David Callis, executive vice president and general manager, Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

The Lewis and Clark expedition was, for the early 1800s, a “moon shot” of epic proportions. The United States was a young and growing country. President Thomas Jefferson had just brokered the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the nation, and a thorough exploration was in order. Capts. William Clark and Meriwether Lewis led a party of 33 soldiers and guides. Not knowing the challenges they would face, they embarked on an 8,000-mile journey that would take well over two years.

Planning for the trip began months earlier. They made use of everything. The barrels in which they packed their provisions were lined with lead to keep things dry. When the barrel was empty, the lead could be fashioned into ammunition. The iron staves holding the barrels together were used to trade with the natives in the region.

Jack Uldrich, noted author and futurist, has written and taught extensively about Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery. In his book “Into the Unknown,” he writes, “How can we prepare for the future? What skills will we need? What tools? What equipment? Where do we even start? These are the very questions Louis and Clark asked themselves, and we could look to them for inspiration.”

There are lessons to be learned from Lewis and Clark in how we face an uncertain and changing future. In fact, we’ve been down this road before.

In 1935, when Congress created the Rural Electric Administration (REA), no one could imagine the transformation it would bring to rural America. Most rural residents were still living as their parents and grandparents had in the 1800s. There were visionaries like young Rep. Lyndon Johnson who championed the work of the REA. The idea that rural residents deserved the same “luxuries” as city-dwellers took hold, and change began. By the 1940s, rural America was well on its way to parity.

But it didn’t happen overnight, and it took a lot of planning. It took legislative changes, and it took dedication and commitment from those who would be served.

Before the REA would grant loans to cooperatives, residents who would be served were required to invest capital. Many were hesitant to get involved in the fledgling electric cooperative movement. It took the commitment of leaders in the community to get on board and convince their neighbors to also join. Johnson, himself, went door-to-door in the Texas Hill Country, encouraging farmers to pay $5 each to jumpstart Pedernales Electric Cooperative.

Today, Pedernales is still providing power and opportunity to the Hill Country. Johnson wrote in 1959, “I think of all the things I have ever done, nothing has ever given me as much satisfaction.”

Uldrich again: “The 21st century is a time of accelerating, almost exponential, change. Advances in computer electronics, telecommunications, and medicine are announced every day. Genomics, nano technology, wireless technologies, the Internet, fuel cells, solar cells, DNA analysis, the sequencing of the human genome, stem cell research, voice recognition technology, and even the advancement of knowledge itself are propelling us faster and faster downriver, and, like Lewis and Clark, we don’t know what’s around the next bend.”

In the electric cooperative community, we spend a lot of time preparing for the journey. As technology has advanced, we’ve changed with it. Over the years, the pace of change continues to accelerate.

Though we can’t anticipate what’s next on the horizon, we have the people, the resources and the dedication to continue to do what we’ve done since the beginning.

NASHVILLE – Twenty-nine service projects were completed by electric co-op employees on or around Thursday, Oct. 17 thanks to the 2019 Tennessee Electric Co-op Day of Service. Thirteen co-ops allowed 480 employees to volunteer more than 1,000 hours in service to their local communities.

“It is no secret that electric co-op employees care about the communities where they live and work,” says Trent Scott, TECA’s vice president of corporate strategy and organizer of the event. “They give back to their communities each day by keeping the lights on for their friends and neighbors. The Day of Service is different – it is a unique opportunity to make our state and these individual communities better places. Each of the projects completed during this year’s event are important, but the impact is multiplied when co-ops across the state work together to improve everyday life for the people and places we serve.”

Service projects completed for this year’s event include volunteering at schools, nursing homes and food banks; serving meals to first responders and school bus drivers; collecting food, toys, clothing and other supplies for local pantries; and partnering with organizations like United Way, Second Harvest Food Bank, Friends of Radnor Lake and Habitat for Humanity.

Each employee who participated in this year’s event received a Day of Service t-shirt thanks to the generous support of sponsors Bass, Berry & Sims, CoBank, CT Consultants, LogicomUSA and The Tennessee Magazine.

This is the third Day of Service event conducted by Tennessee co-ops. In its three-year history, 1,236 employees have volunteered more than 3,100 hours to complete 75 individual projects in co-op communities across the state.

In the photo: TECA employees Tina Smith, Mallory Dunavan, Amy Jordan, Laura Beth Laden and Trent Scott volunteered to help with the construction of a new hiking trail at Radnor Lake State Natural Area near the association’s office in Nashville.

NASHVILLE – Jamie Perrigo, operations superintendent for Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation in Lafayette, flipped the switch to light the midway and officially start the 2019 Tennessee State Fair on Friday, Sept. 6, in Nashville. Tennessee’s electric co-ops have sponsored the opening ceremony of the fair since 2014.

Attendees of the opening ceremony heard from legislators, elected officials and others, including Nashville Mayor David Briley and Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“The fair is a celebration of life in Tennessee – specifically rural Tennessee,” said Scott. “There are exciting things happening here in Nashville, but it is important that we not overlook what happens out there – past the city limits signs in rural and suburban Tennessee. Rural Tennessee is home to 37 percent of the state’s population and 30 percent of personal incomes. What happens out there matters. It matters to the people who live there, but it should matter to everyone. Co-ops are proud to serve rural Tennessee and advocate for rural communities every day. We’re also proud to be here tonight to kick off the 2019 Tennessee State Fair.”

The fair runs Sept. 6 – 15 at the Fairgrounds in Nashville. Learn more at tnstatefair.org.

NASHVILLE – While most Tennesseans enjoyed a long Labor Day weekend, several lineworkers from Tennessee’s electric co-ops were heading to Georgia and North Carolina to assist with Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts. Twenty-two lineworkers – ten from Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville and 12 from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative in South Pittsburg – are traveling to the coast to restore power to areas affected by Hurricane Dorian. The powerful storm is expected to impact coastal areas of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas later this week.

“Lineworkers have a desire to serve others,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It always impresses me how quickly our crews volunteer to help, even without knowing the conditions they will face or how long they will be away from their families.”

The uncertainty of Dorian’s track has made preparations far more difficult than usual. If the storm ultimately makes landfall along the South and North Carolina coast, Tennessee may be asked to send additional crews.

Statewide trade associations like the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association coordinate mutual aid assistance for co-ops in their respective states. When a state determines that it needs assistance, requests are made to surrounding states. The statewide organizations in those states work with their local co-ops to organize crews and make arrangements for lodging and food. Working out details ahead of time allows crews to respond quickly when a need arises.

NASHVILLE – American Mainstreet Publications presented The Tennessee Magazine editor Robin Conover with the Lynne Christenson Award of Excellence at the organization’s annual meeting this week in Alabama.

American Mainstreet Publications is an advertising cooperative owned by electric co-op statewide publications. The Lynne Christenson Award of Excellence is presented to an AMP member who exemplifies the work ethic, tenacity and professionalism of Lynne Christenson, former advertising manager for Kentucky Living Magazine. Christenson was a passionate advocate for electric co-op magazines before losing a battle with cancer in 2015.

“Robin exhibited a strong and steady hand guiding the National Country Market membership through its rebranding as American MainStreet Publications,” said Mona Neely, editor of Colorado Living Magazine and AMP board member. “She has kept the board focused on supporting our team as it works to make AMP relevant in an ever-changing and fast-moving marketplace. She did this all while maintaining the excellence of her own magazine and excelling as an amazing photographer.”

“A team leader who gave 110% all the time, dreamed big, thought outside the box and followed through to make thing happen is how I would describe Lynne Christenson,” said Conover. “Lynne was a mentor and a dear friend of mine. I am humbled and honored to receive this award. She was a passionate leader who always had the mission of the electric cooperatives and our magazines at heart. As advertising manager for Kentucky Living, Lynne led our national sales cooperative, National Country Market, now known as American MainStreet Publications. She helped define how we approach sales and advertising with our national network of electric cooperative magazines. Lynn was a good friend, and I am honored to receive this award.”

“Robin’s talents are no secret, and we enjoy when others recognize and honor those talents,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We are fortunate to have her on our team.”

“National advertising is increasingly important to our magazines,” said Conover. “AMP plays an important role in recruiting high-quality advertising for the statewide publications. This revenue helps us offset cost and to create better, more effective magazines.”

Robin Conover, center, receives the 2019 Lynne Christenson Award of Excellence from American Mainstreet Publications. Presenting the award are AMP board member Mona Neeley, left, and AMP Senior Vice-president and Chief Operating Officer Mark Adesco, right.
Laura Beth Laden

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, a trade association representing the state’s 23 electric cooperatives, announced recently that Laura Beth Laden is joining the association as communications administrative assistant. Laden has interned with TECA for the past two years.

“I have enjoyed working with co-ops and the team at TECA,” says Laden. “I grew up around electric co-ops, and I understand how important they are to the communities they serve. I am excited to have this opportunity to work with co-ops across the state.”

Laden will oversee magazine advertising and assist the communications staff with various projects. She is a native of Savannah, where her father, Bob Laden, served as CFO for Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative until his recent retirement. Laden is currently completing a degree in accounting from Lipscomb University in Nashville.

“We are pleased to have Laura Beth join our communications staff on a permanent basis,” says Robin Conover, vice president of communications for TECA. “Laura Beth has Tennessee roots and brings a fresh perspective to our team at TECA.”

NASHVILLE – If you’re driving on Tennessee roads, what should you do if you approach a utility vehicle stopped on the shoulder with its flashing lights activated? According to the state’s Move Over law, motorists must slow down or move over, or you could be fined for not complying.

Tennessee’s “Move Over” law was passed in 2006 to protect first responders like police officers, firefighters and paramedics. In 2011, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives led a coalition to revise the state’s move over law to include utility workers as well.

The requirements of Tennessee’s move over law are simple. On a four lane road, if safety and traffic conditions allow, a driver approaching a utility vehicle with flashing lights should move into the far lane. On a two lane road or when changing lanes is not possible, a driver should reduce their speed.

Electric co-op vehicles aren’t the only utility vehicles covered; service vehicles used by municipal electric systems, telephone companies and utility districts are also protected by the law.

Electric lineworkers face many dangers – high voltage, heights and extreme weather conditions. Despite these challenges, one of the most dangerous parts of their job is working alongside busy roadways, often only feet away from passing cars

“We have had cars come through at high rates of speed, hitting the cones we have set up and clipping the outriggers that we have down to support the trucks,” says Greg Bryant, line foreman for Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton, Tenn. “I think people care, they just don’t pay attention like they should.”

“When we are in the bucket or up a pole, we can clearly see into passing cars, and it is shocking how many drivers are looking at their phones,” says Bryant, who shares this important tip. “Put the phone down and pay attention. Lives are on the line.”

“July marks the 8th anniversary of the expansion of the law, but too many drivers either don’t know about it or simply don’t care,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Associaiton. “Our lineworkers perform an important job for our community. Changing lanes or slowing down to give them a little space is a simple courtesy that could save a life.”

More information about the law is available at moveovertennessee.org.

NASHVILLE – 185 students, teachers and co-op chaperones have returned from a week in our nation’s capital as delegates of the 2019 Washington Youth Tour. The annual event, sponsored by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the state’s 23 electric co-ops, provides young leaders with an opportunity to explore the nation’s capital, learn about government and cooperatives and develop their leadership skills. Students were selected for the trip by writing short stories titled “Electric Cooperatives – Connecting Communities” that explain how co-ops provide communities with much more than electric power.

“We take great pride in recognizing the best and brightest from across Tennessee,” said Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and tour director. “By honoring their accomplishments through programs like the Washington Youth Tour, we show these future leaders that their co-op cares about the future. We want these young people to come home with a better understanding of their nation and new passion to serve their community.”

Tennessee’s Youth Tour delegates saw the White House and memorials to past presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as monuments honoring the sacrifices of veterans of World War II and the Vietnam and Korean Wars. During visits to the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the touring Tennesseans saw and experienced natural, historical and artistic treasures. Other fun stops included historic homes of former presidents — George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello — as well as Ford’s Theater and a boat cruise down the Potomac River. The group also paid a solemn and sobering visit to Arlington National Cemetery where the delegtes laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

For many, the highlight of the trip was hearing from Holocaust survivor Ms. Esther Starobin at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Her advice to the delegates was, “Don’t be a bystander in this world. You have to know history and pay attention to it. Get involved and learn as much as you can with more than a single viewpoint.”

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

While in D.C., winners were announced in the statewide competition for the Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships. Jacob Coble from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, Alyssa Hampton from Fayetteville Public Utilities and Melanie Garcia from Appalachian Electric Cooperative were awarded $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships for having the first, second and third place papers of the more than 10,000 papers submitted across the state.

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

Keslin Moore, a senior from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Moore was a 2018 delegate of the Washington Youth Tour. In the year following the tour, delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperative and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Moore’s name was randomly selected from among the 50 delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

“An investment in these young people is also an investment in the communities we serve,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “These are exceptional students, and our hope is that their youth tour experience empowers them to return home and make a difference in their communities.”

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives awarded $16,000 in scholarships to Washington Youth Tour delegates on Tuesday evening, June 18, in Washington, D.C.

Keslin Moore, a senior from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Moore was a 2018 delegate of the Washington Youth Tour. In the year following the tour, delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperative and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Moore’s name was randomly selected from among the 50 delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

2018 Washington Youth Tour delegate and $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador scholarship winner Keslin Moore and Sequachee Valley EC employee Cathy Black.

Jacob Coble from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, Alyssa Hampton from Fayetteville Public Utilities and Melanie Garcia from Appalachian Electric Cooperative were awarded $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships for having the first, second and third place papers of the more than 10,000 papers submitted across the state.

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

More than 135 high school Juniors from across the state are in the nation’s capital this week for the 2019 Washington Youth Tour. The annual event teaches students about public policy, history, leadership and electric cooperatives. The tour is coordinated by local electric cooperatives, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

“An investment in these young people is also an investment in the communities we serve,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “These are exceptional students, and our hope is that their youth tour experience empowers them to return home and make a difference in their communities.”

Delegates will return home on Thursday, June 20, but they have already experienced a great deal on this year’s trip. For many, the highlight of the trip was hearing from Holocaust survivor Ms. Esther Starobin at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Her advice to the delegates was, “Don’t be a bystander in this world. You have to know history and pay attention to it. Get involved and learn as much as you can with more than a single viewpoint.” Learn more about Ms. Starobin’s story on the Holocaust Memorial Museum website.

NASHVILLE – More than 135 students from across Tennessee are headed to Washington, D.C., as a part of the 2019 Washington Youth Tour. The annual event, which begins on Friday, June 14, provides young leaders with an opportunity to explore the nation’s capital, learn about government and develop their leadership skills.

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

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

“Each year Tennessee co-ops provide education, leadership and scholarship opportunities to hundreds of students from across Tennessee,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Today’s young people are tomorrow’s teachers, Senators, doctors and entrepreneurs, and we’re investing in a brighter future for these young leaders and the communities we serve. Youth tour gives these students the opportunity to experience history and democracy up-close, and we hope they return with a deeper appreciation of America and a desire to serve their communities.”

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

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides leadership, advocacy and support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.