NASHVILLE – 185 students, teachers and co-op chaperones spent a week in our nation’s capital as delegates of the 2018 Washington Youth Tour. The annual event, sponsored by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the state’s 23 electric co-ops, provides young leaders with an opportunity to explore the nation’s capital, learn about government and cooperatives and develop their leadership skills. Students were selected for the trip by writing short stories titled “Electric Cooperatives – Going Beyond the Wires” that explain how co-ops provide communities with much more than electric power.

“The investments that co-ops make in Youth Tour pay real dividends for these young people and the communities where they are from,” said Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and tour director. “They come home with a deeper understanding of history and government. More importantly, we want them to be prepared to have a positive influence on their hometowns and to consider leadership roles when the opportunities come along.”

West Tennessee youth tour delegates received a surprise greeting from Gov. Bill Haslam as they departed on Thursday, June 7, in Jackson. Haslam was in Jackson and boarded the bus to speak with the students. “I hope you have a great time,” said Haslam. “I also hope you fall in love with the idea of serving in public office – whether it’s in Washington, Nashville or on the local city council or school board.”

While in Washington, D.C., Tennessee’s Youth Tour delegates saw the White House and memorials to past presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as monuments honoring the sacrifices of veterans of World War II and the Vietnam and Korean Wars. During visits to the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the touring Tennesseans saw and experienced natural, historical and artistic treasures. Other fun stops included historic homes of former presidents — George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello — as well as Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and a boat cruise down the Potomac River. Among other Youth Tour highlights was a solemn and sobering visit to Arlington National Cemetery where the group laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

The group was welcomed to the U.S. Capitol by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and members of the Tennessee congressional delegation who posed for photos and answered questions.

While in D.C., winners were announced in the statewide competition for the Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships. Silas Freeze from Gibson Electric Membership Corporation was awarded the $3,000 first-place scholarship for writing the top-judged short story of the more than 10,000 papers submitted across the state. McKinley Thomas from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative earned second-place honors and a $2,000 scholarship, and Mary Kate Sheppard from Forked Deer Electric Cooperative, third place, received a $1,000 scholarship.

McCarty was an employee of Volunteer Energy Cooperative and longtime chaperone on the annual Youth Tour. McCarty lost a battle with cancer in 2015, and sponsoring cooperatives renamed the scholarships in honor of his love for young people.

Matthew Byrd of Tipton County, a recent graduate of Munford High School, was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Byrd was a 2017 delegate for Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation on the Washington Youth Tour. In the year following the tour, delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperatives and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Byrd’s name was randomly selected from among the 37 delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

“The excitement that co-op leaders and chaperones have for these students tells the story,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “These young people are the next generation of doctors and teachers and farmers in the communities we serve. We want them to be passionate about their communities and prepared to lead when those opportunities come along.”

President Lyndon Johnson inspired the Washington Youth Tour in 1957 when he encouraged electric cooperatives to send youngsters to the nation’s capital. In the years since, more than 6,000 young Tennesseans have been delegates on the Washington Youth Tour.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives awarded $16,000 in scholarships to Washington Youth Tour delegates on Tuesday evening, June 12, in Washington, D.C.

Matthew Byrd, a senior from Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Byrd was a 2017 delegate of the Washington Youth Tour. In the year following the tour, delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperative and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Byrd’s name was randomly selected from among the 37 delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

Silas Freeze from Gibson Electric Membership Corporation, McKinley Thomas from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Mary Kate Sheppard from Forked Deer Electric Cooperative were awarded $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships for having the first, second and third place papers of the more than 10,000 papers submitted across the state.

2018 Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarship winners from left Silas Freeze, McKinley Thomas and Mary Kate Sheppard. Photo by Robin Conover.

McCarty was an employee of Volunteer Energy Cooperative and long-time chaperone on the annual youth tour. McCarty lost a battle with cancer in 2015, and sponsoring cooperatives renamed the scholarship in honor of his love for young people.

More than 135 high school Juniors from across the state are in the nation’s capital this week for the 2018 Washington Youth Tour. The annual event teaches students about public policy, history, leadership and electric cooperatives. The annual event is coordinated by local electric cooperatives, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

“Washington Youth Tour is an investment that pays real dividends for students, co-ops and our rural communities,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “These are exceptional students, and our hope is that their youth tour experience creates opportunities for them, their families and their communities.”

Instagram photo by Youth Tour delegate Mikala Blackmon

[NASHVILLE] – More than 135 students from across Tennessee are headed to Washington, D.C., as a part of the 2018 Washington Youth Tour later. The annual event, which begins today, provides young leaders with an opportunity to explore the nation’s capital, learn about government and develop their leadership skills.

The Washington Youth Tour is sponsored by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and local electric cooperatives from across the state. Students were selected for the trip by writing a short story titled “Electric Cooperatives – Going Beyond the Wires” that explains how co-ops provide communities with much more than electric power.

Delegates on this year’s trip will visit museums and monuments, including the White House and the Capitol Building. The group is also scheduled to meet with Sens. Alexander and Corker as well as other members of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation.

West Tennessee youth tour delegates received a surprise greeting from Gov. Bill Haslam as they departed on Thursday, June 7, in Jackson. Haslam happened to be in Jackson and boarded the bus to speak with the students. “I hope you have a great time,” said Haslam. “I also hope you fall in love with the idea of serving in public office – whether it’s in Washington, Nashville or on the local city council or school board.”

“As easy as it is to get frustrated with Washington politics, we can’t allow this generation to lose interest in government and public service,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Youth tour gives these students the opportunity to experience history and democracy up-close, and we hope they return with a deeper appreciation of America and a desire to serve their communities.”

President Lyndon Johnson inspired the tour in 1957 when he encouraged electric cooperatives to send youngsters to the nation’s capital. In the years since, more than 6,000 young Tennesseans have been delegates for the Washington Youth Tour.  Politicians, business leaders, authors and athletes are Washington Youth Tour alumni, including Apple CEO Tim Cook.

 

Refrigeration products manufacturer to create 210 new jobs in Pickwick Electric Cooperative service area

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Monogram Refrigeration, LLC officials recently announced that the company will expand its manufacturing facility in Selmer. Monogram, a leading manufacturer of upscale refrigerators, freezers and other refrigeration products, will invest $9.3 million and create approximately 210 new jobs in McNairy County. The company’s manufacturing facility has been located in Selmer since 1986.

“In Tennessee, we strive to make our state the perfect location not only for companies to locate new operations, but for existing companies to expand,” Haslam said. “With our ready-to-work workforce and business-friendly climate, existing companies are able to excel in Tennessee. I thank Monogram, one of our most well-known brands, for reinvesting and expanding in Tennessee and for helping us get one step closer to our goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“I want to thank Monogram for choosing to expand in McNairy County and for creating 210 new jobs in Selmer,” Rolfe said. “Monogram has a long history in Tennessee, and it means a great deal that a company of this magnitude is expanding its operations here and creating even more job opportunities for Tennessee residents. This is a fantastic win for Selmer and McNairy County, a Tier 4 Distressed county, and I appreciate Monogram for its continued investment in Tennessee.”

Monogram is a subsidiary of GE Appliances (GEA), a Haier company, a leading U.S. manufacturer of household appliances.

“The state of Tennessee and McNairy County have been terrific partners. They’ve worked with Monogram over the years as we’ve grown our refrigeration business in Selmer,” Raymond Deming, vice president, Monogram Refrigeration Operation, LLC, said. “Now, their continued support will help us bring to Selmer an entirely new product line and create approximately 210 jobs ranging from production associates, skilled trades and professional employees that will take our employment close to 400.”

With this expansion, Monogram will be adding 120,000 square feet to its existing building in Selmer. In addition to a new line of column-style refrigerators and freezers, Monogram will begin manufacturing packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs), a line of commercial heating and cooling products sold under the Zoneline® brand. Production of the new refrigeration products will begin later this year and production of the new Zoneline air conditioning units will begin in early 2018.

“What a great day for the town of Selmer and McNairy County,” McNairy County Mayor Ronnie Brooks said. “I want to thank GEA-Haier for investing in us. We appreciate the confidence that the company has placed in our county, our economic development team and our great workforce here in McNairy County.”

“This is great news for the town of Selmer and our workforce,” Selmer Mayor John Smith said. “I am very pleased that GEA-Haier is expanding and bringing over 200 quality jobs to the town of Selmer. This is a true testament of the company’s confidence with our local team, the State of Tennessee and the leadership at the manufacturing facility in our community.”

“I am thrilled that GEA-Haier has chosen to make this investment in Selmer,” McNairy County Economic Development CEO Eddie Crittendon said. “These 210 jobs will have a huge impact on this community. Monogram has a great team here in Selmer and I am honored that GEA-Haier has chosen to grow with us here in McNairy County.”

“TVA and Pickwick Electric Cooperative congratulate Monogram Refrigeration on its plans to invest and expand operations in Selmer, Tennessee,” TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley said. “We are pleased to partner with the state of Tennessee, McNairy County Economic Development, the City of Selmer and McNairy County officials to help existing companies like Monogram thrive and add jobs in the community.”

Selmer and McNairy County are represented by Sen. Dolores Gresham (R – Somerville) and Rep. Ron Gant (R – Rossville) in the Tennessee General Assembly.

NASHVILLE – There are more than 700 electric co-op lineworkers in Tennessee, and on Monday, April 9, we pause to honor their service to the state’s rural and suburban communities on National Lineman Appreciation Day. Tennessee’s electric co-ops extend our sincerest gratitude to the hardworking men and women who keep the power on and protect the public’s safety.

“We honor the dedicated service of these courageous Tennesseans and recognize the critical roles 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 Tennessee’s electric lineworkers place themselves in harm’s way to power our everyday lives.”

Electric co-ops maintain more than 86,000 miles of power line and keep the lights on more than 99.96 percent of the time.

“These are special people who are passionate about their jobs and the communities they serve,” says Callis. “They go above and beyond, and all of us in this industry are honored to work with them.”

You can help Tennessee’s electric cooperatives honor lineman by posting on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ThankAlineman.

 

NASHVILLE – More than 45 high school juniors from across the state attended the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual Youth Leadership Summit on March 12-14 in Nashville.

Delegates to the annual event receive a hands-on look at state government, learn networking and leadership skills and develop a better understanding of their local electric cooperatives.

While in Nashville, the students visited the State Capitol Building where they were welcomed to Nashville by members of the Tennessee General Assembly. Alan Whittington, assistant chief clerk of the Senate, explained the process required to pass legislation and students debated and voted on a mock bill.

In addition to lawmakers, students also heard from Tennessee leaders like Caty Davis, Ms. Tennessee 2018; Adam Hammond, anchor for Nashville’s NewsChannel5; and Trooper Jeffrey Buchanan with the Tennessee Executive Protection Detail.

“There’s no time that’s bad to learn to be a better leader,” says Tanner Casey, a junior from Atoka High School attending the Youth Leadership Summit. “I appreciate the chance to improve my leadership skills, and I’m grateful for this unique opportunity.”

Delegates to the Youth Leadership Summit are encouraged to be leaders and 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 and director of the Youth Leadership Summit. “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.”

NASHVILLE – Eighteen lineworkers from co-ops across Tennessee are heading to Virginia to assist with power restoration after a strong storm system moved through the region overnight and early Friday morning. Widespread wind, rain and snow has left more than 900,000 people without power in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Six lineworkers from Appalachian Electric Cooperative in New Market are traveling to Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative in Gainesville, Va.; six lineworkers from Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville will assist Central Virginia Electric Cooperative in Arrington, Va.; and six lineworkers from Plateau Electric Cooperative in Oneida will assist Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative in Gretna, Va.

Central Virginia experienced sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts approaching 70 miles per hour as the storm moved through, toppling trees and damaging power lines.

“I am always impressed by how quickly our co-ops respond to requests for assistance,” said Todd Blocker, vice president of member services and mutual aid coordinator for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Just a couple of hours after receiving the request from Virginia, these guys were loading up and heading out. Their willingness to leave home and serve others is admirable.”

File photo – Duck River EMC crews respond to storm damage in Florida. Photo by Robin Conover.

Lay meets with FLEC representatives from FLEC backstage after his speech.

Nashville – Aaron Lay, a senior at Sequoyah High School and Washington Youth Tour delegate from Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative, addressed more than 6,000 co-op leaders assembled in Nashville today for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting. Lay was selected by his peers as spokesperson for the 2018 Washington Youth Tour delegation and NRECA’s youth leadership council.

Lay talked about the importance of co-ops and the impact that the Washington Youth Tour had on his life.

“We are all blessed and incredibly lucky to live in such a time where it is as simple as flipping a switch to say, ‘let there be light,'” said Lay during his speech. “Upon applying for the Youth Tour I realized I had nothing to lose, but everything to gain. I made a decision to invest my time into the application, and I appreciate the people behind the Washington Youth Tour for matching that investment into me and my future.”

“Aaron stood out on Youth Tour as a leader among leaders,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “He did a phenomenal job addressing the NRECA annual meeting, and I am excited to see how he uses his talents to tell the story of rural Tennessee.”

Aaron’s full speech is below.

“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.” – Oprah Winfrey

Let there be light……..

Ohhh, the story of electricity. You know, The one we learned about in elementary school and will be taught to generations to come.  Benjamin Franklin and his urge to play with lightning.

Thomas Edison with the invention of those things called light bulbs that I’m positive every person in this room has had the pleasure of replacing a time or two. In 1880- Small electrical station based on Edison’s design were in a number of U.S. cities.

Life as they once knew it was beginning to change drastically.  I said U.S. cities, the hustle and bustle, when most people think of the United States cities like Atlanta, New York City, and Washington come into the picture.

But ladies and gentleman the heartbeat of this great country is its rural areas. President Roosevelt agreed.

In 1935, 82 years ago, the Rural Electric Administration was created to bring electricity to rural areas such as those that the majority of us in this room come from.

I recall the stories of my great grandfather milking cows by hand and then carrying the milk in cans down to the spring house to keep it cold until the truck came to pick it up for processing. Imagining such a time without electricity is inconceivable.

For today’s society, especially today’s youth, a phone without a phone charger, a Pop Tart without a ten second microwave ride or an early morning shower without hot water would be considered unbearable.

We are all blessed and incredibly lucky to live in such a time where it is as simple as flipping a switch to say, “let there be light.”

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within” –Maya Angelou

Let there be light for inspiration within yourself…

Like any person in my position, I was a bit skeptical of getting on a bus and traveling to a large city where the only three people that I knew were me, myself, and I.

Little did I know that the multiple people traveling from all across the state and nation to Washington D.C. would soon become some of my closest friends.

From meeting our state’s congressional delegation, visiting the sights and memorials of our Nation’s history in D.C., to fellowshipping with new-found friends aboard the top level of the Spirit of Washington on the Potomac River, this trip to our Nation’s capital had quickly turned into a trip of a lifetime.

Having the opportunity to stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the famous “I have a Dream” speech inspired me that I too, a rural farm kid from East Tennessee have a dream as well.

Visiting the homes of former presidents, honoring the service men and women who gave their life during World War II amidst the water fountain- it is these moments throughout the trip that were truly life changing.

The humbling experience of the laying of the wreath and changing of the guard of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery gave me great pride of the sacrifice of our fallen.

You see, it isn’t the places we went or the food we ate but the inspiration drawn, friendships created, and memories made during the Washington Youth Tour that I will cherish forever.

Let there be a light of gratitude…

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” – William Faulkner

These experiences reminded me of how this amazing trip to Washington was even possible. The vision of the leaders of the NRECA and our respective state and local cooperatives know how important young leaders are.

Young people have been coming to Washington, D.C. for years because of the commitment they have made to their communities, state, and nation, and I am forever grateful for that commitment.

The Washington Youth Tour is much more than seventeen-hundred teens from across the country coming together to tour Washington. It is about discovering and inspiring the young leaders of tomorrow individually.

Taking time to encourage and polish young people like myself is not always as simple as it sounds, but I think I can speak for every person on the trip when I express a sincere Thank you.

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let there be light for youth leadership…

I have always been taught that a leader is meant to empower, not overpower and that with ability comes responsibility. There is a Japanese proverb that goes “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

Working together in groups of people can become somewhat chaotic at times but one principle always shines through, and that is that working together will always take you forward.

While walking the streets of Washington, D.C. it could be viewed as just a bunch of large buildings made of marble and granite, but after attending the tour I have gained a new appreciation for the individuals who work in these buildings as they are the ones that make this country great.

Upon applying for the Youth Tour I realized I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. I made a decision to invest my time into the application and I appreciate the people behind the Washington Youth Tour for matching that investment into me and my future.

I want to thank Ms. Amy Kirkland and Mr. Jared Bracket of my local coop, Fort Loudoun Electric, the Tennessee Electric Cooperatives Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association for giving me, as Oprah Winfrey would say, a “light bulb moment.”

You see, there would not be any young leaders without the forethought of the leaders in front of them. After all, the universal symbol of a good idea is a light bulb. Let there be light.

[NASHVILLE] – Electric co-op leaders, including one from Tennessee, appeared today on RFD-TV to discuss the important role that co-ops play in rural communities.

During an interview on the network’s Market Day Report, Mike Partin, CEO of Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative in South Pittsburg, Tenn., discussed the role that electric co-ops can play in rural broadband expansion.

“It makes a lot of sense for co-ops to be a part of the solution,” said Partin. “We have the people and the equipment needed to do this, but most importantly, we have the passion to do this. We are talking about areas that don’t have broadband because there is not a lot of money to be made there. If it were highly profitable, some other company would have already built it. We are doing this because it is the right thing to do. We are a part of rural America, we have been for decades, and we are not willing to stand by and watch the communities we love be left behind.”

Partin also discussed the important role that broadband has in economic development, a topic that is very important to rural communities and electric co-ops.

“Rural America has a lot to offer,” said Partin. “We have low overhead. We have a skilled workforce. There are a lot of reasons that businesses would want to locate to rural America. In Tennessee last year, 45 percent of all new jobs created in the state were created in rural counties. That’s remarkable. Businesses have an appetite for rural America. But if they cannot connect to the outside world, it doesn’t matter how great the site or how talented the workforce, they’ll walk away and go somewhere else. That’s truly unfortunate. We need jobs and investment to have robust and sustainable communities.”

RFD-TV is a national network that features programming devoted to rural issues, concerns and interests. The network can be found on DirecTV, Dish Network and most cable TV companies. Co-op leaders from across the country are in Nashville this week for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting, and Monday’s segment was filmed at the network’s studio in Nashville.

More than 200 electric co-op leaders from across the state were in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 29 and 30, for the 2018 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association Legislative Conference. During meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill, co-op members and employees stressed the important role that co-ops play in their communities and briefed lawmakers on issues that impact rural and suburban Tennessee.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally opened the meeting on Tuesday morning. “I’d like to welcome you here to Nashville,” he said. “I appreciate the job you do.”

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain a visible presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to protect the interests of co-op and their consumer-owners. “We are here to give a voice to rural Tennesseans,” says David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We must tell the electric cooperative story and educate lawmakers about the impact of proposed legislation.”

“Advocating for our members doesn’t stop at the edge of our service territory,” said Michael Watson, president of TECA’s board of trustees and CEO of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation. “It is critically important that our elected leaders in Nashville keep cooperatives in mind when crafting laws and regulations that impact us. We have a responsibility to our communities to tell their story.”

Co-ops addressed three specific issues during their visits this year:

  • Co-ops asked lawmakers to support Senate Bill 1646 and House Bill 1591 that will speed the deployment of broadband by allowing co-ops to utilize existing easements for nonelectric purposes such as telecommunication services.
  • Co-ops expressed support for Senate Bill 1752 and House Bill 1773 that will elevate the charges of assaulting a utility worker and makes them consistent with penalties already in place to protect other first responders.
  • While legislation has not yet been filed, a final issue discussed was an effort by the Department of Revenue to apply sales tax to fees paid by utility consumers. Co-ops asked the General Assembly to enact legislation to protect utility consumers from these additional taxes.

“Educated and informed legislators are necessary for us to provide low-cost, reliable power, and our legislators listen when we come to visit,” said Callis. More than 100 legislative visits were made during the conference, and many legislators from across the state attended a reception honoring members of the Tennessee General Assembly.