NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Lee announced Monday that five electric co-ops in Tennessee will receive more than $6.2 million in broadband accessibility grants. Electric co-ops received nearly half of $14.8 million in state grants awarded by the state.

“Rural and suburban Tennessee cannot grow and prosper without access to reliable, high-speed connectivity,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Tennessee’s electric co-ops are responding to this need and making significant investments to bring this service to the homes and businesses they serve. The state’s broadband accessibility grant program speeds the process of expanding high-speed internet to communities that have no other options.”

“I am pleased to announce that we are getting our rural areas up to speed and expanding broadband in the areas that need it most,” said Lee. “I am committed to ensuring connectivity in every corner of our state as broadband impacts our goals for health care, education, economic development and beyond.”

According to the FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, nearly one in four rural Tennesseans lack access to broadband. In addition to the $20 million included in Gov. Lee’s recommended budget for fiscal year 2020, these grants will continue to close the access gap ensuring rural Tennesseans have the tools needed for growth and prosperity.

The six Tennessee co-ops receiving a total of $6,296,177.61 in this round of state grants include:

  • Appalachian Electric Cooperative: $1,739,581 serving parts of Jefferson and Grainger Counties
  • Gibson Electric Membership Corporation: $588,974 serving the Gadsden Community in Crockett County and part of Gibson County
  • Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative: $1,832,728.16 serving part of Humphreys County
  • Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative: $817,406 serving the Griffith Creek community in Marion County
  • Volunteer Energy Cooperative: $1,317,488.45 serving the Spring Creek community in McMinn County

Learn more about electric co-op broadband in Tennessee on our Co-op Broadband page.

NASHVILLE – Today the White House delivered its 2020 budget proposal to Congress. Among the items included in this year’s budget was a proposal to sell federally-owned utility assets.

The Tennessee Valley Public Power Association released a joint statement today co-signed by David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

The statement reads in part:

Congress has repeatedly voted against privatization of part or all of TVA assets, most recently in the FY19 appropriations process.  We hope our elected representatives will once again reject this misguided proposal.

Local power companies that distribute TVA power strongly support the public power model, and divestiture of transmission assets would have a negative effect.  TVA’s transmission assets have been paid for by the ratepayers of the Tennessee Valley, and we believe they should not be sold to interests who may not place a priority on public power or the Valley’s interests.

Our respective organizations will pursue all options to protect electric ratepayers and the TVA assets they have paid to build as well as the public power model, which is as relevant today as it was 80 years ago.

For more than 50 years electricity sales, not government appropriations, have paid for the operation and maintenance of TVA’s assets. According to 2013 study by the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, TVA has returned to the U.S. Treasury more than $3 billion on the government’s original investment of $1.4 billion.

NASHVILLE – Forty-six high school juniors from across the state are attending the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual Youth Leadership Summit this week in Nashville.

Delegates to the annual event get a hands-on look at state government, build networking and leadership skills and develop a better understanding of energy generation and their local electric cooperative.

Delegates visited the State Capitol Building today to meet members of the Tennessee General Assembly. A house staff member explained the process required to pass legislation, and students debated and voted on a mock bill. Delegates also had an opportunity to sit in on committee hearings.

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

Delegates to the Youth Leadership Summit are encouraged to be leaders and use their talents to improve rural Tennessee. “Electric co-ops want to see the places we serve grow and prosper, and these young people are important to their communities,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and director of the Youth Leadership Summit. “Small towns and rural communities need talented and engaged young people who are invested, and that is what we are doing with our Youth Leadership Summit delegates. We want them to leave this experience with a new appreciation for where they live, prepared to be the leaders of their generation.”

Each of Tennessee’s 23 electric co-ops sponsored two delegates to participate in this year’s Youth Leadership Summit.

Jeffrey Lyash

NASHVILLE  – The TVA board of directors today announced the appointment of Jeffrey “Jeff” Lyash as the utility’s new President and Chief Executive Officer.

Lyash, current President and CEO of Ontario Power Generation, will join TVA in April.

In response to today’s announcement, David Callis, executive Vice President and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, issued the following statement:

“Tennessee’s electric co-ops welcome Mr. Lyash to TVA. For more than seven decades co-ops have worked with TVA to bring energy, economic growth and abundant opportunity to Tennessee’s rural and suburban communities. We look forward to working with Mr. Lyash as we continue our mission to improve everyday life for the people and communities we serve.”

TVA is the wholesale energy provider for all 23 of Tennessee’s consumer-owned electric cooperatives. Tennessee’s co-ops serve more than 2.5 million consumers in 84 of the state’s 95 counties.

NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Lee stressed the importance of rural Tennessee while speaking with electric co-op leaders during the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s 2019 Legislative Conference on Tuesday evening, Feb. 12.

“I grew up in rural Tennessee, so rural issues matter a lot,” said Lee, a resident of Fernvale and member of Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation. “I think what happens in rural Tennessee should matter to every Tennessean. That’s why our first executive order was in fact to strengthen our rural communities and to require every department of state government to give an impact statement on how they impact rural communities.”

Gov. Bill Lee at the 2019 TECA Legislative Conference

Lee spent nearly an hour with co-op members and staff discussing the administration’s plans and policy positions and the role that co-ops play in the communities they serve. Broadband was a popular topic of discussion.

“In my own home we don’t have broadband,” said Lee. “I have first-hand experience what a challenge that can be. I don’t run my business out of my home and I am not educating children there, but I have a taste of how difficult that would be. It is really important that we continue to expand broadband service so that Tennesseans all across the state have access to it.”

More than 150 electric co-op members from across the state were in Nashville for the 2019 Legislative Conference to deliver an important message to lawmakers: electric co-ops are important to Tennessee.

The 2018 election brought seven new senators and 26 new representatives to this year’s General Assembly. Co-op members, directors and staff met with familiar faces and with many new ones during 100 separate meetings with lawmakers.

“While many of these freshman legislators know about co-ops, some do not,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It is important for us to tell the story of electric co-ops, and the co-op members who are with us today in Nashville are delivering a powerful message – rural and suburban Tennessee matters and electric co-ops are a big part of their growth and prosperity.”

“State lawmakers are often asked to make tough decisions that can impact electric co-ops and the lives of the 2.5 million consumers they serve,” says Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs for TECA. “Electric co-ops maintain a presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to help lawmakers understand how legislation will impact the people back home.”

During visits, co-op members spoke to legislators about local governance, tax issues, broadband and other regulatory concerns that affect the ability of electric co-ops to provide affordable and reliable energy and other services that matter to rural and suburban communities.

Electric co-ops are best known for energy, but they have far reaching impacts on rural and suburban areas of the state. From economic development to youth programs to broadband expansion, electric co-ops enable many Tennessee communities to grow and prosper. Learn more at tnelectric.org/cooportunity.

Gov. Bill Lee

NASHVILLE – On Wednesday, Gov. Bill Lee, in his first executive order, instructed all state agencies to examine and improve the way they serve Tennessee’s rural communities. The order emphasizes the need to coordinate efforts to better serve the state’s rural and economically disadvantaged counties.

In response to the executive order, David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, made the following statement:

“Tennessee’s rural and suburban communities matter. Thirty-seven percent of the state’s population – some 2.4 million people – call rural Tennessee home, and these residents account for nearly 30 percent of personal incomes for the state. The contributions these families make to the overall success of Tennessee are significant. A healthy and vibrant rural economy is critical to the state’s overall growth and prosperity. Electric co-ops have deep roots in these communities, and we support the governor’s focus on issues that impact rural Tennessee.”

According to a release from the governor’s office, the executive order is the first step by the administration to accelerate plans to address 15 distressed counties, which are all rural. The order requires each executive department to submit, no later than May 31, 2019, a statement of rural impact explaining how the department serves rural Tennesseans. Departments must then provide recommendations for improving that service by June 30, 2019.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives serve 71 percent of the state and more than 2.5 million consumers. The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides leadership, advocacy and support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives. The association also publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

Last week, the 111th General Assembly of the state of Tennessee began its two-year session, and operative word for all Capitol-watchers is “new.” With so many first time members of the Legislature who are still learning about the legislative process and how best to represent their districts, Tennessee’s electric co-ops have work to do.

The upcoming TECA legislative conference, day on the hill, and legislative reception offer co-op Boards and staff a great opportunity to interact with legislators, both new and old, and engage in important public policy discussions. If your cooperative has not yet registered to attend, please do so. We look forward to seeing you there.

TECA’s public policy partner is the law firm of Bass, Berry, and Sims. They recently published a helpful and concise overview of the beginning of this General Assembly.

With the new session comes change not seen in Tennessee government in recent history, as over 30 new lawmakers were sworn in on the first day. Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) was again elected as Speaker of the Senate, and Glen Casada (R-Franklin) was elected to replace outgoing House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville). Harwell served as Speaker of the House for eight years.

Governor-elect Bill Lee (R-Franklin) will be sworn in on January 19, 2019. Lee’s first major task of the start of his first year will be to finalize his commissioner appointments and present his budget. Lee is expected to give his first State of the State address and release his budget on March 4, 2019.

Tennessee House Committee Updates

As Lee begins his work he will be working with all new leadership in the House. In addition to the new Speaker, Majority Leader and Caucus Leader, the House has brand new committees and committee chairs. There is sure to be an extended learning curve this session with so many new legislators and committee chairs. The list of committees and committee chairs for the House can be found here.

Tennessee Senate Committee Updates

In the Senate, there were fewer changes. No new committees were created in the Senate, but there are five new chairs of committees. The list of committees and committee chairs for the Senate can be found here.

After the inauguration, the Senate will take an additional week to organize before returning to business on January 28, 2019. The House will return sooner to resume its business on January 23, 2019. The bill filing deadline will be the first week of February. House members will continue to have 15 bills unless they chair a committee. In that instance, a chairman will have an additional five bills that must be related to the subject matter of his or her committee.

111th General Assembly App

General Assembly App

The 111th Tennessee General Assembly app features a continually updated, searchable database of contact, staff and committee information as well as district maps, photos, leadership roles and social media profiles for members of the Tennessee House and Senate. The app also contains information on the governor and his cabinet and the Tennessee congressional delegation. The app was developed through a partnership between the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Bass, Berry & Sims PLC.

The free app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices and can be found by searching for “Tennessee General Assembly” in the Apple App Store or Google PLAY Marketplace.

[NASHVILLE] – Tennessee lawmakers will return to Nashville on Jan. 8 for the 111th Tennessee General Assembly. During the four to five-month session, they will consider legislation that can have an impact on Tennessee families and businesses. That makes it important to stay informed and, at times, reach out to your elected officials. Tennesseans interested in government and politics now have a powerful tool for connecting with lawmakers.

The 111th Tennessee General Assembly app features a continually updated, searchable database of contact, staff and committee information as well as district maps, photos, leadership roles and social media profiles for members of the Tennessee House and Senate. The app also contains information on the governor and his cabinet and the Tennessee congressional delegation.

The app was developed through a partnership between the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Bass, Berry & Sims PLC. TECA has published an annual directory of the General Assembly for more than 50 years. “Each year, we collect lots of information on legislators, and we want that to be available to as many people as possible,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The app makes it easier than ever to connect with your elected representatives.”

The free app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices and can be found by searching for “Tennessee General Assembly” in the Apple App Store or Google PLAY Marketplace.

Michael Watson serves as president and CEO of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation in Shelbyville, Tenn., and as the board chairman of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

Amazon recently announced that it will build a new operations center in Nashville. This is big news for the entire state as the project will bring more than 5,000 jobs and millions of dollars in investment to the region. Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis have recently made headlines for industry announcements as well.

This attention on the state’s urban centers makes it easy to think that you can only find opportunity in a big city. We shouldn’t think that, though, because opportunity is all around us.

Last year, nearly half of all new jobs in Tennessee — more than 9,700 — were created in the state’s rural and suburban counties. These communities may not be growing as fast as Nashville or Knoxville, but you don’t have to look too hard to see good things happening right here.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives provide energy to rural Tennessee, but our interest in the communities we serve goes far beyond power. We are working to be sure that our part of the state is strong and well prepared to compete in the modern economy.

In November, I attended the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting in Nashville. The theme for the event was “Power and Opportunity,” and it was a good reminder of the impact our cooperatives have on the communities we serve.

We provide more than power. We provide power and opportunity.

Our economic development efforts help bring new jobs to our service area.

The things that happen in rural areas may not get as much attention as those in Nashville, but what goes on in our service areas matters.

Our youth programs help young people develop important leadership skills. In 2018, Tennessee cooperatives sent more than 130 young people to Washington, D.C., to learn about government and public policy. Each co-op also sent two high school students to Nashville for the Tennessee Electric Co-op Youth Leadership Summit to strengthen their leadership and networking skills.

The things that happen in rural areas may not get as much attention as those in Nashville, but what goes on in our service areas matters. It matters to the people who live there, and it matters to our co-ops.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives want to see the communities we serve succeed. We want them to be places where businesses thrive, families prosper and opportunities are abundant.

Last month, our nation did what we’ve only done a handful of times — said a final goodbye to a president. In ceremonies public and private, coupled with a national day of mourning, we celebrated the life of President George H.W. Bush.

Reflecting on someone’s life provides a perspective that levels things out. It’s not that we forget their shortcomings; it’s more that we forgive them as we consider the whole of their time with us.

President Bush lived quite a life. Any one of his positions would serve as the crowning achievement for most of us. That he attained the presidency, however, wasn’t his most cherished goal. He served in many other roles: naval aviator, congressman, CIA director and vice president. How he wanted to be remembered was more important than the position — whether as father, grandfather or even president of the United States. It was to be a decent and honorable man in every situation or vocation.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association invited presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham to speak at our annual meeting in November. You can view the highlights of that event below.

Meacham is a close friend of the Bush family, and he was one of four people asked to deliver eulogies at President Bush’s funeral. In eulogizing him, Meacham said that Bush’s “life code,” as the former president described, was, “Tell the truth. Don’t blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Try hard. Forgive. Stay the course.”

If you don’t think that’s how a leader should act, you’re doing it wrong.

As we enter a new year, we still face the same challenges with which we ended 2018. Politically, we have new leaders who will have to deal with economic, budgetary and social issues that impact us all — and each other. There is no indication that dealing with any of these issues is going to be easy or dealt with quickly. The problems might not be as challenging as how we approach them.

Let’s hope our current leaders have the wisdom to follow Bush’s example: the nation over politics, people over party.

Once again, quoting Meacham, “Abraham Lincoln’s ‘better angels of our nature’ and George H.W. Bush’s ‘thousand points of light’ are companion verses in America’s national hymn. For Lincoln and Bush both called on us to choose the right over the convenient, to hope rather than to fear and to heed not our worst impulses but our best instincts.”

You don’t have to be president to have an impact. In everything you do, you can have an impact on someone else. In fact, if you do as Bush did and “tell the truth, be strong, do your best and forgive,” I guarantee it will have an impact on everyone with whom you come in touch.

I’ve said it before — we can disagree without being disagreeable. Let’s at least begin 2019 with that attitude. Go with your best instinct, and let that instinct be one of kindness.

Scenes from the 2018 TECA Annual Meeting

The 2018 annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association was held Sunday, Nov. 18, through Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Nashville. The event brings community and co-op leaders together to discuss energy, broadband, community development, technology and other issues important to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives. This event is designed to help local co-op leaders better serve their co-ops and their communities, and we applaud their investment in education and training.

Presidential historian Jon Meacham talks about the strength of our nation and the dangers of partisanship.
A panel of community leaders help co-ops understand how to better support the areas they serve.
TECA CEO David Callis, left, and Board President Michael Watson discuss opportunities during the business meeting.
A panel of co-op directors describe their decisions to invest in broadband.
Dr. Peter Muhoro with the Cooperative Finance Corporation highlights new technologies that will impact electric co-ops.
TECA Board President Michael Watson challenges co-op leaders to engage with their communities.
Co-op directors and staff network and share ideas during the annual meeting.
Washington Youth Tour delegate Maria Howard talks about the impact the trip had on her life.