. The journalistic version of a schoolyard bully.

That’s not how we operate — we never have, and we never will. Whether it’s in the pages of The Tennessee Magazine; on tnelectric.org, Facebook or Twitter; or in the halls of the legislature, when we speak for you, it will be bold, direct and honest.

“It is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside.” It’s a responsibility from which we’ve never shirked.

Mike Knotts, director of government affairs

Not too long ago, somebody repeated an interesting saying to me. I doubt it was an original thought; rather, it has been repeated over and over again and probably attributed to 20 different people. So I won’t try to correctly attribute the original author, but the meaning is excellent just the same.

“Time is the only thing you spend that you can never get back.”

I have been reminded of this indisputable fact over and over recently. Writing this very column is one example, as the staff of The Tennessee Magazine was kind to patiently await my submission as it was submitted dangerously close to the print deadline. If you’ve never had a regular deadline for a work product, the clock does start to tick a little bit louder and a lot faster the closer you get to “zero hour.” My pastor friends say that is especially true for Sunday mornings. Unfortunately, I usually need to hear that clock ticking louder and faster before I get serious about finishing my work.

But we all face pressures of some kind to complete a task because, for the most part, life does operate on a schedule. Each and every day the mailman has to finish his rounds. Mom or dad have to prepare meals for the kids. The store must open and close its doors. Many of our pleasures and hobbies even come with a time limit. So it’s natural for us to push back and try to escape the pressures of time. Perhaps that is why I am a baseball fan, as it is the only major team sport that does not utilize a clock.

But, I don’t think efficiently managing our time and meeting deadlines are what the saying intends to communicate. It’s not a question of how we spend our time — it’s urging us to ponder why we spend our time. Why do we choose to spend the limited amount of time we have on this Earth doing the things we do? What is the purpose of that time, and is it truly worth it?

I recognize that for many of us, we may not have a choice in how we spend all our time. We have to work a certain number of hours to put food on the table and pay the rent, for instance. But that makes the hours left in the day that much more precious and valuable. Are you using those hours in a way that has meaning, or are you just playing “Angry Birds?”

I have four young sons, so I have been feeling especially convicted by this question lately. For example, our twins just had their very first baseball practice. As I watched them on the field listening to their coach and running around the bases, my mind started to wander. What items were left undone at the office this week? What will happen next month in the Congress? When should I get that ding in the truck fixed?

And then, as I was needlessly worrying about things that could wait, I almost missed it. The boys fielded a grounder and threw it to first base. And they both looked straight at me with a look of pride, excitement and happiness that I hope I’ll never forget. Thankfully, I was watching at that moment and gave them a big thumbs up. It was a brief few seconds, yes, and their accomplishment wasn’t something that will be written about in the history books. But what if I had still been thinking about work or reading email on my phone? That moment in time would never have repeated itself, and I probably would never have known that it even occurred.

There are a lot of choices we make in life that we can correct if we get it wrong. Not so with the way we spend our time. So my question is this: What moments have you missed? And was whatever you were doing worth it?