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.

Michael Watson

The Board of Directors of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation (DREMC) today has accepted the retirement request of Michael Watson, President and CEO. Watson will relinquish his duties as CEO and President on Jan. 11; he will serve in an advisory capacity for the cooperative until June 30, 2019. 

Watson also served as president of the board of directors for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“We are grateful for the 27 years of service that Michael has dedicated to Duck River Electric,” said Barry Cooper, Chairman of the Board. “He has led DREMC through an important period of change in the cooperative business, including implementing an advanced meter infrastructure and installing a fiber backbone that is preparing the cooperative for broadband options.” 

He has also demonstrated valuable leadership within the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association, Cooper said, as well as with the TVA Rates and Contracts process. 

Cooper said that the board has taken action to employ Charles McDonald as an interim CEO. McDonald retired from DREMC in 2011 as Director of Member Services after 37 years of service with the cooperative. McDonald will begin his interim service effective Jan. 11, 2019. 

The board will begin a thorough search for a CEO as soon as is feasible. 

[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.

State’s electric cooperatives gather in Nashville to explore the opportunities facing co-ops

NASHVILLE – “Power and Opportunity” was the theme of the 77th annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, held Sunday, Nov. 18, through Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Nashville. More than 350 electric cooperative leaders from across the state attended the event where they explored the impact of co-ops and challenged one another to meet the needs of their communities.

“Each day, electric co-ops enable the communities we serve to prosper,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Rural and suburban Tennessee is well positioned to grow, and our role in that success has been and continues to be significant. The powerlines we build carry more than power. They deliver power and opportunity.”

Elections were held for three positions on the association’s board of trustees. John Roberts, a director for Pickwick Electric Cooperative in Selmer; Jimmy Gregory, manager for Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Carthage; and Dave Cross, manager for Plateau Electric Cooperative in Oneida, were elected to four-year terms.

“We congratulate those selected to serve on the TECA board of trustees,” says Callis. “Their talents and ideas will be valuable as we work to serve Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and their consumers.”

The fourth annual TECA Top Tenn Communications Awards were presented during the event. Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative received an award for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section; Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Best Internal Newsletter; Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Best Website; Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Best Use of Social Media. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and Gibson Electric Membership Corporation each received Awards of Excellence in the Wild Card category, with Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative earning Awards of Merit.

“It is important for electric cooperative consumer-owners to be educated and informed,” says Robin Conover, TECA’s vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine. “We honor these winners for telling the electric cooperative story in a professional way.”

NASHVILLE – More than 400 electric co-op employees participated in the 2018 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Day of Service on Thursday, Oct. 18. Twenty-five individual service projects were completed across the state with 13 co-ops allowing 425 employees to volunteer more than 1,000 hours in service to their local communities.

“It’s amazing what giving hearts and willing hands can do!” says Vanessa Clayborn, manager of member services at Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville, Tenn. “We had 53 employees participate in this year’s Day of Service, and the results are staggering and life-changing for those who participated and those we helped.”

“It is really incredible to see the passion that co-op employees have for their communities,” says Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy and organizer of the event. “We frequently talk about service to community, and this event puts words into action in very real and tangible ways.”

Service projects completed for this year’s event include four energy efficiency workshops or safety demonstrations, five parks and playgrounds cleaned and refurbished, seven food and clothing drives, four luncheons for local veterans or first responders and two home building projects.

This is the second Day of Service event conducted by Tennessee co-ops. In its two-year history, 756 employees have volunteered more than 2,000 hours in service to their communities.

Photos from the 2018 Day of Service event:

NASHVILLE – More than 180 volunteer lineworkers from 20 electric co-ops across Tennessee are heading to Georgia, Florida and North Carolina to assist with Hurricane Michael recovery efforts. This is the largest storm assistance effort made by Tennessee co-ops in recent years.

The dangerous Category 4 hurricane brought strong wind, significant rainfall and widespread power outages to the northern Gulf Coast. Tennessee co-op are assisting with efforts to reconstruct the severely damaged electric infrastructure in the region.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association in Nashville coordinates requests for mutual aid and makes travel and lodging arrangements for crews who respond.

“Working on high-voltage lines on a sunny day is dangerous, but in disaster conditions the danger is exponentially greater,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Please keep these brave volunteers in your prayers.”

Below is the most up to date list of crews and their locations:

  • Appalachian Electric Cooperative – 11 lineworkers to Talquin Electric Cooperative in Quincy, Florida
  • Caney Fork Electric Cooperative – Nine lineworkers to United Energy in Statesboro, North Carolina
  • Chickasaw Electric Cooperative – Five lineworkers to Grady Diverse Power Cooperative in LaGrange, Georgia
  • Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation – nine lineworkers to Grady Electric Membership Corporation in Cairo, Georgia
  • Duck River Electric Membership Corporation – 14 lineworkers to Colquitt Electric Membership Corporation in Moultrie, Georgia
  • Fayetteville Public Utilities – eight lineworkers to Diverse Power Cooperative in LaGrange, Georgia
  • Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative – eight lineworkers to Mitchell Electric Membership Corporation in Camilla, Georgia
  • Gibson Electric Membership Corporation – eight lineworkers to Carroll Electric Membership Corporation in Carrolton, Georgia
  • Holston Electric Cooperative – nine lineworkers to Talquin Electric Cooperative in Quincy, Florida
  • Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation – eight lineworkers to Excelsior Electric Membership Corporation in Statesboro, Georgia
  • Mountain Electric Cooperative – 12 lineworkers to Mitchell Electric Membership Corporation in Camilla, Georgia
  • Plateau Electric Cooperative – four lineworkers to Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative in Wewahitchka, Florida
  • Powell Valley Electric Cooperative – 12 lineworkers to Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative in Live Oak, Florida
  • Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative – 10 lineworkers to Mitchell Electric Membership Corporation in Camilla, Georgia
  • Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation – 10 lineworkers to Grady Electric Membership Corporation in Cairo, Georgia
  • Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative – 10 lineworkers to Mitchell Electric Membership Corporation in Camilla, Georgia
  • Tri-County Electric Cooperative – eight lineworkers to Diverse Power Cooperative in LaGrange, Georgia
  • Tri-State Electric Cooperative – five lineworkers to Mitchell Electric Membership Corporation in Camilla, Georgia
  • Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation – 11 lineworkers to Flint Energies in Warner Robbins, Georgia
  • Volunteer Energy Cooperative  – 10 lineworkers to Sumpter EMC in Americus, GA

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association submitted feedback regarding the Rural Utilities Service’s e-Connectivity Pilot Program during a comment period provided by the RUS.

The e-Connectivity Pilot Program was was made possible by a $600 million appropriation from Congress in the Consolidated Budget Act of 2018. The USDA is working to create new funding and finance offerings through this pilot program to expand rural broadband in underserved rural and tribal areas.

Comments made by TECA to the RUS highlighted the successes of Tennessee’s electric co-ops in broadband and the need for additional funding to speed deployment. TECA affirmed comments made by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and requested consideration of seven additional suggestions:

  • Projects that achieve universal service inside a provider’s service territory should be incentivized over similar projects that leave significant gaps in coverage between communities
  • Projects that leverage additional investment in broadband infrastructure beyond the receipt of a grant itself should be incentivized over a similar project(s) that rely solely upon the program itself for its existence
  • Allow applicant(s) an opportunity to rebut any challenges of eligibility by third parties
  • Allow flexibility to award funds to any party participating in a partnership or other project that involves multiple eligible parties
  • Allow grants to be payable in multiple awards, rather than a single payment, if so desired by the recipient
  • Allow a small percentage of grants to be usable for start-up expenses of subsidiary entities
  • Provide loan products inside the pilot program at an interest rate below what is otherwise available by existing RUS programs, including FFB loans, or other more advantageous terms.

“We believe that the RUS’s e-Connectivity Pilot Program has the potential to have a meaningful impact on the expansion of broadband in rural Tennessee,” says Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We appreciate Secretary Purdue and the team at RUS for considering the input of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives.”

You can read TECA’s full comments below.

TECA RUS e-Connectivity Comments

NASHVILLE – More than 140 lineworkers from 15 Tennessee electric cooperatives will soon be heading to North Carolina to assist with Hurricane Florence recovery efforts. The massive hurricane is expected to leave widespread damage across much of the Atlantic seaboard.

Tennessee electric co-op crews are planning to leave from multiple locations beginning on Wednesday morning. Most will ride out the storm in western or central North Carolina before heading further east once the storm passes through. It is unclear how long they will be in North Carolina.

“Our crews have a reputation for responding quickly, working safely and showing compassion to those who have been impacted by storms like this one,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Associaiton. “We commend their desire to serve and wish them well in the days to come.”

Please keep the people of the Atlantic coast, as well as our volunteer lineworkers and their families, in your thoughts and prayers in the days ahead.


Below is a list of Tennessee co-ops providing assistance and the name and location of the co-op they will be helping. This information is likely to change as the storm nears the coast.

  • Appalachian Electric Cooperative in New Market, Tenn. – 12 lineworkers to Piedmont EMC in Hillsboro, North Carolina
  • Caney Fork Electric Cooperative in McMinnville, Tenn. – eight lineworkers to Pee Dee EC in Wadesboro, North Carolina
  • Chickasaw Electric Cooperative in Somerville, Tenn. – five lineworkers to Randolph EMC in Asheboro, North Carolina
  • Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Clarksville, Tenn. – 10 lineworkers to South River EMC in Fayetteville, North Carolina
  • Duck River Electric Membership Corporation in Shelbyville, Tenn. – nine lineworkers to Lumbee River EMC in Red Springs, North Carolina
  • Fayetteville Public Utilities in Fayetteville, Tenn. – eight lineworkers to Tri-County EMC in Dudley, North Carolina
  • Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville, Tenn. – eight lineworkers to Lumbee River EMC in Red Springs, North Carolina
  • Meriwether Lewis Electric Membership Corporation in Centerville, Tenn. – five lineworkers to Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative in Buxton, North Carolina
  • Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Murfreesboro, Tenn. – 15 lineworkers to Carteret-Craven EC in Newport North Carolina
  • Plateau Electric Cooperative in Onieda, Tenn. – 13 lineworkers to South River EMC in Fayetteville, North Carolina
  • Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative in South Pittsburg, Tenn. – 10 lineworkers to Four County EMC in Burgaw, North Carolina
  • Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville, Tenn. – 10 lineworkers to Jones-Onslow EMC in Jacksonville, North Carolina
  • Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation in Lafayette, Tenn. – eight to Energy United in Statesville, North Carolina
  • Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative in Savannah, Tenn. – 10 lineworkers to Central EMC in Sanford, North Carolina
  • Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Carthage, Tenn. – 12 lineworkers to Four County EMC in Burgaw, North Carolina

Today two Tennessee co-ops announced projects to expand broadband.

Just over 79 years ago, from the Centerville Courthouse steps in Hickman County, Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative’s first leaders announced its commitment to provide safe, affordable, reliable electricity to areas overlooked by other providers. Today from the same location, MLEC President and CEO Keith Carnahan announced that MLEC was furthering that original initiative and launching Meriwether Lewis Connect, LLC, to deliver broadband internet across the five counties it serves.

“Our areas need broadband for education, healthcare, and community development. Studies show it is a vital need to attract and retain families and businesses,” said Carnahan. “Bringing high-speed internet to all our members is one of the largest investments we’ve made since our inception 79 years ago. It is a huge step in a completely different arena, but helping rural communities build essential services is just another facet of what cooperatives are designed to do.”

Additionally, Middle Tennessee Electric, the state’s largest electric cooperative, and United Communications, Middle Tennessee’s leading provider of fiber and fixed wireless internet services, today announced that they have partnered to expand broadband access to underserved areas across seven counties in Tennessee.

The partnership between Middle Tennessee Electric and United Communications allows the two organizations to combine their resources and decades of experience to offer affordable, high‐speed internet services to members and customers in the coming years and improve quality of life for those in the areas they serve.

“We’re proud to be the first electric cooperative to pursue a partnership of this kind in Tennessee and answer the calls we have long heard from our members. They want and need access to broadband service,” said Chris Jones, president and CEO of Middle Tennessee Electric. “United Communications is the ideal partner for us. They have already built an impressive fiber backbone throughout many areas we serve which will allow us to work together to more rapidly and cost effectively expand internet services.”

This initiative is already under way and full implementation will be a multi‐year process. Based on input from the community, the partnership will prioritize implementation in areas with the highest demand. It allows both organizations to build a world‐class smart grid in the region, at the lowest possible cost, while not impacting Middle Tennessee Electric members’ electric rates, which are some of the lowest in the country.

Both co-op announcements come as a result of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act signed into law in 2017 by Gov. Bill Haslam. The law removed restrictions to allow co-ops to provide broadband to the communities they serve. Since implementation of the law, eight of the state’s 23 co-ops have announced broadband projects.

Dean Batey

SHELBYVILLE – Dean Batey, senior lineman for Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, died from injuries sustained in a fall as he tried to escape a bucket truck fire on Monday afternoon, July 9. An investigation is currently underway to determine the cause of the fire and the actions that led to Batey’s death.

Batey was repairing a security light in Beech Grove, Tenn., when the incident occurred. Homeowners who were outside during the time of the incident reported that Batey was working on the light when a fire suddenly ignited at the end of the boom connected to the truck’s bucket. As Batey attempted to lower the bucket and cradle it to safety, he was unable to complete the descent and was forced to release his safety harness and climb from the bucket. It is estimated that he jumped 12 to 15 feet from the bucket and reportedly landed on his side.

Batey was conscious and responsive when first responders transported him to Unity Medical Center in Manchester, and a life flight helicopter was on the scene ready to transport as medical teams worked to stabilize Batey. His injuries from the fall were severe, and he died before he could be airlifted.

“We do not know at this time how the fire started,” says DREMC President and CEO Michael Watson. “The incident is still under investigation.”

“Accidents such as this are a terrible experience, not only for Dean’s family and friends, but also for his fellow employees,” says Watson. “Electric linemen have a unique bond. Their jobs are extremely dangerous, and they rely heavily on their own skills and training to keep them safe every day.”

“Batey was an experienced lineman and valuable member of our team, and this is a great loss to our cooperative family and community,” comments