Severe storms and tornadoes moved through Tennessee overnight Monday, leaving more than 33,000 without power.

Crews worked through the night and into the day on Tuesday, restoring service to all but 1,600. Co-ops in Southeast Tennessee experienced the most severe damage, including the areas of Fayetteville and Chattanooga.

Tennessee is currently using in-state personnel to complete the restoration, and co-ops hope to be in a position later today to assist neighboring states with their restoration efforts.

The video below shows significant flooding in Hickman County near Coble. Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative experienced a few outages as a result, and one co-op employee, Chad Blackwell, used his fishing boat to cut a tree off a line to restore power.

NASHVILLE – The electric cooperatives of Tennessee are recognizing Friday, April 18, 2014, as National Lineman Appreciation Day to honor the hardworking men and women who keep the power on and protect the public’s safety. There are more than 700 electric co-op linemen in Tennessee.

“Today we honor the dedicated service of these courageous workers and recognize the critical role they play in keeping the lights on,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Our communities depend on reliable energy, and our linemen place themselves in harm’s way every day to see that power is delivered to our homes, businesses, factories, schools and hospitals.”

“When disaster strikes, they work quickly to restore power to their communities,” says Callis. “They go above and beyond, working around the clock in hazardous conditions.”

“Linemen represent the Volunteer State well, helping others during their times of need,” Callis adds, noting that Tennessee’s electric co-ops have assisted utilities in other states following ice storms, tornados and hurricanes, with some crews traveling as far as New York following Hurricane Sandy in 2013.

You can help Tennessee’s electric cooperatives honor lineman by using #ThankaLineman on Twitter.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve. The association publishes The Tennessee Magazine and provides legislative and support services to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives.

SELMER – USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode today joined Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Pickwick Electric Cooperative President Karl Dudley and other local leaders to announce funding for jobs in McNairy County. The announcement was made at the McNairy County Industrial Park.

“In McNairy County and across the country, the best stimulus program is a job. For almost 30 years, Monogram Refrigeration has manufactured jobs and boosted the local economy in Selmer and beyond,” said Blackburn. “Today’s expansion announcement will provide more high quality jobs and strengthen Monogram’s footprint in West Tennessee.”

Pickwick Electric Cooperative (PEC) has partnered with the Selmer/McNairy County Industrial Development Board (IDB) and USDA Rural Development (RD) to purchase an existing industrial building in Selmer. The 125,000 square foot facility will make it possible for Monogram Refrigeration, a subsidiary of General Electric to add a new production line creating up to 40 jobs and keep the company from needing to relocate 160 existing jobs to another location.

According to Plant Manager Ray Deming, “Monogram has been manufacturing high quality household refrigeration equipment in McNairy County for almost 30 years.” The company plans to introduce a new line that is expected to go into production in 2015.

“Working together Pickwick Electric, Selmer/McNairy Industrial Development Board and USDA help leverage the region’s existing strengths and assets,” said Goode. “Helping businesses, like Monogram, that are already here to grow means the good jobs created by expansion are a natural fit and pay dividends for the workers, their families and the entire community.”

The industrial building purchase is financed with a $1 million zero-interest loan from USDA to PEC that will be passed-through to the Industrial Board for the purchase of an existing industrial building. Monogram will lease the building from the IDB. The building was formerly home to Midwest Woodworking.

Others participating in the event included Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Representative Matt Varino, TN Dept. Of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Jai Templeton, Selmer Mayor John Smith, McNairy County Mayor Ronnie Brooks, McNairy Regional Alliance Executive Director Ted Moore, Southwest TN Human Resource Agency Exec. Director Mike Smith and RD Area Director Arlisa Armstrong and Specialist Joel Howard.

“This kind of public/private partnership is key to USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative to grow rural economies, increase investments and create opportunities in communities that are often held back by high poverty, geography or other barriers,” said Goode.

While poverty is a challenge in bigger cities as well, the reality is that nearly 85 percent of America’s persistent poverty counties are in rural areas. StrikeForce provides additional hands-on technical assistance from USDA local field staff because, Goode said, “Not every community is equipped to research, apply for or manage federal, state or non-profit resources that could help.”

During the last four years USDA Rural Development has assisted more than 1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses in 158 communities, investing more than $3.7 Billion into local economies through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants for jobs, homes, infrastructure and community development.

For more information on the meeting or USDA Rural Development programs available in southwest Tennessee contact the Jackson Area Office at 731-668-2091 x2, or 800-342-3149 x1495. Visit us online at

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives remind Tennessee residents to be on alert for a telephone scam that continues to plague utility consumers.

Scam artists call a home or business posing as a co-op or utility employee and threaten to shut off service unless the consumer provides immediate payment using a reloadable debit card, prepaid gift card or online payment service like PayPal.

“The calls sound official, and the caller ID may even display the utility name,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “This is particularly harmful to consumers because there is no way to track or recover the money.”

Officials stress that your local electric co-op will:

  • NEVER call members to request credit card, banking or other financial information over the telephone.
  • NEVER call members threatening immediate disconnection unless a payment is made. Some co-ops do give members with a delinquent account a courtesy call prior to disconnection, but this only occurs after multiple notices have been sent to the member.
  • NEVER ask to enter your home unless you initiate the request for co-op personnel to perform a specific service. Co-ops do this only by appointment and with a member’s prior knowledge.

“We are asking co-op members to be wary of any phone calls,” Callis says. “If in doubt, hang up immediately and look up your electric cooperative’s phone number. Call it directly to be certain you are dealing with an official representative of the cooperative.”

Law enforcement officials are looking into reported fraud cases, but consumers are encouraged to protect themselves by being alert and aware. “It’s important for Tennesseans to be cautious and vigilant,” Says Steve Majchrzak, Deputy Commissioner and Acting Consumer Affairs Director for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. “Scam artists can find their way into your home and pocketbook through the phone. The best defense against this type of theft is to take a guarded approach to any unknown caller and always do your research to ensure the caller’s authenticity.”

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve. The association publishes The Tennessee Magazine and provides legislative and support services to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives. Learn more at


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Media Contact:
Trent Scott | [email protected] | 731.608.1519

Few issues seem more polarizing than climate change and renewable energy — even when trying to reach a level of mutual satisfaction. A point I’ve tried to make over the past few months is that you can’t effect change overnight. What I’ve discovered is that readers often interpret my comments through the prism of their own beliefs. I’m not being critical; that tends to occur when we’re passionate about an issue.

Some co-op members aren’t pleased when we voice support for coal-fired generation. One particular reader classified it as unrealistically clinging to the past. Some members aren’t pleased about our support for solar and wind power when we have abundant gas, oil and coal resources in the U.S.

Our position is not about mandating a particular power source but a call for diversity and stability. We don’t hate coal; we don’t want to wreck the environment. Our mission, quite simply, is to keep the lights on. And to do so safely and efficiently.

We make economic-based decisions grounded in reality, not partisanship. Over the years, we’ve had disagreements on energy policy with both sides of the aisle. Principled disagreement doesn’t equate with personal dislike or political opposition.

Some policy shifts are minimally disruptive. But when policy shifts dictate changing energy sources, it’s going to take a long time and a lot of money. And it’s not going to be happen overnight. For example, it can take more than a mile for a fast-moving supertanker to stop and turn around. It’s a matter of physics, not desire.

If we were to immediately shut down all of the coal plants in the U.S., it would make a negligible change in worldwide carbon dioxide levels. We’d also be in the dark. Yet, over the past several years, older coal plants have been shuttered. Huge financial investments have been made to scrub the emissions of those remaining. Investments have been made in renewable energy sources where and when it was economically wise.

Our power supplier, the Tennessee Valley Authority, has moved from having coal represent a majority of its generation to a long-term goal of a mix that is 40 percent nuclear, 20 percent coal, 20 percent natural gas and 20 percent hydropower and renewable sources.

An “all-of-the-above” energy policy isn’t just a slogan. It’s not “code” that means we don’t support renewable energy. Each power source has benefits and drawbacks. Fuel costs vary. Some sources are readily available; some are not. Any type of generation depends on transmission lines to carry the electricity from the source to your local power company. Just planning and building those lines can take years to accomplish.

The sun is free, but solar power isn’t. Wind power is a great option, but the wind does not blow in all the right places at all the right times. Nuclear power is dependable and a steady, long-term power source. It also creates long-term waste problems. Coal is a plentiful and cheap power source. Yet, as we’ve seen in the Valley, it isn’t easy to dispose of coal ash, and we have yet to master the handling of carbon dioxide. Hydropower is inexpensive, clean and totally dependent on the weather. Natural gas burns cleaner than coal, but when overused, supplies dwindle and prices increase.

As we’ve seen this past winter, there are times when all are needed.

Take your pick about which of those sources you dislike. But, if you remove it from the mix, do you have a workable plan to replace it? Changing policy is easy; making the changes required by that policy is not. As frustrating as the pace of change is for some, a change of pace on this level takes time and care.

Editor’s note: The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is losing a valued staff member as Chelsea Rose recently accepted a new position to serve as executive director of the Tennessee Future Farmers of America Foundation Inc. As a going-away present, Mike Knotts gave Chelsea the last word and his April column.

As a high school senior, my parents took me to the campus of Vanderbilt University to watch the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team take on the Commodores. This was a real treat because I just so happen to be among the biggest Pat Summitt fans around.

I remember stressing over selecting the right Lady Vols T-shirt to wear. I even thought about what I could bring to the game should I get close enough to Coach Summitt to get an autograph. I settled on an orange fleece scarf.

The game was thrilling. I had seen many Lady Vols basketball games on television, but this was special. I was in the same room with these near-celebrities. When the game ended and Coach Summitt was giving radio interviews on the sideline, with my scarf in hand I slipped and snuck my way to the velvet rope separating the living coaching legend from hundreds of adoring fans.

As she wrapped up her last interview and turned toward the locker room, I watched her in amazement, completely taken aback by her intimidating stature. In an attempt to take in every moment near the woman who had been such an inspiration to me in my own athletic career, I looked her over from head to toe and could not believe my eyes. Pat Summitt, coach of the 12-time (now 18-time) Southeastern Conference Champion Lady Vols, and little ol’ me had the same shoes!

This revelation seems like nothing now, but in that moment I finally looked past the seven national championship titles (now eight) and could see a woman I could identify with. Pat Summitt was a human being.

Have you ever brushed shoulders with a famous figure? It can be surreal. I am far from that moment when I got to shake the hand of the woman I had cheered for through so many games and nail-biting moments. However, even now, I get butterflies in my stomach remembering that brief interaction and the instant when I realized that she is human, like me.

In my career, I interact with elected officials from across the state on a regular basis. We, the voters, elected these men and women from our home communities to represent us, and they go to work in the Capitol with our concerns in mind.

However, many constituents visiting their lawmakers are nervous and hesitant to fully voice their policy concerns. I suspect that is because, similar to Pat Summitt, these public figures are constantly seen on television, heard through the radio or featured in newspapers.

Despite the media attention and the larger-than-life imagery sometimes associated with Tennessee’s lawmakers, they are human. We elect them, and they sculpt their political posture based on our feedback. Their reasons for seeking office are varied, but one fact is true about all Tennessee legislators: They are accountable to us, the voters.

As electric cooperative members, we are the caretakers of our low-cost, reliable power supply. That means we should readily communicate with our elected leaders and let them know that the cooperative model of business matters. That model of business was established by our parents and grandparents and, today, gives us ownership of arguably the most important resource we use — electricity.

So, in this election year, let’s abandon our nervousness and confidently approach the elected leaders who are there to defend what matters to us. After all, they are human.