Nashville — Several Tennessee co-ops and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association received recognition in the national 2020 Spotlight on Excellence Awards program sponsored by the Council of Rural Electric Communicators (CREC) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).  

This year’s recipients include 

Best Feature Story 
Gold — Duck River Electric Membership Corporation 
“Peach pit perfection” 

Best Internal News Publication 
Gold — Appalachian Electric Cooperative 

Best Special Publication — Large 
Gold — Appalachian Electric Cooperative 
“B is for Bucket Truck” children’s book 

Best Total Communication Program 
Gold — Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association 
Power and Opportunity Campaign 

“Tennessee’s electric co-ops have a great story to tell, and communicating with passion and professionalism is vitally important for our co-ops,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.  

“Printed news publications, social media and videos are all more important than ever to keep members updated on issues affecting the electric cooperatives and their members,” added Scott Peterson, senior vice president of communications for NRECA. 

The annual Spotlight on Excellence Awards program recognizes the best communication and marketing efforts by electric cooperatives and related organizations. Entrants competed with electric cooperatives of similar size in 16 categories. Electric cooperative communicators and marketing professionals submitted nearly 670 entries in the Spotlight on Excellence program. Faculty members from the University of Missouri — Columbia and the University of South Carolina as well as noted professionals in the fields of marketing, web design and digital communications, and newspapers judged the event, which uses a finite scoring system to determine the winners. 

“We have always felt that our communications program at TECA was exceptional, and this award validates it,” says Callis. “Congratulations to our communications team and to all of this year’s Tennessee winners.” 

You can view TECA’s complete winning entry here

Nashville — Thanks to the incredible generosity of co-ops, employees and industry partners, more than $70,000 has been contributed as of the end of May to the Electric Co-op Employee Emergency Assistance Fund. 

Four electric co-op employees lost their homes — and one nearly lost her life — as two devastating tornadoes tore through Middle Tennessee on the morning of March 3. TECA and Tennessee’s electric co-ops established the fund to assist these employees. 

“My husband and I are forever grateful for the grant money that was gifted to us,” says Jessica Reed, a member service representative with Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation who was seriously injured in the storm. “It has provided us peace of mind during this trying time and is allowing us to recover and heal without the added stress of unforeseen expenses that inevitably arise. We feel truly blessed to be alive and humbled by the overwhelming generosity of so many.” 

“Team MTE had three employees affected by the Wilson County tornado,” says Chris Jones, president of Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation. “We’re blessed to have them with us and thankful for the funds donated through TECA to help them recover from the storm’s destruction. Because of the funds provided, our employees could focus more on their families when they needed to most. The kind words and thoughtful actions of our sister utilities show that our cooperative family extends beyond Team MTE and the service territory we serve. On behalf of MTE employees and members, thank you to all who have donated to TECA’s Electric Co-op Employee Emergency Assistance Fund.” 

“I had the opportunity to visit with Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation’s injured employee just a few days after the storm,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “She was moved to tears when we presented her with the first check from the fund. Thanks to the support of our industry, she and the others impacted by the storms are in the process of recovering and rebuilding.” 

“We work in a great industry,” said Callis. “I hope you share my sense of pride in the important work we do each day and the way we care for our own.” 

Not unlike other American businesses and institutions, our Federal and state legislative bodies have been working to adapt to the “new normal” that coronavirus has created. While Congress has continued to meet sporadically throughout this period of social distancing, sometimes even voting by utilizing unanimous consent procedures, the State Legislature recessed in Mid-march and put all of its work on hold. 

Importantly for cooperatives, the Congress has created several new programs to help those impacted by COVID-19. 

The CARES Act provided an additional $900M of funding for the LIHEAP program, which provides direct cash payments to help individuals pay their energy bills. These funds are ultimately administered through local non-profits or government agencies. To see which agencies serve your communities, click here. If your cooperative is experiencing an increase in late payments, underpayments, or non payment of bills we encourage you to proactively reach out to your affected members and provide contact information for these local LIHEAP agencies. 

An additional creation of the CARES Act was the Paycheck Protection Program. This new initiative of the Small Business Administration was established to allow certain businesses to access low-interest loans that would allow their business to continue operating and paying employees despite economic uncertainty. If the money is used for payroll, rent/mortgage, and utility expenses then the loan can be forgiven – essentially turning the loan into a grant. 

Congress has allocated over $600 billion to this program. As of this writing, approximately $100B remains available for affected parties. If your cooperative is working with commercial and industrial customers who have been affected by the pandemic, this program is a excellent resource to ensure they have available funds to pay their electric bill. 

Additionally, the Small Business Administration has confirmed that electric cooperatives are themselves eligible to participate in the PPP, assuming the meet the self certification requirements of all borrowers. Learn more about PPP by clicking here ( 

Conversation in Washington now centers around whether or not Congress will enact additional relief or economic stimulus in response to COVID-19. The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act on May 15, which would allocate an additional $3 Trillion to both existing and new relief-oriented programs. However, the Senate is unlikely to approve this specific legislation and negotiations about any potential compromise have been slow to begin. 

NRECA is working with lawmakers to address several priorities in the next bill, should one come to fruition. Those priorities include not enacting a nationwide moratorium on disconnects due to nonpayment of bills, reduction of interest rates and expanded lending from the Rural Utility Service, additional Federal assistance to assist with end user payment of energy bills, broadband funding and FEMA assistance for disaster response.  

Back in Nashville, the legislature is returning from its recess this week to complete its session and adjourn for the year. While the House and the Senate are taking differing approaches to this final run to the finish line, it is highly unlikely that any legislation that TECA was working to promote or oppose will be considered before adjournment. Most Capitol watchers seem to believe that several cuts to the previously approved budget for next year will be enacted and the session will then conclude. 

Governor Lee has been exercising additional power and authority under the declared state of emergency, and co-ops rightly continue to be classified as essential businesses. This allows our continued operation during the various levels of stay at home orders and business closures of the past several months.   

A recent change to a state program to assist with childcare for essential workers was positive for cooperatives. The COVID-19 Essential Employee Child Care Payment Assistance Program will provide payments directly to child care providers so that essential workers can remain on the job. Utility employees were initially left of the list of eligible employee categories, but Governor Lee recently announced a change. To learn more, please click here ( 

It seems that we have veered from one calamity to the next this year; tornadoes to a derecho, topped off with a pandemic. Still to come: murder hornets and a potentially active hurricane season.

Throughout this new pandemic reality, you’ve taken extreme measures to protect your employees so they could do what they do best – keep the lights on. The service that we provide is critically important for Tennessee homes, businesses, and hospitals – even more so during this period. The damage from multiple storms and the ongoing impact of the pandemic has made this a challenging year, but our co-ops have risen to the challenge and served their communities with compassion and pride.

Backing up the co-ops in accomplishing those goals is the staff here at The Tennessee Magazine and TECA. Our team is dedicated to supporting Tennessee’s electric cooperatives in a variety of ways: youth programs, safety training, employee education, communications, community outreach, government relations, and economic development – anything that helps your cooperative better serve your consumers and communities.

Our staff, based primarily in Nashville, last met as a group on March 16th for lunch – properly separated from each other in the early days of the pandemic. Since then, we have worked mostly from home over the next two months, keeping in touch remotely with our co-ops, elected officials, the media and each other. We’ve adjusted to balancing our work responsibilities with our family responsibilities.

I appreciate the work they do and their ability to adjust to this new reality. Mostly, I admire their dedication to the job they do every day – assisting Tennessee’s co-ops and advocating for Tennessee’s rural and suburban communities.

It is unclear what the coming weeks, months or years will hold, but I am absolutely confident that co-ops will be there – serving their communities, leading with compassion and trying each day to do the right thing.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It is unfortunate but predictable – you can count on scammers to take advantage of people when they are vulnerable, and the COVID-19 virus is no exception. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives encourage you to remain on the lookout for financial scams during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s vitally important, as your mind may be filled with other thoughts, to make sure you make wise financial decisions.  

Electric co-ops will not call you demanding immediate payment via prepaid card or personal information like social security numbers or checking account information. The same goes for the government or anyone claiming to be from a government agency.  

No legitimate party will require a checking account number, PIN, wire transfer or any other bit of personal information to conduct a transaction over the phone. The same is true for any potential government stimulus payments coming in the future.  

The same caution should be extended to emails and text messages offering services and resources: if the sender seems fishy, don’t click any links. When in doubt, contact your local electric co-op.

Keeping yourself safe during this pandemic should also include watching your financial health.

Nashville, TENN. – Voting is important for the rural communities served by electric co-ops, and Tennessee’s next statewide election is August 6. Eligible Tennesseans can request to vote absentee by-mail. 

Some popular reasons allowed under state law to vote absentee by-mail: 

  • The voter is age 60 or older.
  • The voter will be outside the county where they vote during the early voting period and all day on Election Day.
  • The voter or the voter’s spouse is enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside the county of registration.
  • The voter will be unable to vote in person due to service as a juror.
  • The voter is hospitalized, ill or physically disabled and because of such condition, cannot vote in person.
  • The voter is a caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill or disabled.
  • The voter will be working as a poll official.
  • The voter is a member of the military and out of the county where they vote.

For a more exhaustive list of statutory reasons to vote absentee by-mail go to Voters who meet a reason under Tennessee law to vote absentee by-mail can submit a written request to their local election commission by mail, fax or email. The request must be received by your local election commission no later than seven (7) days before the election.  

Your written request must include:

  • Your name
  • Your address where you live
  • Your full social security number
  • Your date of birth
  • The address to mail the ballot, if different than your home address
  • Your reason for voting absentee by-mail. For example, I am 60 years old.
  • Your signature
  • For the August election, to receive a primary ballot request either a Republican or Democratic primary ballot. If no indication, you will receive a general election only ballot.

July 30 is the request deadline for the August 6, 2020, State and Federal Primary and County General Election. Don’t wait. Make your request TODAY!

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are celebrating National Electrical Safety Month, and we want to challenge you to take a look around your home to identify and correct potential safety hazards.

Remember that every electrical device has a purpose and a service lifespan. While we can extend their operations with maintenance and care, none of them are designed to last or work forever. When electricity is involved, failures can present electrical hazards that might be avoided with periodic inspections.

Here are a few places to start.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters. Outdoor outlets or those in potentially damp locations in a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room often include GFCI features. They are designed to sense abnormal current flows, breaking the circuit to prevent potential electric shocks from devices plugged into the outlets. The average GFCI outlet is designed to last about 10 years, but in areas prone to electrical storms or power surges, they can wear out in five years or less. Check them frequently by pressing the red test button. Make sure you hit the black reset button when you are done. Contact a licensed electrician to replace any failing GFCI outlets.

Loose or Damaged Outlets or Switches. Unstable electrical outlets or wall switches with signs of heat damage or discoloration can offer early warnings of potential shock or electrical fire hazards. Loose connections can allow electrical current arcing. If you see these warning signs, it may be time to contact an electrician.

Surge Protectors. Power strips with surge protectors can help safeguard expensive equipment like televisions, home entertainment systems and computer components from power spikes. Voltage spikes are measured in joules, and surge protectors are rated for the number of joules they can effectively absorb. That means if your surge protector is rated at 1,000 joules, it should be replaced when it hits or passes that limit. When the limit is reached, protection stops, and you’re left with a basic power strip.

Some surge protectors include indicator lights that flicker to warn you when they’ve stopped working as designed, but many do not. If your electrical system takes a major hit, or if you don’t remember when you bought your surge protector, replacement may be the best option.

Extension Cords. If you use extension cords regularly to connect devices and equipment to your wall outlets, you may live in an underwired home. With a growing number of electrical devices connecting your family to the electricity you get from CO-OP NAME, having enough outlets in just the right spots can be challenging. Remember, extension cords are designed for temporary, occasional or periodic use.

If an extension cord gets noticeably warm when in use, it could be undersized for the intended use. If it shows any signs of frayed, cracked or heat-damaged insulation, it should be replaced. If the grounding prong is missing, crimped or loose, a grounded cord will not provide the protection designed into its performance. And always make sure that extension cords used in outdoor or potentially damp locations are rated for exterior use.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 51,000 electrical fires are reported each year in the United States, causing more than $1.3 billion in annual property damage.

Electricity is an essential necessity for modern living, and Volunteer State electric co-ops are committed to providing safe, reliable and affordable power to all of our members. We hope you’ll keep these electrical safety tips in mind so that you can note any potential hazards before damage occurs.

Do you have questions about electrical safety? Contact your local electric co-op, and we will do our best to answer your questions. You can visit for more safety tips.

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Electricity plays a vital role in our lives, from powering home appliances and cellphones to keeping factories and hospitals running. While electricity is incredibly useful, it can be dangerous.

May is National Electrical Safety Month. This is a great time to look around your home to identify potential safety hazards.

May is also the time of year that electric co-op crews pay a little more attention to the weather. Spring brings warmer temperatures and blooming flowers, but it also brings an increase in the possibility of severe weather here in Tennessee.

Please consider these tips to keep your family safe when severe weather threatens.

Be prepared. Don’t allow yourself to be caught off-guard. Have a way to receive alerts when they are issued – either a NOAA Weather Radio or a cell phone that receives alerts. Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely. Have a place prepared for you and your family to shelter when the need arises – you don’t want to empty out a closet when time is of the essence. An emergency kit including a radio, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit and medicine should also be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Act quickly. If you hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If a watch is issued, pay attention. If a warning is issued, act immediately. Take shelter in a substantial building or in an interior closet. Get out of mobile homes that may blow over in high winds. Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Do not take a bath or use plumbing. If you are driving, exit the road and find a safe place to ride out the storm.

Be smart after the storm. Be aware of hazards and debris left by the storm. Never touch downed power lines or anything in contact with downed lines. If it is dark when you are inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle to reduce the risk of fires or explosions. Be sure your family is safe and then look for opportunities to help friends and neighbors.

Regardless of what the weather brings, electric co-op crews are prepared to respond 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We take seriously our responsibility to keep the power on and restore service quickly.