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

NASHVILLE – “Co-ops Connect” was the theme of the 81st annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, held Sunday, Nov. 20, through Tuesday, Nov. 22, 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.

“Co-ops make connections every day,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We connect substations and meters, but those might not be the most important connections that we make. Our power grid connects communities with energy, our broadband infrastructure connects local communities with global knowledge and markets, programs like the Washington Youth Tour connect young people with limitless opportunities and visionary investments connect today with tomorrow.”

United States Senator Bill Hagerty complimented electric co-ops on the work they are doing to connect Tennessee. “The contributions you make contribute to Tennessee’s success,” said Sen. Hagerty. “What you do with broadband is making a real difference.”

During the event, attendees heard from speakers and presenters who shared insights and information to help co-ops be better prepared for the changes they face, including long-time CNBC anchor Sue Herera, Tennessee Valley Authority CEO Jeff Lyash, recently-named Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service Andy Berke and Chris Christensen, chairman of the National Rural Electric Membership Corporation board of directors.

Keith Carnahan, president and CEO of Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville was elected to serve as chairman of the association’s board of trustees. Dan Rodamaker, president and CEO of Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton and Buddy Dicus, director for Caney Fork Electric Cooperative in McMinnville were elected to serve as vice president and secretary.

Elections were also held for three positions on the association’s board of trustees. Robert Kendrick, a director for Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville; Chris Jones, CEO for Middle Tennessee Electric in Murfreesboro; and Jimmy Sandlin, CEO of Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville 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.”

In addition to changes to the TECA board of trustees, attendees also paused to celebrate two long-time employees of the association who retired this year. David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the association and Robin Conover, editor of The Tennessee Magazine, were honored for their notable contributions to the association and to rural Tennessee.

The board used the event to introduce the association’s new leader, Mike Knotts. “I am honored and humbled to be standing before you right now,” said Knotts. “I hope you are as excited as I am about the future of Tennessee’s cooperatives and the future of TECA.”

TECA recognized excellence in communication efforts during the annual Top Tenn Communications Awards ceremony. Gibson Electric Membership Corporation received an award for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section; Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Best Internal Newsletter; Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Best Website; Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, Best Use of Social Media; Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Best Video; Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Best Photo; Gibson Electric Membership Corporation, Best Annual Report; Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Appalachian Electric Cooperative and Middle Tennessee Electric each received awards in the Wild Card category.

“Successful co-ops have a legacy of connecting with their members,” says Trent Scott, TECA’s vice president of communications. “We honor these winners for telling the electric cooperative story in a professional way.”

Electric cooperatives serve more than 2.8 million consumers and 72 percent of Tennessee. The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides leadership, advocacy and support for the association’s 25 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

Experienced leader to guide electric co-op trade association

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, a trade association representing 25 electric cooperatives in Tennessee and Georgia, has named Mike Knotts executive vice president and general manager.

Knotts most recently served as the association’s vice president of government affairs. He will succeed David Callis who earlier this year shared his plans to retire.

“We’re excited to have someone with Mike’s experience and reputation leading our team at TECA,” says Dave Cross, CEO of Plateau Electric Cooperative and chairman of the TECA board of trustees. “He is a tested leader who has extensive knowledge of our complex and ever-evolving industry and a clear vision for the future. The board believes Mike will be a great leader to help the association and our co-ops navigate the opportunities and challenges on the horizon.”

Knotts has managed TECA advocacy efforts since 2011. During this time, he led an effort to allow electric co-ops to provide retail broadband to their consumers. Since the passage of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act in 2017, electric co-ops now provide broadband to more than 100,000 homes and businesses across the state.

“Tennessee’s electric co-ops have built an incredible reputation for service, reliability and transparency,” says Knotts. “TECA provides an important service for electric co-ops, but it also advocates for the people and places co-ops serve. What happens in rural and suburban Tennessee matters to all Tennesseans, and I am excited to be a part of the important work that this team does.”

“As we welcome Mike as our incoming CEO, we also thank David for his service and leadership over the past 21 years,” says Cross. “David and the team he built have placed TECA among the most effective and respected electric cooperative advocacy organizations in the nation.”

Ken Holmes with Holmes Executive Search facilitated the search process.

Electric cooperatives serve more than 2.8 million consumers and 72 percent of Tennessee. The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides leadership, advocacy and support for the association’s 25 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

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For more information:
Trent Scott, Vice President of Communications | 731-608-1519 | [email protected]

Download a high-resolution photo of Mr. Knotts.

 

Nashville, TENN. – More than 750 electric co-op employees participated in the sixth annual Tennessee Electric Cooperative Day of Service on Thursday, Oct. 20. Forty-six individual service projects were completed across the state with 757 employees from 17 electric co-ops volunteering more than 1,581 hours in service to their local communities. This year’s projects included painting and repairing playground equipment, picking up litter and coordinating food, clothing and toy drives.

“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” says Trent Scott, TECA’s vice president of communications and organizer of the event. “Co-ops have an impact on their communities each day, but today is special. Co-op employees live, work and raise their families in these communities, and they get excited about these projects. Giving back is natural when you care about the place you call home.”

Sponsors for the 2022 Day of Service were Bass, Berry and Sims, Central Service Association, Ervin Cable Construction, Silicon Ranch, Tennessee811, TVA and The Tennessee Magazine.

In the six-year history of the Day of Service event, 2,705 employees have volunteered more than 6,520 hours to complete 153 individual projects in co-op communities across the state.

Co-ops participating in the 2022 Day of Service and the projects they completed were:

  • Appalachian Electric Cooperative – Support for coat and food drives in Jefferson County
  • Caney Fork Electric Cooperative – Coordinated Christmas toy drive for area children
  • Chickasaw Electric Cooperative – Hot line safety demonstration at a festival, supporting food and toy drive for Fayette Cares
  • Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation – Painted playground equipment for local schools
  • Fayetteville Public Utilities – Assisted Hands of Mercy Outreach’s mobile food pantry
  • Gibson Electric Membership Corporation – Provided classroom supplies for Samburg and Hornbeak areas of Obion County
  • Holston Electric Cooperative – Restoration work at Crockett Springs Park
  • Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooeprative – Multiple litter pick up projects in Hickman and Humphreys counties, food bank projects in Hickman and Lewis counties. Additional projects in Perry and Houston counties.
  • Middle Tennessee Electric – Habitat for Humanity build in Lebanon, Scholastic Book Fairs in Woodbury and Christiana, Discovery Center’s Lantern Parade in Murfreesboro
  • Pickwick Electric Cooperative – Assisted the Jesus Cares Thrift Store
  • Plateau Electric Cooperative – Volunteer work in Scott and Morgan counties
  • Powell Valley Electric Co-op – Lunch for first responders in New Tazewell and Jonesville
  • Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative – Provided meals for veterans, assisted with renovation of a senior center’s garden, building beds for Sleep in Heavenly Peace and work with local animal shelter
  • Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation – Support for Breast Cancer Awareness Day
  • Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association – Volunteering at local domestic violence shelter and The Store free community grocery
  • Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation – Beautification project in Livingston, lunch for front line workers and boxing and landscaping at a food bank
  • Volunteer Energy Cooperative – Donations to food banks in Spring City, Decatur, Georgetown, Benton, Cleveland, Crossville and White County

Dave Cross, CEO Plateau Electric Cooperative and Board President, TECA

Vince Lombardi, famed coach of the Green Bay Packers, once said, “Success demands singleness of purpose.” The purpose of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives — the reason we exist — is to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy and improve the lives of the people we serve.

October is National Co-op Month, which is the perfect time to consider how our purpose impacts almost everything we do.

Co-ops are consumer-owned.

Electric co-ops are owned by the people we serve, not by the government or investors. Co-op members elect directors to represent their interests and set policy and procedures for the co-op. This focus on our consumers makes co-ops far more responsive to the people and places we serve.

Co-ops are not-for-profit.

Co-ops serve their communities instead of shareholders. We distribute and sell energy to our members at cost and invest excess revenues back into the electric system. All of this means that our consumer-owners pay less for energy — 15 percent below the national average.

Co-ops are community-focused.

Electric co-ops work to improve everyday life in our rural and suburban communities. We do this through reliable energy and investments in education and community development.

Later this month, cooperatives across the state will participate in the Tennessee Electric Co-op Day of Service, an intentional effort to get our hands dirty by serving our communities. This is a small but real example of the many ways our co-ops impact the communities we serve.

According to Coach Lombardi, if you wish to be successful, you need to first identify your one true purpose.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are successful because we have identified that purpose. It is not serving shareholders in another state. It is not making a profit. It is not pushing a political agenda.

Our business model is unique. It is pragmatic, mission-oriented and people-focused.

Our one true purpose is serving our members, and I hope that is seen in everything we do.

Chris Kirk has been named editor of The Tennessee Magazine, replacing Robin Conover who retired at the end of September.

Kirk joined the magazine team as field editor in May of 2005 and has served as associate editor since 2011.

“Chris is a journalist of integrity who has been an asset for the magazine for many years,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, publisher of the magazine. “He has shown tremendous skill, commitment and passion, and I know the magazine will thrive under his leadership.”

Kirk follows in the footsteps of his father, Jerry Kirk, who also served as editor of The Tennessee Magazine in the late 1980s.

“As far as I’m concerned, I step into this new role as a steward of the quality, informational, entertaining publication that for 65 years has been telling the stories of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and the communities they serve,” says Kirk.

With more than 775,000 subscribers and 1.7 million monthly readers, The Tennessee Magazine is the state’s most widely circulated periodical. The magazine is published by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association has named Trent Scott vice president of communications. He joined the staff of the association in 2011 and was most recently vice president of corporate strategy.

Scott will lead the association’s internal and external communication activities, including the publication of The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated monthly periodical.

“Over the past decade Trent has been instrumental in positioning TECA as a nationally recognized leader in the electric cooperative community,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “His dedication has greatly improved our outreach and raised our visibility through programs such as the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Day of Service. The state’s co-ops and the consumers they serve will benefit from Trent taking ownership of all of TECA’s communication efforts.”

“I grew up around this industry,” says Scott, whose father was a lineman for Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Henderson. “From energy to broadband, this is a dynamic time for electric co-ops and the state’s rural and suburban communities. It is a privilege to help co-ops highlight the impact they have on the people and places they serve. Tennessee’s electric co-ops have a great story to tell.”

Electric cooperatives serve more than 2.5 million consumers and 72 percent of Tennessee. 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.

 

NASHVILLE – Sixty-five volunteer lineworkers from six electric co-ops across Tennessee are heading to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to assist with Hurricane Ian recovery efforts. Sixteen lineworkers from three additional electric co-ops are waiting to be assigned.

The Category 4 hurricane brought strong wind, historic storm surge, significant rainfall and widespread power outages to Florida. Tennessee electric co-ops 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.

Assisting Edisto Electric Cooperative in Bamberg, South Carolina, are:

  • 12 lineworkers from Appalachian Electric Cooperative in New Market
  • Eight from Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Clarksville

Assisting Okefenoke Rural Electric Membership Corporation in Nahunta, Georgia, are:

  • Seven lineworkers from Fayetteville Public Utilities
  • 10 from Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville

Assisting Black River Electric Cooperative in Sumter, South Carolina, are:

  • Eight lineworkers from Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville

Assisting Palmetto Electric Cooperative in Hardeeville, South Carolina, are:

  • 20 lineworkers from Middle Tennessee Electric in Murfreesboro

Volunteered and waiting for assignment are:

  • Four lineworkers from Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton
  • Four from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville
  • Eight from Plateau Electric Cooperative in Onieda

NASHVILLE – Today the state of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced that electric cooperatives will receive $198 million in grants to expand broadband across rural Tennessee. The grants are part of $446 million awarded through the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund using funds provided by the American Rescue Plan.

“This is a historic day for electric co-ops and the communities we serve,” says Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We commend our partners at the Department of Economic and Community Development for their focus on broadband expansion, and we are honored by the extraordinary trust they place in electric co-ops.”

The funds will be used to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the state. 11 co-ops were awarded grants for 33 individual projects that will soon bring critical broadband service to rural areas across Tennessee.

Electric co-ops were the big winners of today’s announcement. “Electric co-ops received 44 percent of the funds awarded today – more than any other group of providers in the state,” says Knotts. “We have demonstrated our unique ability to construct broadband networks quickly and efficiently. These grant awards are a testament to the incredible efforts of individual electric co-op teams across the state, and this announcement should be celebrated by thousands of Tennessee families and businesses that will soon have fast, reliable and affordable broadband options.”

A list of cooperatives and their affiliated organizations receiving grants is below.

  • $8,631,244, Appalachian Electric Cooperative/Trilight
  • $13,134,933, Chickasaw Electric Cooperative
  • $17,500,000, Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation
  • $8,899,590, Fayetteville Public Utilities
  • $2,071,780, Gibson Electric Membership Corporation
  • $53,362,147, Middle Tennessee Electric/United Communications
  • $4,500,000, Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative
  • $13,128,551, Powell Valley Electric Cooperative/Scott County Telephone
  • $19,184,039, Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation/Aeneas
  • $21,847,496, Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative
  • $15,397,511, Volunteer Energy Cooperative
  • $20,168,743, Bolivar Energy Authority/Aeneas

 

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

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Trent Scott | Vice President of Communications | 615.515.5534 | [email protected]

 

 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, electric vehicle (EV) sales doubled from 2020 to 2021, reaching a record high of 608,000 sales. Sales of internal combustion engine vehicles grew by only 3% the same year.

The number of EVs on the road will continue to grow over the next five to 10 years, and many brands have pledged to convert to manufacturing only EVs within the next three to 12 years.

Part of this sales growth stems from more choices in the EV market. Today, more than 80 base models of sedans, SUVs and minivans are available. The number of automakers that are exclusively manufacturing plug-in vehicles is also increasing, from recognizable brands like Tesla to growing brands like Rivian, Polestar, Karma and Lucid. Ford introduced its now sold-out F-150 Lightning in April and is already taking orders for 2023.

While the EV market is growing, it has some challenges to overcome before broader adoption takes place. The upfront cost of an EV is more expensive than a comparable gas-powered vehicle, and many EVs are limited to a driving range of 250 miles on average––though there are exceptions. Some automakers offer EV models with ranges over 300 miles and a handful are approaching 400.

Ford, Hyundai, Kia and Nissan offer EV models that are priced around $30,000, and available federal tax credits can bring the initial costs down considerably. EV range numbers are approaching those of a tank of gas, but EVs require more time to charge compared to a gas-powered vehicle’s quick fill-up. Even at the fastest charging level, it takes approximately 20 minutes to charge 80% capacity. This makes EVs suitable for daily driving needs like commuting or running errands but less suitable for longer road trips.

Access to publicly available charging stations is not as plentiful or as geographically accessible as gas stations, which makes using an EV for an extended road trip less straightforward. However, The Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy have teamed up to offer grants to help states and local partners, including electric cooperatives, to develop a national charging network with EV chargers located every 50 miles on interstates. The goal is to place EV chargers where they make the most sense in terms of business or recreational activities. National parks, convenience stores and local businesses could be popular stops for EV charging.

Compared to a standard wall outlet, charging times can be shortened by using a Level 2 charger. Level 1 chargers are the standard charger that come with an EV and provide about 40 miles of range after eight hours of charging. Level 2 chargers provide about 25 miles per charging hour. They consume a lot of power over a short amount of time and require local electric infrastructure to support the increased energy load.

If you’re considering a Level 2 charger, make sure your home’s electrical system is in good shape and give your electric co-op a heads up. This allows the utility to ensure the transformer in your neighborhood can safely and reliably provide power––and your neighbors will thank you.

Katherine Loving writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives

Stories of how critters and co-ops care for each other

One Monday morning last summer, a young male brown bear climbed to the top of an electric co-op utility pole in Arizona—presumably to see what he could see.

But when two co-op employees spotted the creature, they knew it was nothing to joke about. His arms were draped between the crosspieces, paws resting on the pole’s neutral conductor, head next to an energized 7,200-volt line. “If he touched it, he would have been dead,” said one of the workers.

So, they de-energized the line and called in 18-year co-op veteran Werner Neubauer. It wasn’t his first rodeo, er, animal rescue. He’d also saved cats, raccoons and even a bobcat.

A co-op bucket truck hoisted Neubauer, 8-foot-long fiberglass hot stick in hand, to meet the bear. The bear tucked his face under his front arm, covering his eyes.

“Alright, little bear. Time to get off this pole,” Neubauer encouraged. The bear nipped and grabbed at the stick, but Neubauer finally nudged him down, where he ran off into the desert.

Out in the country, animals are everywhere.

Animal encounters are nothing new for electric co-ops. Getting their start in the 1930s to serve rural areas that had no electricity, they’ve always been close to the land, and its creatures. From bears to butterflies and sheep to seabirds, electric co-ops have a track record of showing they understand the importance of caring for wildlife.

Janelle Lemen, regulatory director for environmental policy at the National Rural Electric Association (NRECA), describes how co-ops across the country take actions like building nesting platforms for ospreys and falcons, and modifying electrical structures to reduce potential electrocutions of birds. Co-ops coordinate those efforts nationwide though NRECA’s membership, since 1989, in an organization called the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee.

Co-ops also regularly work with other state, local and federal wildlife agencies to come up with the best ways to coexist with wildlife.

Lemen says, “Electric co-ops have a long history of implementing conservation efforts to benefit America’s wildlife and other natural resources.”

One part of that history is an annual week-long Pollinator Power Party. Co-ops know a lot of us love butterflies and bees, and that both are essential to the ecosystems that pollinate plants. So, several electric co-ops have become part of a group called the Pollinator Partnership to increase awareness of bee and butterfly habitats.

Grazing under solar panels

A more direct interest between co-ops and wildlife comes in the form of protecting birds from high-voltage equipment, both for the birds’ own safety and to keep animal electrocutions from causing power outages.

Co-ops in several states have built platforms to keep ospreys and other birds from nesting on power lines. An electric co-op in Hawaii has even experimented with a laser fence system to keep seabirds from colliding with power lines.

And it’s not always the co-ops protecting animals. Sometimes the critters help out the co-ops.

As solar energy use grows across the country, some co-ops are getting the grass under photovoltaic panels trimmed by goats and sheep. Well, maybe not goats so much. With co-ops and other utilities finding economic and environmental benefits to grazing under and around solar panels, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory actually conducted a study called Solar Sheep and Voltaic Veggies: Uniting Solar Power and Agriculture. Among its conclusions: “Sheep have often proven to be the best tenants of the land. Horses can be picky about what they eat, cows are large and require a lot of space, and goats tend to chew on wires and climb on panels.”

Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives.

Some temptations are hard to resist. For me, it can be especially challenging to turn down that last piece of chocolate cake.

While driving, we typically hear that “ding” on our phone, alerting us to a text or call coming through, and we sometimes feel the urgent need to check it. We know we shouldn’t, but we reason that we’re going to make an exception––just this once.

So, why do we indulge in behavior we know to be wrong, dangerous and in many states, illegal? Call it hubris. According to AAA research, most people feel they are better-than-average drivers. Afterall, we have busy lives and are accustomed to multitasking. But mounds of research and thousands of deaths every year prove otherwise.

August is Back to School Safety Month. As a new school year begins with young drivers and school buses back on the road, I thought it would be a good time to remind folks, including myself, of the dangers of distracted driving.

The reality is that using a phone while driving creates enormous potential for injuries and fatalities. Distractions take a motorist’s attention off driving, which can make a driver miss critical events, objects and cues, potentially leading to a crash.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one of every 10 fatal crashes in the U.S. involves distracted driving, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths annually. I find this statistic heartbreaking considering so many of these accidents could easily be avoided if we’d simply put down our phones while driving.

Distracted driving is considered any activity that diverts our attention, including texting or talking on the phone, and adjusting the navigation or entertainment system. Texting is by far one of the most dangerous distractions. Sending or reading one text takes your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

In addition to refraining from texting while driving, we can help keep the roads safe by moving over for first responders and other emergency vehicles. Additionally, if you see utility crews conducting work near the roadside, I’d encourage you to move over when possible and give them extra space to perform their work safely.

For Tennessee’s electric co-ops, safety is foremost in everything we do––for our employees and the members of the communities we serve. We routinely remind our crews of the dangers of distracted driving, and we hope you’ll have similar conversations with your teens who may be new to the roadways and are especially susceptible to the lure of technology.

Let’s work together to keep everyone safe on the roads. Remember: that text can wait and waiting just might save a life.

Anne Prince writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives.

The Hickman County Rescue Squad recently received support from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative with a donation of $1,500 through its community involvement fund. Pictured from left: MLEC District Manager Matthew Chessor, MLEC Director Johnnie Ruth Elrod, Hickman County Rescue Squad’s Tim Jackson and Chief Toby Warren; MLEC President and CEO Keith Carnahan; and MLEC Directors Wayne Qualls and Dr. Zack Hutchens.

David Callis

NASHVILLE – During a board meeting on Thursday, June 2, David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, announced that he would be retiring in March of 2023. Callis was appointed to this role in 2012.

“Under David’s leadership, TECA has continued its long tradition of advocating for rural communities and protecting the interests of Tennessee’s electric co-ops,” said Dave Cross, CEO of Plateau Electric Cooperative and chairman of TECA’s board of trustees. “He’s been a proponent for co-ops at the state and national levels, always highlighting the qualities that make co-ops unique – local ownership, local control and service to members. David believes in putting people first and leads with empathy. The Board thanks him for his service to the association and Tennessee’s rural and suburban communities, and we wish David and Amanda the very best in the years ahead.”

The TECA board of trustees has started a search to find a new leader for the association.

Robin Conover

Robin Conover, vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine, also announced plans to retire in August of 2022. She joined the magazine team in 1988 and has served as editor since 2002.

“Hundreds of thousands of readers have been fortunate to experience Tennessee’s woods, waters and wildlife through the lens of Robin Conover’s camera,” says Callis. “She is the heart and soul of The Tennessee Magazine and has been rural Tennessee’s official storyteller for three decades. Her knowledge, skill and wisdom will be missed.”

Conover will remain an important freelance contributor to the magazine.

Dyersburg – Sen. Bill Hagerty met with Arkansas and Tennessee co-op leaders Monday at the ERMCO distribution transformer manufacturing plant in Dyersburg, Tenn., to discuss how global supply chain disruptions and labor shortages have impacted critical infrastructure.

Distribution transformers like the ones made by cooperative-owned ERMCO are an essential component to the power grid. Transformers convert high voltage power into something that can be safely managed inside a home or business. Every home, farm and business in Tennessee depends on transformers for the reliable and safe delivery of energy.

Global supply chain issues and labor shortages have created challenges for ERMCO to meet skyrocketing demand for their products. “Demand is simply outpacing our ability to manufacture transformers,” says Tim Mills, President and CEO of ERMCO. “2020 and 2021 were both record years in terms of production, but we are turning away about 40 percent of our orders because we don’t have the capacity to fulfill them.”

“Labor is our greatest need,” says Jeff Hammons, COO of ERMCO. “We have 70 unfilled positions on our production line now. We have space to add additional lines, but we are not confident that we could find qualified labor to run them.”

During his visit, Sen. Hagerty toured the ERMCO facility and participated in an extended conversation about supply chain issues and their impact on the power grid.

“As was made strikingly clear by my visit to ERMCO, stable supply chains are key to secure critical infrastructure, including electric distribution,” says Sen. Hagerty. “The gravity of the supply chain-electric distribution relationship affirms the need for legislative solutions that address today’s supply chain crisis and prevent new disruptions going forward.”

Thanks to the efforts of ERMCO and other suppliers, Tennessee’s electric co-ops have managed supply chain disruptions with limited impact to consumers. “We have been fortunate so far, but we are one ice storm or tornado outbreak away from real issues,” says Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, “ It is a serious situation, and we appreciate Sen. Hagerty and our co-op partners at ERMCO for their efforts to develop meaningful solutions.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives awarded $16,000 in scholarships to Washington Youth Tour delegates on Monday evening, June 20, in Washington, D.C.

Camden Robertson, a senior from Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Robertson was a 2021 winner of the Electric Cooperative Creative Writing Contest. Delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperative during their Senior year and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Robertson’s name was randomly selected from among the 14 delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

Trace Gearlds from Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation, Malcom Gora from Caney Fork Electric Cooperative and Brayden Rouse from Forked Deer 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 thousands of papers submitted across the state for this year’s contest.

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.

Forty-nine high school Juniors from across the state are in the nation’s capital this week for the 2022 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.

“Investing in these young people is a sound strategy that will pay dividends for rural Tennessee,” 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.”

TRENTON, Tenn. — Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced today that Gibson Electric Membership Corporation has been awarded a grant of $4,650,880 through the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Program.  The grant will help build a broadband infrastructure to make high-speed, fiber-based internet service available to 1,763 Gibson EMC member-owners in Kentucky.

“We are thrilled that we will receive Kentucky Broadband Deployment Program funds for this important project,” said Dan Rodamaker, President and CEO of Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and Gibson Connect (Gibson EMC’s broadband subsidiary).  “Our member-owners desperately need high-speed, fiber-based internet service; and it will vastly improve the quality of life in our communities by providing opportunities for education, healthcare, jobs, entertainment and more. We sincerely thank all those who have made the grant possible and particularly Governor Andy Beshear, our legislators and members of the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority,” Rodamaker said.  “We also are grateful to our local leadership for their support and to our members for their patience as we have worked to provide broadband service as economically as possible.”

Rodamaker said Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect anticipate being able to start construction mid-July, after receiving the grant parameters and signing the grant contract. “We’ll communicate more details about the buildout soon,” he said.

“Access to high-speed internet service is truly transformational,” said Rodamaker, “and an important part of having access is affordability.  We’re working hard to manage the cost of our broadband buildout and to also enable access,” he said.  “This is why Gibson Connect offers both the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the Lifeline discounts to qualifying members to lower the cost of its residential internet plans.”

Rodamaker said Gibson EMC already has invested $3.9 million on a broadband middle-mile network in its Kentucky service area and will match the Kentucky broadband grant (of $4.6 million) with $6.4 million for a total investment of $15 million.  He said this grant award moves Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect a step closer to the ultimate goal of making the essential service of high-speed, fiber-based internet available to every Gibson EMC member.

Gibson Connect is a wholly-owned, not-for-profit subsidiary of Gibson EMC.  It was formed to make high-speed, fiber-based internet service available to members of Gibson EMC.  Members can register for internet, phone and TV service at join.gibsonconnect.com or by calling 731-562-6000.  Registration is just $20 and will apply toward a member’s first Gibson Connect bill when service is received.  Sign up now to ensure you receive service as quickly as possible.

Gibson EMC is a local, not-for-profit, member-owned and member-controlled electric cooperative serving more than 39,000 homes and businesses in four west Kentucky counties (Carlisle, Fulton, Graves and Hickman) and eight west Tennessee counties (Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Haywood, Lake, Lauderdale, Obion and Madison).

NASHVILLE – Seventy-two student-delegates, teachers and co-op advisors from across Tennessee are headed to Washington, D.C., as a part of the 2022 Washington Youth Tour. The annual event, which begins today, provides young leaders with an opportunity to explore the nation’s capital, learn about government and develop their leadership skills. This is the first youth tour since 2019.

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 – Building a Brighter Tennessee” that explains how co-ops are investing in the future of their communities.

Delegates on this year’s trip will visit museums and monuments, including the Smithsonian museum complex, the White House and the Capitol Building. The group is also scheduled to meet with members of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation.

“We are very excited about the 2022 youth tour,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and tour director. “Our team, our co-ops and our youth tour partners have worked hard to put together a trip that will be both safe and memorable for this year’s delegates. Thanks to the flexibility and cooperation of our hotel, bus company, airlines and venues, this year’s itinerary looks very similar to that of previous years.”

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.

“We all know the impact that youth tour can have on young people,” says Blocker. “We are thrilled to be able to help these delegates learn more about public policy, history, leadership and cooperatives.”

Centerville, TN —  John Brennan of rural Hickman County is Meriwether Lewis Connect’s 10,000th subscriber. Service was installed June 2, 2022.

“When Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative announced it was bringing broadband, I thought I hope I live to see it, and now here it is,” says Brennan. “MLConnect will allow me to stream and surf the Internet, while also saving on subscription services. It is a significant upgrade and opportunity for our rural communities and gives us the flexibility to work in a place we love to live.”

Formed in 2018 in response to MLEC members requesting fiber-to-the-home, MLConnect’s goal was to finish construction in all five counties by the end of 2022. The first in-home installation happened in March 2019, and the final phase of construction (Hickman County) is on target to finish later this year. In-home and business installations will be ongoing.

“We appreciate everyone’s support of the MLConnect broadband project and what we’re trying to accomplish for those we serve,” says MLEC President and CEO Keith Carnahan. “We’re working as quickly as we can to make fast, affordable, reliable broadband an option for MLEC members.”

MLEC is a member-owned, not-for-profit electric utility that serves more than 34,500 meters in Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lewis and Perry counties. We are helping build brighter futures and make connections possible for those we serve. Learn more at mlec.com.

Summertime seems to be getting hotter every year. This season, prepare your home in advance so relying more and more on your air conditioning won’t show up as much on your electric bill.

Here are five ways to give you’re A/C a break this summer:

  1. Call an HVAC technician. A professional can examine your system and let you know what needs repairing or replacing, which can prevent a mid-summer breakdown.
  2. Change or clean air filters. When filters do their job properly, they trap dirt, pet hair and anything else that’s floating in the air from recirculating into your home when the air conditioner is blowing. But dirty filters can prevent air from flowing, too, which makes the A/C have to work extra hard to cool your house. The solution: Change or clean your filters once a month during the summer.
  3. Run ceiling fans. When the A/C is running at the same time as a ceiling fan, the room where the fan is located will feel cool enough that you can raise the thermostat by about 4 degrees. A fan doesn’t cool the air, but it creates a breeze that makes anyone in the room feel cooler.
  4. Install a dehumidifier. Another great partner for the A/C is an energy-efficient dehumidifier. Lowering the humidity in your home helps the air conditioner work more efficiently because it doesn’t have to waste energy removing moisture from the air and can concentrate on simply cooling it.
  5. Don’t create heat. On days when it’s warm enough to turn on the air conditioner, turn off your oven, clothes dryer, lamps and other appliances that create heat. Wait until after dark, when the day cools off a bit, before running heat-producing machines.

We pack a suitcase when we’re headed out on vacation, of course. We pack a bag when we know ahead of time that we’ll be hospitalized for a surgical procedure. Soon-to-be empty-nesters watch anxiously as their college-age kid packs all that’s necessary to furnish a dorm room. And as that delivery date approaches, every expectant mother has a bag packed and ready for when Mother Nature says, “It’s time.”  

But there’s another kind of packed bag that can come in handy: The one you stock to be prepared in the event of a prolonged power outage. 

“We hope our members never need to rely on those kinds of supplies,” says Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “But we’d prefer that they have it and not need it instead of the other way around.” 

Depending on the time of year and your family’s needs, here’s a list of some common items that will prove very useful if electricity is unavailable for an extended period of time: 

  • Flashlights/batteries 
  • Long-burning candles and lighter or matches 
  • Water (one gallon per person per day) 
  • Nonperishable food/pantry items and a manual can opener 
  • First-aid kit 
  • Wet wipes/hand sanitizer 
  • Weather radio 
  • Portable phone charger 
  • Headlamps, deck of cards, portable battery-operated fan 

Scott stresses the need to check your power outage bag periodically, even if the need to use it hasn’t arisen: “You’ll want to be sure that expiration dates haven’t passed and that batteries are still good. And there’s one last critical piece of advice I can’t stress enough: Make sure everyone in your family knows the location of this bag, box or tote. It can’t help you if you’ve forgotten where you put it!”