The Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) recently announced that the members of the TRA have elected Director James Allison to serve as chairman of the agency. In the capacity of chairman, he will have the responsibility of formulating the broad strategies, goals, objectives and long-range plans and policies of the TRA. Mr. Allison succeeds TRA Director Kenneth C. Hill who has served as chairman since October 2011.

On accepting the role as TRA chairman, Mr. Allison said, “I am honored to accept the role as chairman to continue the Tennessee Regulatory Authority’s commitment to protecting the public interest.” He resides in Shelbyville, Tennessee and was appointed to the TRA in 2012 by Governor Bill Haslam, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell.

The TRA members also elected Director Herbert H. Hilliard to serve as vice chairman of the agency.

The mission of the TRA is to promote the public interest by balancing the interests of utility consumers and providers. For more information on the TRA, visit online at www.tn.gov/tra.

Mike Knotts, director of government affairs

Last Tuesday, Tennessee reelected all nine of its Congressmen to another term and history was made in the state legislature. On the national stage, EPA regulations will come to the forefront of national political discussion following the Presidential election.

In a tight race, the country reelected President Barack Obama (D) to a second term over the challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R). The Congress will remain split. Democrats maintain majority control in the Senate holding 53 seats to the 47 seats held by Republicans. The House will remain under the control of Republicans who hold 240 seats whiledemocrats claim 190.

Tennessee will see no change in its Congressional delegation. The much talked about fourth district race went to the incumbent, Scott DesJarlais (R), with 56% of the vote over former Democratic State Senator, Eric Stewart. Senator Bob Corker (R) defended his seat comfortably as he earned 65% of the vote.

As our Congressional delegation returns to Washington, they face a fast-approaching fiscal cliff, which (if ignored) will result in the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the much talked about automatic spending cuts. Beyond the fiscal cliff, our delegation will see a much more active EPA than it saw in President Obama’s first term.

Reuters (11/7) reports that analysts expect President Obama’s second term will bring tougher regulations for the energy industry. A separate Reuters (11/7, Gardner) article also suggests Obama’s stance on oil and gas regulation is likely to get tougher during his second term.

During Tuesday night’s victory speech, Obama spoke of the need to ensure children live in a country that, “isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet”. These anticipated changes in energy policy means the work of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association will be more important than ever.

At the state level, history was made Tuesday night. For the first time, Republicans will have a supermajority in the State House and State Senate. The only incumbent to lose in the general election was Jim Gotto (R—Hermitage) who lost his seat to Democrat Darren Jernigan. This district is not served by any TECA member electric power systems.

New members winning contested races include: Timothy Hill (R—Blountville), Micah Van Huss(R—Sulphur Springs), Gloria Johnson (D—Knoxville), Andrew Farmer (R—Sevierville), Kent Calfee (R—Oak Ridge), Dawn White (R—Murfreesboro), William Lamberth (R—Gallatin), Courtney Rogers (R—Goodlettsville), Bo Mitchell (D—Nashville), Jason Powell (D—Nashville), Darren Jernigan (D—Hermitage), Barry Doss (R—Lawrenceburg), Mary Littleton (R—Dickson), Debra Moody (R—Covington), and Billy Spivey (R—Lewisburg).

New Senate members include: Frank Nicely (R—District 8), Todd Gardenhire (R—District 10), Janice Bowling (R—District 16), Ferrell Haile (R—District 18), Steve Dickerson (R—District 20), Mark Green (R—District 22), John Stevens (R—District 24) and Joey Hensley (R—District 28).

TECA worked over the past year to become acquainted with the newest members of the General Assembly prior to election day. These relationships will be helpful in long-term policy work, as will the continued friendships TECA has with manylegislative leaders. TECA will continue to monitor and influence legislative matters effecting electric cooperatives.

Mike Knotts, Director of Government Affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

“It will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward evermore.”
— John Adams, second letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

In my opinion, no single act has shaped modern human history as much as the Continental Congress declaring the United States of America to be a free and independent nation. The ripples of this audacious decision have been felt across the globe ever since. However, as you might remember from history classes, the struggle to realize this declaration took another five years of bloodshed and two more years of negotiation. The Treaty of Paris, which granted formal independence to the American colonies, was signed in September 1783. This was nearly two years after Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrendered the British army at Yorktown, Va.

The courage that was required by the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence was astounding. They surely knew that by affixing their names they would be labeled as traitors to the British crown, the most powerful nation in the world, and likely be signing their own execution papers. Yet they did it anyway, John Hancock boldly making sure his signature was large and clearly seen.

Yet, despite the amount of time that lapsed from the day Hancock famously affixed his signature to the date of actual independence, we continue to celebrate July 4 as the birth of our country. And rightfully so. I hope you will take some time and heed the suggestions of John Adams. Attend a parade, host a picnic for friends and family, play a game with your kids and cheer loudly as the fireworks explode overhead.

The courage of our founders greatly inspires me. Almost every time I travel to Washington, D.C., I take time out of my schedule to visit the National Archives and view the original copy of the Declaration of Independence. I take some time to look at the old and weathered document and think about what those men must have been feeling as they signed away their lives. Was it pure joy, apprehension — or both? I also typically take a moment to pray and thank God for their bravery. We live in the most prosperous nation in the history of the world and are showered with unprecedented blessings because of our founders’ actions.

Your local electric cooperative is keenly aware of these blessings and takes a lot of pride in providing you with the energy required to enjoy so many of them. While I might celebrate July 4 with a day on the lake or perhaps by enjoying a quiet morning at home, many of the men and women of your co-op will be hard at work ensuring the flow of power remains uninterrupted and your events go off without a hitch. These dedicated employees are devoted to protecting your way of life, providing the necessities we take for granted and the luxuries we freely enjoy. They are willing to sacrifice their own time and fortunes to ensure the blessings of others. Maybe that work is not as glamorous as signing the Declaration of Independence, but I think it’s pretty darned inspiring, too.

Another way your cooperative shares the blessings of our liberty is by providing a way for young people in your community to experience American history first-hand. You will read in the pages of this magazine next month about the annual Washington Youth Tour, sponsored by your local cooperative and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, but I hope you are fortunate enough to hear the story directly from the young people your cooperative sponsored this year. As you read this article, they will have just returned from Washington, D.C., and their experiences will be fresh. I assure you these young men and women will be full of enthusiasm — phrases like “trip of a lifetime” and “awe-inspiring” will likely fill their explanations to you.

And once ignited, the enthusiasm these young people feel for the “Great American Experiment” is hard to extinguish. Nearly 50 years after penning his prediction about how Americans would commemorate our “day of deliverance,” Adams was asked to suggest a toast be made to his name. He replied: “It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God, it shall be my dying sentiment: Independence now and Independence forever.” Four days later, he lay on his deathbed and could hear cannons firing outside. In what might have been among his last words, he very simply shouted, “Independence forever!” The day was July 4.

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

Management gurus James Collins and Jerry Porras penned a book in the mid-1990s titled “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.” The book, based on a six-year research project at Stanford University, examined 18 long-lasting companies. In the foreword the authors write, “… visionary companies distinguish their timeless core values and enduring purpose (which should never change) from their operating practices and business strategies (which should be changing constantly in response to a changing world).”

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives aren’t quite as well known as the companies of the study. But, when it comes to longevity and singleness of purpose, we’re definitely in the same league. Our cooperatives have been around for 75 years and counting.

Management techniques come and go, operational strategies flourish and then fade away, but core values remain constant. Over the years, your cooperative has likely had several leadership changes; employees retire and new hires take their place. Each generation brings changes in style and vision.

With an ever-changing cast, how do we stay focused on our primary purpose from decade to decade? The one thing that doesn’t change: the member-owners of the cooperative. Collectively, we’re owned by the members of the communities we serve.

To stay true to that core value, cooperatives answer directly to the membership. Members are elected to act as a governing board — making decisions on behalf of all the members. Board members enact policies that are in the best interests of the membership, and, in turn, the directors select a CEO to manage the day-to-day operations. The CEO answers to the board, and the board answers to the rest of the membership, through periodic re-election.

Breaking that down to Collins and Porras’ statement: The board selects management, which develops business strategies that adapt to a changing world; co-op members select a board that adheres to never-changing core values.

While policies have evolved since Tennessee’s first co-op was formed in the mid-1930s, the basic structure has provided a framework that has lasted well. We’ve not only survived but thrived because of that foundation on which we’re built. That “core value” of member ownership is what provides the enduring purpose of serving our communities.

It’s a model that works best when members participate. Co-op members throughout the state can, and should, attend their cooperative’s annual business meeting.

Each annual meeting is built around a business session, which always contains operating and financial reports that, along with other details, help provide vital information to you as a co-op member — to show that your cooperative’s leaders have been good stewards during the past year.

Most of these meetings are held from August through October. Given the numerous entertainment options that compete for our attention, most feature a variety of other activities — from health fairs to safety demonstrations to live entertainment. It’s just a few hours out of your schedule, and, as Bill Cosby used to say, “You might learn something before it’s done.”

The cooperative business model is one that works for small and large co-ops alike. It’s a model that is built to withstand economic highs and lows. It’s a model that is built to deal with natural disasters or man-made challenges.

It’s a model that’s built to last. The proof is there year after year.

Shawn Taylor,  Executive Director of the Wyoming Rural Electric Association

Here’s an idea. Let’s regulate how much air we in the United States can breathe.  Then let’s gradually, or not, increase the cost for breathing until people decide not to breathe. Or better yet, let’s have people from other countries sell us and decide how much air we can breathe and at what cost. We’ll call it the “National Breathing Policy.”

OK, so that example is a bit extreme. But if you look at everything that oil and its refined products provide for our country in our everyday lives, it might not be that big of a stretch to think that we would be hard pressed to survive as the world’s only superpower without this natural resource.

The big oil derrick spewing “black gold” from the top, or an oil pump jack with its methodical motion pumping oil out of the ground, may be people’s initial visual when thinking about oil. In terms of utility, most folks probably immediately think of oil as a motor lubricant or as gasoline when refined.

I’m guessing that most people don’t think of the compact disk they use in their computer, or the detergent used to wash clothes or dishes, or maybe the petrochemicals (refined oil products) that go into making synthetic materials for clothing, bedding, outdoor recreation equipment, etc.

One only needs to take a close look at the vast uses of oil to appreciate what it means to our daily lives and realize that we need it, we have it, and that we shouldn’t have to import a majority of it from foreign countries, many of which are not friendly to the United States.

In 2008 Secretary of Energy Steven Chu remarked that Americans should “punitively pay at the pump in order to wean them [us] off of gasoline.” This is like  raising the price of the air we breathe so as to legislate or more appropriately regulate how we as citizens behave.

If the current administration had its way, we as a country would pay considerably more for oil, so that we would use less. This is similar to their approach to the use of coal. Make it more expensive, even prohibitively more expensive to use so that we would use less.

On its surface, using less of our natural resources isn’t a bad ingredient for an energy policy – as long as we can stay as productive as we are and historically have been.

But being forced or regulated into using a more expensive and less reliable substitute is counter-productive. And not allowing domestic production of oil or any of our abundant natural resources is equally counter-productive.

When I worked in D.C. for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, we continually invited members of Congress to travel to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to see first-hand what was being proposed for oil-and-gas development. We mainly focused on those members who time and again opposed drilling in ANWR, and we never got any takers.

In my opinion, it was because they didn’t want to see with their own eyes what could be done, and what has been done. That way, they could continue to tell their constituents, without having all the facts, that we shouldn’t develop this “pristine area.” This is our country’s current energy policy; don’t develop what we have, let’s import what others have.

Much like the past two resources we’ve highlighted in WREN (coal and natural gas), oil has played a pivotal role in Wyoming’s past by providing good-paying, stable jobs, revenue to the state coffers, and a source of energy across the country.  Unlike coal and natural gas however, oil production in Wyoming has been continually declining over the past few decades. However, new exploration and extraction technology (i.e. using CO2 for tertiary recovery) will help Wyoming continue to play a role in providing this vital domestic natural resource.

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

As we continue to celebrate the International Year of Cooperatives, we like to showcase other ways that cooperatives benefit your local community — not by delivering a product or a service but by delivering on a commitment.

If we’re shopping, we tend to look for the best value for our money. It’s easy to think of a cooperative as a place where we shop or receive a service: seeds, fertilizer or electricity. But cooperatives don’t exist merely to sell a product — there are often a number of companies to take care of our needs.

Roy Spence is a well-known Texas entrepreneur, speaker and marketing genius. His success is tied to a philosophy that goes much deeper than merely promoting a product. His latest book is titled “It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business is Driven by Purpose.” Spence writes that “purpose is a definitive statement about the difference you’re trying to make in the world.”

That’s the difference co-ops have been living since that first lightbulb began to transform rural America. Electric cooperatives deliver much more than electricity to our communities.

There’s a difference between being in your community and being invested in your community. Some businesses locate in your community because they see an opportunity to make a profit. Cooperatives locate in a community because they see a need.

One of our cooperative principles is Concern for Community. Our co-ops are heavily involved in the never-ending effort to keep industries located in our local communities. The Tennessee Valley Authority, Rural Utilities Service and state and local governments also participate. Sustainable development benefits us today and into the future.

Keeping an eye on our future, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association knows that the future of our communities is in our youth. Through the Washington Youth Tour program, we send local high school students to Washington, D.C., to learn about their nation. Our Youth Leadership Summit brings the best and brightest to Nashville to learn about state government. And working with the University of Tennessee and the 4-H Foundation, we teach junior-high students about teamwork and safety around electricity. Across the state, electric co-ops are active in your local schools with educational programs throughout the year.

Take the time to look at the countless other ways your local cooperative invests in your community. It could be something as simple as putting the Christmas lights up downtown or donating thousands of dollars through “round-up” programs.

Deciding whether to participate in a community program is easy for cooperatives. Rather than start with the “why,” “what” and “how,” our first question is, “Why not?” And that leads us back to our roots and our purpose for existing — the needs of our community.

If you would like to see how cooperatives in Tennessee and across the nation have participated in large-scale community service projects, go to www.touchstoneenergy.com.

The week of March 12 was an eventful one in Nashville, to say the least. More than 200 devoted directors and employees from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives were in the state capital to participate in the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual Legislative Conference, Day on the Hill and Legislative Reception. Taking time away from their busy schedules, these individuals heard from and talked with some of Tennessee’s most powerful governmental officials about the key issues impacting your local community — and your member-owned electric co-op. I had the privilege of coordinating these two very full days, but fortunately I was unable complete all of the activities myself. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The events began when Gov. Bill Haslam addressed the group. “It is an honor to travel around the state and meet people who really do care about their communities, and you all represent businesses that do that,” said Gov. Haslam. “You really are trying your best to provide a service that people need at the lowest possible cost. I am grateful for what you are doing.”

Rather than merely speaking to the conference attendees, the governor asked a pretty simple question: What do we think his job is? Or, stated differently, what should he be doing to best perform his job as the chief executive of state government? Answers to his question spawned discussion about job recruitment, energy policy, environmental protections and the role and function of state government. Haslam discussed his initiatives to modernize state government, especially its employment practices, in order to provide the best services for the lowest cost.

At the conclusion of his time, it was our honor to present the governor a special copy of “Barns of Tennessee,” a popular book that features photos — most of which were submitted by the readers of this magazine — of some of Tennessee’s most picturesque farms and barns.

During the conference, TECA staff explained to co-op directors and employees how this year’s redrawing of House and Senate districts is impacting the representation of rural and suburban Tennessee in both the State Legislature and Congress. Because growth in urban areas of the state has been greater than that of rural regions, the balance of power in the General Assembly is shifting due to these demographic changes. We stressed that it is important to recognize these changes and be proactive in our efforts to ensure that your co-op remains strong for the future.

State Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin provided an update on the priorities of the Senate, specifically the activities of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Agriculture. Sen. Johnson is the chairman of this very important committee, which has broad jurisdiction over many issues, including most that impact the operations of your local cooperative. He approaches his duty very seriously and is responsible for maintaining the civility and fairness of the debates that take place in the committee. We believe he does an excellent job running the committee and appreciate his willingness to answer the tough questions.

Attendees were also briefed on pending legislation that would impact Tennessee’s electric cooperatives. The common theme among all the bills that were discussed is the unique way in which your cooperative operates — through you, the owner. Our association becomes concerned when legislation would limit a board’s ability to act in the best interests of its members. We believe that our cooperative governance structure provides the most effective way to operate a nonprofit business because you elect the directors who set the cooperative’s policies. Cooperative members are best served when these local policies are made by local board members elected to run the co-op. This locally controlled business model nearly eliminates the need for the state or federal government to be involved in the cooperative’s affairs.

Armed with this information, the attendees then set out to meet with their legislators to help them better understand electric cooperatives and the specific pending legislation that impacts our ability to provide safe, reliable, affordable energy.

The primary issue facing electric cooperatives this year is nothing new — pole attachments. Electric utilities charge cable TV and telephone providers when they attach their wires to electric poles. Think of this like rent — your cooperative owns a house, but the cable and telephone company wants to rent out a room in the house. However, renting a room makes the cost of living in the house higher because that additional renter uses more of the house’s resources (electricity, heating and cooling, water, etc). You might even have to get a bigger house just to accommodate all the extra renters.

Cable and telephone companies believe that government should mandate that this “rent” be lower. Much lower. But co-ops know they charge fair rates that are based on the actual cost of buying, installing and maintaining a pole. These costs are then spread out among everybody who is sharing the pole. Pretty simple, huh?

Thankfully, the members of Tennessee’s legislature have seen the efforts to regulate pole attachments for what they are: an attempt to get a free ride. During this year’s Legislative Conference, our attendees were able to see presentations from both sides of this issue given to Chairman Johnson and the Senate Commerce Committee during a committee session. While no vote was taken that day, the result was clear: Electric cooperatives and their locally elected boards are doing what is right for their communities.

I wasn’t there to help present the arguments to the Senate Commerce Committee. And as I mentioned at the beginning of this column, I’m thankful I wasn’t. Just an hour or two before the presentation began, I was at Baptist Hospital with my wife, welcoming our fourth son into the world. Mom and baby Drew are doing great. God has blessed me with a great job, but an even better family.

Mike Knotts, Director of Government Affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

For years, I’ve heard the saying, “Patience is a virtue.” I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought about what that means. Have you? I just hear it, reflexively agree with it and move on to the next thing. Just another cliché, something that people say.

According to Wikipedia, “A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being.” I know Wikipedia might not be the most authoritative source, but I think this entry passes the smell test. So, if I actually believe that definition, do I live in such a way that demonstrates patience? After all, actions speak louder than words — as we’ve always been told. Does our society really value patience?

In my opinion, it is undeniable that we are an instant-gratification nation. Fast food, ATMs, disposable diapers, digital cameras — all are incredible luxuries that have without doubt shortened our attention spans. I work in an industry that literally changed the world — but where patience is defined in milliseconds. Our margin for error is so slim. When you flip the switch, you expect the lights to come on. If the power stops flowing for just a second, all those digital clocks start blinking “12:00,” and the phone calls start pouring in to your co-op.

And these were only 20th century changes. The Internet has exponentially increased our ability to demand more and more information in less and less time.

For example, I am a voracious consumer of news. I have a need to stay connected to current events but see very little of it on television anymore. The 5 o’clock news has not been a part of my routine since I was in high school. I might read the newspaper to learn more detail of a major story, but almost never do I learn about it for the first time in the pages of my local daily. Most of my news comes to me now in near-real time through websites, email updates and social media like Twitter.

These advancements are not bad things; they are just changes. It’s hard to argue against the value of societal advancement. Take the automobile, for instance. Just because we’ve been trained to expect to cross the state in a matter of hours instead of days doesn’t mean we are impatient. We might be getting less patient in some of the ways we live our lives, but those changes by in large have enriched us and made us a more comfortable and prosperous people.

But what about those things that still require us to exercise patience? Parenthood has certainly put me to the test. I have three young sons, including 4-year-old twins, so there has been no shortage of opportunities to demonstrate my patience. Or, more appropriately, my lack thereof. I have to constantly remind myself that I can’t expect my boys to perfect a new task the first time, and I can’t expect them to grow without a lot of stumbles along the way.

When I arrive at the office, I again face the same struggles. It is my job to get involved in the details of how your elected representatives write the law. And the legislative process can sometimes be slow and arduous, it can sometimes be quick and haphazard, but it always requires careful diligence. However, it can be easy to sometimes jump to premature conclusions and not do the hard work that is necessary to make good decisions and accurate judgments.

Case in point: As a lobbyist, there are some lawmakers on whom you just come to rely. Experience has shown you time and time again that they are supportive of your organization and what it stands for, and when it comes time to cast a vote, they usually make the right decision. So what do you do when they suddenly reverse course and do something that could be incredibly harmful to the things you care about?

This happened to me recently. I could not believe the name when I read it at the top of the page. Someone I had come to rely upon suddenly appeared to be in opposition to the interests of electric cooperatives. Why? My first reaction was to take decisive action. Fire up the engines, and let’s head off to battle.

But wait a minute: Why would someone change their position when the circumstances surrounding that issue have not changed? Why would someone embrace a multimillion-dollar impact to our industry that would cause electric bills for almost all Tennesseans to unnecessarily rise? There had to be a reason. So I made a decision that flies in the face of our impatient, 24-hour news cycle culture. I decided to wait until I could actually talk to the person and determine what their motives might be.

So far, that decision has been a good one — both for my virtue and the interests of the member-owners of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives. There was a reason, and my first reaction would have made the situation much worse. So don’t forget: If patience truly is a virtue, then it just stands to reason that good things come to those who wait!

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

Our weekend shopping excursion had several oddly related purchases. Among them: butter, dog food, cranberry juice and running gear. All interconnected to each other. And all have something uniquely in common with your electric bill. The link?

For the first clue, we go to England. The year is 1844, and 28 weavers have just formed the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers. This group of tradesmen was able to collectively sell their products in a store that they could not have individually afforded. Yet working together, they prospered, eventually expanding into ownership of a mill and textile factory. The “Rochdale” principles they adopted eventually evolved into today’s Seven Cooperative Principles. Your electric cooperative still operates by them. And 2012 has been named the International Year of the Cooperative.

Residents of rural and suburban Tennessee are most likely members of an electric or telephone cooperative — often both. Occasionally derided as anachronistic relics of the Depression Era, electric cooperatives are anything but irrelevant. Nationwide, we’re leaders in energy-efficiency efforts, advanced metering infrastructure and alternative energy solutions. Member-owned and member-governed, we are nonprofits, operating as economically as possible and reinvesting margins back into the cooperative and the community.

“At a time when folks are losing faith in big corporations, the International Year of Cooperatives offers us a great opportunity to showcase many ways the local, consumer-owned and member-controlled cooperative form of business benefits communities all over the world,” declares Glenn English, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

The number of cooperatives is staggering: There are 900 electric cooperatives and 260 telephone cooperatives in the U.S., serving 42 million electric co-op members and 1.2 million rural telephone members. All told, the United States boasts 29,200 co-ops that run the gamut from insurance companies, food processors, daycare centers and apartment complexes to the better-known farmers co-ops.

Other familiar names you might not recognize as cooperatives are Ace Hardware, Blue Diamond Almonds, Welch’s, Nationwide Insurance, Sunkist, the Associated Press and Dairy Farmers of America. All are based on the same principle-driven model that forms the foundation for electric cooperatives.

So what co-op stops were on our shopping trip? The butter was made by Land O’ Lakes, the dog food came from Sumner Farmers Co-op, Ocean Spray made the cranberry juice and the running gear came from Recreational Equipment Inc. — better known as REI.
To quote Martin Lowery, longtime cooperative advocate and NRECA executive vice president of external affairs, “Co-ops empower people to take control over their own economic destiny. It’s in every co-op’s DNA to serve members in the best way possible. That’s why co-ops remain the best type of business around.”

For more information about the Rochdale cooperative, Benjamin Franklin’s cooperative effort and an international perspective, go to tnelectric.org.

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

Near the end of “Saving Private Ryan,” as Tom Hanks’ character is dying, he leans forward and mutters one last command to the young private: “Earn this.” He speaks the words after most of his men have died saving the private’s life. He speaks the words to the soldier in an effort to convey the magnitude of the sacrifice made on his behalf.

Moving forward with a new team in place for 2012, “Earn this” is our internal watchword at the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.While not as dramatic as a life-or-death struggle, the foundation on which we’re building involves a legacy that began in the 1930s.Early cooperative leaders were more than pioneers. The tactics they used were revolutionary, and the business acumen they possessed was cutting edge. Investor- owned utilities and legislators first ignored them and then tried to run them out of business. The co-op organizers took them on — and won. They were fighting for a better life for themselves, their children and their communities.

More than 70 years later, those cooperative principles and goals remain unchanged.Whether the work was done in the 1930s or the 1990s, we have a legacy of service and commitment that is to be earned — not squandered. Just like our predecessors from the ’30s, we’re committed to using nothing less than the best tools and technologies available to us today. Though the methodology is dramatically different — electronic social media has replaced the telephone party line — the basic principles of our business model remain the same.

As we move forward at TECA, we’re aware of our task, and we have our focus Squarely on you — the co-op members.In addition to publishing The Tennessee Magazine, TECA provides energy marketing assistance and a variety of education and training to today’s cooperative leaders. We also coordinate legislative efforts to protect the interests of the electric cooperative members in the state.

Those black-and-white images of the past serve as silent sentinels that repeat the charge to earn their sacrifice — a charge that we embrace with a tremendously talented group of employees with more than 160 years of varied experiences working on behalf of rural Tennessee. That background and commitment power our progress as we work for you — for the next 70 years and far beyond.

Our leadership team:

Robin Conover, vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine; Mike Knotts, director of government relations; Todd Blocker, director of member relations; Trent Scott, communications coordinator.

Chris Kirk, Ron Bell and Susan Pilgreen round out the staff of The Tennessee Magazine. Amy Jordan, Tina Smith, Andrea Knight and Miyuki Fowler provide accounting, human resources and administrative support.

As for myself — I have more than 25 years of public power background. My decade of work as TECA director of government relations was preceded by service at Tri-County Electric in Lafayette and the Tennessee Valley Authority in Chattanooga.

For much more information on TECA and bios of the employees that work on your behalf, click here.