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.

Michael Watson serves as president and CEO of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation in Shelbyville, Tenn., and as the board chairman of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

Amazon recently announced that it will build a new operations center in Nashville. This is big news for the entire state as the project will bring more than 5,000 jobs and millions of dollars in investment to the region. Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis have recently made headlines for industry announcements as well.

This attention on the state’s urban centers makes it easy to think that you can only find opportunity in a big city. We shouldn’t think that, though, because opportunity is all around us.

Last year, nearly half of all new jobs in Tennessee — more than 9,700 — were created in the state’s rural and suburban counties. These communities may not be growing as fast as Nashville or Knoxville, but you don’t have to look too hard to see good things happening right here.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives provide energy to rural Tennessee, but our interest in the communities we serve goes far beyond power. We are working to be sure that our part of the state is strong and well prepared to compete in the modern economy.

In November, I attended the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting in Nashville. The theme for the event was “Power and Opportunity,” and it was a good reminder of the impact our cooperatives have on the communities we serve.

We provide more than power. We provide power and opportunity.

Our economic development efforts help bring new jobs to our service area.

The things that happen in rural areas may not get as much attention as those in Nashville, but what goes on in our service areas matters.

Our youth programs help young people develop important leadership skills. In 2018, Tennessee cooperatives sent more than 130 young people to Washington, D.C., to learn about government and public policy. Each co-op also sent two high school students to Nashville for the Tennessee Electric Co-op Youth Leadership Summit to strengthen their leadership and networking skills.

The things that happen in rural areas may not get as much attention as those in Nashville, but what goes on in our service areas matters. It matters to the people who live there, and it matters to our co-ops.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives want to see the communities we serve succeed. We want them to be places where businesses thrive, families prosper and opportunities are abundant.

Last month, our nation did what we’ve only done a handful of times — said a final goodbye to a president. In ceremonies public and private, coupled with a national day of mourning, we celebrated the life of President George H.W. Bush.

Reflecting on someone’s life provides a perspective that levels things out. It’s not that we forget their shortcomings; it’s more that we forgive them as we consider the whole of their time with us.

President Bush lived quite a life. Any one of his positions would serve as the crowning achievement for most of us. That he attained the presidency, however, wasn’t his most cherished goal. He served in many other roles: naval aviator, congressman, CIA director and vice president. How he wanted to be remembered was more important than the position — whether as father, grandfather or even president of the United States. It was to be a decent and honorable man in every situation or vocation.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association invited presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham to speak at our annual meeting in November. You can view the highlights of that event below.

Meacham is a close friend of the Bush family, and he was one of four people asked to deliver eulogies at President Bush’s funeral. In eulogizing him, Meacham said that Bush’s “life code,” as the former president described, was, “Tell the truth. Don’t blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Try hard. Forgive. Stay the course.”

If you don’t think that’s how a leader should act, you’re doing it wrong.

As we enter a new year, we still face the same challenges with which we ended 2018. Politically, we have new leaders who will have to deal with economic, budgetary and social issues that impact us all — and each other. There is no indication that dealing with any of these issues is going to be easy or dealt with quickly. The problems might not be as challenging as how we approach them.

Let’s hope our current leaders have the wisdom to follow Bush’s example: the nation over politics, people over party.

Once again, quoting Meacham, “Abraham Lincoln’s ‘better angels of our nature’ and George H.W. Bush’s ‘thousand points of light’ are companion verses in America’s national hymn. For Lincoln and Bush both called on us to choose the right over the convenient, to hope rather than to fear and to heed not our worst impulses but our best instincts.”

You don’t have to be president to have an impact. In everything you do, you can have an impact on someone else. In fact, if you do as Bush did and “tell the truth, be strong, do your best and forgive,” I guarantee it will have an impact on everyone with whom you come in touch.

I’ve said it before — we can disagree without being disagreeable. Let’s at least begin 2019 with that attitude. Go with your best instinct, and let that instinct be one of kindness.

Scenes from the 2018 TECA Annual Meeting

The 2018 annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association was held Sunday, Nov. 18, through Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Nashville. The event brings community and co-op leaders together to discuss energy, broadband, community development, technology and other issues important to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives. This event is designed to help local co-op leaders better serve their co-ops and their communities, and we applaud their investment in education and training.

Presidential historian Jon Meacham talks about the strength of our nation and the dangers of partisanship.
A panel of community leaders help co-ops understand how to better support the areas they serve.
TECA CEO David Callis, left, and Board President Michael Watson discuss opportunities during the business meeting.
A panel of co-op directors describe their decisions to invest in broadband.
Dr. Peter Muhoro with the Cooperative Finance Corporation highlights new technologies that will impact electric co-ops.
TECA Board President Michael Watson challenges co-op leaders to engage with their communities.
Co-op directors and staff network and share ideas during the annual meeting.
Washington Youth Tour delegate Maria Howard talks about the impact the trip had on her life.


Shelby Vannoy

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, a trade association representing the state’s 23 electric cooperatives, announced recently that Shelby Vannoy is joining the association as political affairs coordinator.

Vannoy will assist with the association’s legislative and grassroots efforts. “I am honored to join the staff at TECA,” says Vannoy. “Their advocacy efforts give a voice to 2.5 million co-op consumers across the state. I look forward to working with co-ops to ensure that rural and suburban issues are heard on the state and federal level.”

Vannoy is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee Martin with a degree in agricultural business.

“The decisions made in Nashville and Washington, D.C., can have a significant impact on the consumers we serve,” says Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs for TECA. “It is important for co-ops to be engaged with lawmakers, and we are excited that Shelby is joining our team.”

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

Evolving technology is changing how energy is generated and distributed through the electric grid to homes and businesses. These changes have brought new challenges and opportunities to electric co-ops working to keep pace with the evolving landscape.

Within the electric cooperative workforce, new skills and experience are needed to help co-ops meet shifting market and consumer demands. This is why electric co-ops are recruiting fresh talent to help us provide even greater value to our members.

Co-ops are owned by the people we serve. This subtle fact impacts everything that happens at the cooperative.

People – the consumers we serve – always come before profits, and our employees are serious about the responsibility that we have to provide power to our communities. The work that we do not only makes life more comfortable and convenient, but we also make the hospitals operate, the factories run and the cell phones, computers and other technology that we rely on each day function.

Our employees power everyday life for our region. It is a serious – and sometimes hazardous – job that is incredibly rewarding and full of opportunity.

There is a broad range of highly-trained professionals working behind the scenes at your local co-op.

Lineworkers are the most visible and identifiable employees of the co-op, but their responsibilities go far beyond climbing poles and repairing lines. They can also pinpoint an outage from miles away and restore power remotely.

Experts in information technology are increasingly important to safeguard the grid and protect data and other sensitive cyber assets. Engineers provide ongoing expertise and guidance on the operations side of the utility, particularly as system upgrades and more renewable energy choices become available.

Professionals in business administration, communication and digital media help co-ops deliver messages through multiple platforms and keep members informed of critical information in today’s 24/7 media environment.

Electric co-ops are looking for people with technical skills who also understand our mission to serve our communities and members.

Simply put, we believe co-ops build a better world, and we are looking for talented people to join us. Contact your local co-op to learn more about a career that is close to home, but far from ordinary.