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.

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

One man. One vote. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Every citizen in the U.S. has the right to equal representation.

We may take this principle for granted, but it is one of the cornerstones of our form of government, a representative republic. What makes our system of government different from a democracy, however, is that our votes are cast in order to elect an individual who will represent us in a legislative body that deliberates and decides the people’s business. Our own vote does not directly decide the issue being debated.

So that means every American has a number of elected officials who represent them. At the federal level you are represented by two U.S. senators who are elected by the citizens of an entire state.You are also represented by one U.S. representative (frequently referred to as a congressman), who is elected to represent one of 435 geographical districts across the nation.These districts are apportioned in such a way that each district contains approximately the same number of citizens.

At the state level, you are represented by one state senator and one state representative. These individuals each represent differing geographic districts that contain a proportional number of the state’s citizens. Local governments are organized in a similar fashion, although there are differing methods by which they operate depending on the makeup of individual counties and cities.

While the news media today tends to pay lots of attention to the president of the United States or the goings- on of the Congress, the fact that state legislatures have the responsibility of determining how the representative districts are drawn is sometimes overlooked. Every 10 years, after completion of the U.S. Census, state representatives and senators take on the task of reapportioning the districts to guarantee equal representation for the people. They determine the boundaries for the U.S. House of Representatives districts in their states in addition to the State Senate and House lines.

While every district must be proportional in population to the other districts, are there a number of different ways to draw the lines to come up with an equal result?You bet. Does that mean politics may influence the outcome?You bet! Is that a bad thing? Well, assuming equal representation is achieved, no, I don’t believe so.

The General Assembly recently completed the process of redistricting the nine Congressional districts, 33 State Senate districts and 99 State House districts in Tennessee. This reapportionment was different, as it was the first time in history that the Republican Party has controlled the state Legislature during the process. However, the timing of the process was very similar to previous reapportionments.

There were certainly some winners and losers in the design of the districts. House Republican Leader Gerald McCormick told tnreport.com, “Any time you have 99 politicians carving up anything, you’re going to have some controversy, so I expect there will be some creative tension.” It would be impossible to please everyone’s wishes for how to draw the lines, and some in our state were indeed not happy. As former Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh was quoted (I can only assume tongue-in-cheek), “Just because I did it doesn’t make it right.” Well, like it or not, politics is a part of our governing process, and the party in control will certainly choose alternatives that benefit its vision for governance.

As an organization whose interests are primarily rural and suburban, we at the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association are very interested in how these new districts will impact our ability to promote policies that keep your cooperative strong. Tennessee’s population has changed over the past 10 years, and the population growth in urban areas has been faster than that of our rural communities. Will this demographic shift make it more difficult to advocate for our electric co-op member- owners? Time will tell for sure, but an objective analysis shows that the maps appear to be drawn fairly and with an attempt to group together communities of like interest. Will some of our strongest supporters be impacted by these changes? Your votes at the ballot box will determine the answer to that question.

Because the new districts will take effect upon the conclusion of — not before — the November 2012 election, I encourage you learn what districts you live in.Maps are available on our website, www.tnelectric.org.

So what does all of this mean to you? This is an election year, and this fall when you go to the polls to vote (you are registered to vote, right?), you may very well find that you live in a new district or the person you are accustomed to representing you will be changing.

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, an organization representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve, announces the appointment of David Callis as executive vice president and general manager. Callis replaces Tom Purkey who recently announced his retirement.

Callis began his career with the Tennessee Valley Authority as an accountant and then as supervisor of power revenue. He then worked at Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation for almost nine years, serving first as director of finance and administration and then as general manager. In 2001 he joined the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association as the director of government and public affairs, and in 2010 he was named vice president of statewide services. Callis has served on the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association, the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives and the South Kentucky Industrial Development Association.

Callis and wife Dawnn have been married for 32 years and have two children, Megan, 27, and Brian, 23. Dawnn works with XO Communications in Nashville. Megan works as a legislative assistant for Tennessee State Senator Tim Barnes and is attending law school. Brian is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and works as an accountant at Franke in Smyrna.

“David has a deep appreciation for the electric cooperative business model,” says Bill Rogers, president of the association’s board of trustees. “He is immensely talented, well respected and a passionate advocate for Tennessee’s cooperatives and their members.”

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical.

Download a high-resolution image of David Callis.

 

In the first week of session, the primary focus of both the House and Senate has been on the 10-year reapportionment of legislative districts. While there was some debate over the composition of these districts, as well as several tweaks along the way, the plans were approved almost as originally presented.

An initial analysis of the new districts shows that the plan does not cause any tremendous impacts to Tennessee’s cooperatives, or any of our cooperatives’ strongest supporters. That said, a number of changes in representation among cooperatives will occur.  For example, the headquarters locations of seven or TECA’s members will now be located in a new Congressional District.  TECA staff is working to produce lists and/or maps of the districts that will be a part of each cooperative’s service area.  These will posted on the Members Only section of the website soon.

Tennessee State House Districts

Based on 2010 population

Tennessee State Senate Map

Based on 2010 population

 

 

 

 

 

US. Congressional Map

Based on 2010 population

by Tom Purkey, Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

I had a wonderful November. Each year representatives from all Tennessee electric co-ops gather for an annual membership meeting, just like the individual cooperatives do, featuring speakers who provide a host of useful information and political leaders to report on our state and country.

This year’s meeting was special for me: It was my last. I gave my usual report to the representatives of the 23 member electric cooperatives that make up the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association; however, on the first evening, I was honored that more than 400 people attended a reception for me. Four managers who do what I do at other states even came and made really kind remarks.

It was a wonderful way to finalize my tenure at TECA. Seeing friends from the past as well as current friends and folks with whom I work … it was the highlight of my career. But besides that, I had my wife, Sharon, and all four of our children and six grandchildren by my side. That was special. Being able to introduce my whole family to the managers, directors, employees, attorneys and other guests was very rewarding.

I originally reserved this column to introduce you to the newest Purkey — a grandson scheduled to arrive mid-December, the fifth child for my son, Justin, and daughter-in-law, Lisa. But he’s decided to choose his own delivery date, so at the time of publication, he’s still in a “holding pattern.” When I think about “Baby Purkey,” I can’t help but wonder what’s in store for him as he lives his life. What does his “future plan” look like?

No one can answer that question, but everything we do will affect his life. A preacher at our church recently said that any kind deed we do to another person resonates eternally and changes things in other people’s lives forever. That statement is a sobering thought: that we are all constantly changing the lives of people around us.

Having grandchildren will certainly keep me on my toes at all times, especially knowing that every good deed is like a rock being tossed into a lake … the resulting waves go out over and over again, affecting the water clear to the shoreline. We generally refer to it as the “ripple effect.”

I look forward to touching the life of our new grandson as well as the lives of the rest of the grandchildren, and I’m hopeful that their lives will reflect the good deeds that they see from all their family, including their Papa and Granny.

I have enjoyed my career at TECA, and I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family. Goodbye, and may God bless each of you in everything you do.

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

I love “The Andy Griffith Show.” That’s not exactly breaking news, I know. It’s only one of the most popular television shows in history. And I suppose having a father whose name is Don Knotts may have helped pique my interest many years ago. But few can disagree that there is just something about that program that resonates with people across America.

While my father was not the actor who played the iconic Barney Fife, I do relish the thought of life in Mayberry. Life was simple, doors were not locked, people helped one another during hard times, Aunt Bee’s cooking was the best (except for those pickles!) And occasionally the Darlings rolled into town to pick a song or two.

Over the past couple of years I have enjoyed exposing my three young boys to Andy and Opie and the rest of the characters. Sometimes they get a history lesson. “Dad, why does Barney have to ask Sarah to call the diner? Why doesn’t he just use his iPhone?” Sometimes they learn a great moral lesson about telling the truth or the consequences of unethical or unlawful behavior. Sometimes they see how important it is to serve others — can you think of a single episode where Andy Taylor does anything for his own gain? And sometimes they just laugh at Barney’s wide-eyed look of frustration when something else didn’t work the way he planned.

Yes, I love “The Andy Griffith Show.”

And while I readily admit that the world we live in is much different than Mayberry, couldn’t we all learn a little bit from it? I think so. Honesty, integrity and selflessness are not character traits that we readily associate with our political leaders of late, but I can tell you that those qualities still exist — and in great supply. But then again, maybe our world isn’t that different from Mayberry. For real fans of the show, you might recall that Mayor Stoner had a hard time respecting the separation of powers between the mayor and sheriff — that is, until a black bear and ornery bull taught him otherwise.

I’ve been involved in politics and government for more than 15 years now, and my experience has ranged from stuffing envelopes for political candidates to serving on the staff of a member of Congress as well as being appointed by the president of the United States to a position in his administration. I’ve seen a lot of good people working very hard for the future of this country and, yes, even a Mayor Stoner or two.

So when I came to work for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association a little less than one year ago, I was given the responsibility of protecting the interests of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives before both the state and federal governments — no small task, but one I have readily accepted.

As a member-owner of an electric cooperative, you share a unique experience with about 1 million other rural and suburban Tennesseans. You don’t just buy your power from your local co-op; you own your local co-op! The reality of that statement is that you are an owner of a business that is critical to our modern society, is technically complex, requires lots of money to build and operate and is a vital part of our communities. Oh, and the product you sell can kill you if not handled properly. This is serious business!

So it is only natural that the activities of your cooperative are frequently the subject of proposed new laws or government regulations. As these changes are proposed and debated in Washington, D.C., and Nashville, we will always advocate positions that keep your cooperative strong and able to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy to your home and business. And we will do what it takes to ensure that the millions of voices of our association are both heard and respected.

As I have been telling electric cooperative employees across the state, we have a unique responsibility to help guide our lawmakers to sound energy policies. Our association takes this responsibility seriously. I look forward to using this column as well as our website at www.tnelectric.org over the years to come to keep you informed about these issues.

Hopefully our editorial oversight will better than the Mayberry Sun, Opie’s newspaper that focused on Mayberry gossip.