The best way to celebrate democracy is by encouraging full participation in public life. That’s why Tennessee’s electric co-ops are supporting National Voter Registration Day on September 22, 2020.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than 70% of eligible American citizens of voting age – 18 and over – were registered to vote in 2018. That means that up to 30% have not filed the required applications with their counties, parishes or states of local voter registrar’s offices, which are essential for making our voices as meaningful in American life as they might be.

We’re among thousands of organizations committed to making September 22 the most successful National Voter Registration Day in history, because we believe its goals are more important than ever before. Here’s why:

Unusual Year-Unexpected Changes

While 2020 began as a very active political year, disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic concerns altered the campaign plans of many candidates. They also dramatically reduced overall access to voter registration forms through department of motor vehicle offices, public libraries and schools.

Suspension of on-site classes at many high schools prevented guidance counselors and government teachers from passing out registration applications to students who reached voting age this spring and summer.

Voter education efforts by churches or by state and local officials who normally would have booked space at community events to encourage community outreach found many of those events scaled back or canceled throughout spring and summer.

Lingering concerns about a resurgence of COVID-19 cases this autumn continue to fuel uncertainties on exactly how polling locations will operate or just how states and other jurisdictions will handle absentee and mail-in balloting.

The Challenge Ahead

“According to the PEW Charitable Trust’s state-by-state comparison of voter turnout for the 2014 midterm elections, Tennessee was dead last at just 28.5 percent,” said Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Increasing overall participation in the election process begins with registering as many eligible voters as possible.”

That’s the goal of National Voter Registration Day. Recognized as a civic holiday since 2012, the annual event has served as a rallying point for voter registration initiatives supported by a network of nonpartisan organizations committed to increasing overall participation in the electoral process.

“Voting is central to American democracy,” said Laura Vogel, a senior political affairs advisor at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “That’s why many electric cooperatives and their statewide associations are committed to making this year’s National Voter Registration Day the most successful event ever.”

Vogel, who represents electric co-ops on the National Voter Registration Day steering committee has worked with co-ops in [State] and throughout the nation to help develop new and effective ways to encourage co-op members to participate in local, state and national politics.

“Since 2012, National Voter Registration Day awareness efforts have helped to register more than 3 million voters,” said Vogel. “This year, we’re putting even more emphasis on digital engagement, because 41 states and the District of Columbia allow voters to register online.”

Many electric co-ops are using their social media pages to promote voter registration, and encouraging political engagement with articles in their newsletters, on their websites and with bill attachments or point of contact brochures and leaflets.

“More than 20,000 volunteers are committed to promotion of National Voter Registration Day,” said Vogel. “In the weeks ahead, electric co-ops will be promoting webinars on digital organizing and working closely with community organizations and businesses that are likely to remain open even if a resurgence of COVID-19 pandemic concerns occurs this autumn.”

“National Voter Registration Day is a great opportunity for us all to begin focusing on the most important aspects of this political season,” said Scott.  “This nonpartisan program promotes participation, and that includes ensuring that those who are registered to vote stay abreast of any changes that we might see in how to legally cast ballots in our state on election day.”

Remember to mark your calendar for National Voter Registration Day on September 22, and together, let’s enjoy the rights and opportunities we all share as Americans and celebrate our democracy. To learn more about National Voter Registration Day, visit www.nationalvoterregistrationday.org.

Derrill Holly writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

NASHVILLE – Sixty-eight volunteer lineworkers from seven electric co-ops across Tennessee are heading to Alabama to assist with Hurricane Sally recovery efforts.

The Category 2 hurricane brought strong wind, significant rainfall and widespread power outages to the Alabama Gulf Coast. Tennessee 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 Baldwin Electric Membership Corporation in Summerdale, Alabama, are:

  • Seven lineworkers from Chickasaw Electric Cooperative in Somerville
  • Five from Ft. Loudoun Electric Cooperative in Vonore
  • Five from Mountain Electric Cooperative in Mountain City
  • 21 from Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Murfreesboro
  • Five from Pickwick Electric Cooperative in Selmer
  • 13 from Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Carthage
  • 12 from Volunteer Energy Cooperative in Decatur

NASHVILLE – The Cooperative Communicators Association and the Statewide Editors Association recognized the communication efforts of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association in the past week.

The Cooperative Communicators Association, an organization of co-op communicators from all sectors, announced its communication awards on Tuesday, Sept. 15. Highlights of the CCA awards include Cover of the Year to The Tennessee Magazine, Photographer of the Year to Robin Conover, and Best Long-Term Campaign to Trent Scott for TECA’s 2019 Power and Opportunity Campaign. TECA competed against national brands like Dairy Farmers of America, GROWMARK, CoBank and FarmCredit.

The Statewide Editors Association, a national network of electric cooperative statewide magazine editors, announced its annual communication awards during a ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 10.

“We are honored to be recognized by our electric co-op peers,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Communications is a critical part of our work as co-ops. We are fortunate to have a talented and effective team of professional communicators here at TECA, and they take pride in sharing the stories of electric co-ops and the rural communities they serve.”


Awards presented by the Cooperative Communicators Association

Awards presented to the TECA Communications Department were:

  • The Tennessee Magazine was awarded Cover of the Year
  • 2nd place, Programs & Projects, Promotional Video, for the 2019 Washington Youth Tour video
  • 1st place, Publications, Brochures, Pamphlets and One-Time Publications, for the 2019 Tennessee Magazine media kit

Awards presented to Robin Conover were:

  • Robin Conover was awarded Photographer of the Year
  • 2nd place, Photography, Portrait, for Wilson Fly
  • 1st place, Photography, Scenic/Pictorial, for Fog at Sunrise
  • 2nd place, Photography, Scenic/Pictorial, for Smelling the Flowers
  • 3rd place, Photography, Scenic/Pictorial, for Little River
  • 1st place, Photography, Photo Feature, for Sparks Fly
  • 2nd place, Photography, Photo Feature, for Fly General Store
  • 1st place, Photography, Photo Feature, for Welding at Ermco
  • 1st place, Photography, Smartphone, for Washington Youth Tour
  • 3rd place, Photography, Photo Illustration, for Dressed for the Season
  • 1st place, Photography, Photo Essay or Story, for Santa Fe – The Place to Be
  • 2nd place, Best use of Photos in a Publication, for The Tennessee Magazine
  • 2nd place, Publications, Words and Pictures, for Santa Fe
  • 3rd place, Writing, Column or Series, for Point of View

Awards presented to Trent Scott were:

  • 1st place, Programs and Projects, Campaigns and Programs Long-term, for TECA’s Power & Opportunity campaign
  • Honorable Mention, Programs and Projects, Website, for tnelectric.org

Awards presented by the Statewide Editors Association

  • Gold Award, Best Historical Feature, Scopes Trial, to Bill Carey
  • Merit Award, Best Personality Feature, Santa Fe The Place to Be, to Robin Conover
  • Merit Award, Best Column, Point of View, to Robin Conover
  • Gold Award, Best Digital Communication, tnmagazine.org, to Trent Scott

 

Outdoor lighting can have a significant impact on safety and security for both homes and businesses. As the days get shorter and the nights longer, this is a great time to consider outdoor lighting options from your local electric cooperative.

Contact your local office for more information on outdoor lighting. Improving lighting is a low-cost way to significantly improve the safety, security and overall comfort of your home, business or church. Effective lighting can bring the light of day to the darkest nights.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 9, 2020) – Seventy-nine lineworkers from across Tennessee are traveling to Louisiana today to assist with recovery and reconstruction following Hurricane Laura, a powerful Category 4 storm that struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 27. These workers will replace workers from two Tennessee co-ops who have been in Louisiana since shortly after the storm hit.

“The current recovery is going to be long,” said Jeffrey Arnold, CEO of the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives. “We cannot give co-op members an estimate of time other than ‘weeks’ at this moment because of the number of transmission poles and towers that are down and the time and effort it will take to rebuild the power grid.”

Returning home are 18 lineworkers from Plateau Electric Cooperative and Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation who have been assisting Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative in Jennings, Louisiana.

Traveling to assist Jeff David Electric Cooperative in Jennings, Louisiana, are:

  • 10 lineworkers from Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville

Assisting Beauregard Electric Cooperative in DeRidder, Louisiana, are:

  • 11 lineworkers from Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Clarksville
  • Five lineworkers from Duck River Electric Membership Corporation in Shelbyville
  • 10 lineworkers from Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville
  • Five lineworkers from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville
  • 21 lineworkers from Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Murfreesboro
  • Six lineworkers from Mountain Electric Cooperative in Mountain City
  • 10 lineworkers from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative in South Pittsburg

 


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 31, 2020) – Eighteen lineworkers from two Tennessee electric cooperatives are in Louisiana to assist with Hurricane Laura recovery efforts. The powerful hurricane left massive amounts of destruction after it made landfall last week.

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

Crews will be assisting Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative in Jennings, La. Following the storm, JDEC reported that 100 percent of the co-op’s 11,000 meters were without power and more than 1,000 poles had been broken. Tennessee crews are expected to be in Louisiana for seven to 10 days before being replaced with additional Tennessee crews.

“Hurricane Laura left catastrophic damage in its wake,” said Mike Heinen of JDEC. “In response, we’ve launched a massive storm recovery and power restoration effort, assisted by hundreds of personnel from other states. Even so, a full recovery could be weeks away.”

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

Below is a list of Tennessee co-ops providing assistance. This information is likely to change as crews are replaced in the coming weeks.

  • Plateau Electric Cooperative in Onieda, Tenn. – eight lineworkers
  • Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville, Tenn. – 10 lineworkers

 

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today the TVA Board of Directors approved a special $200 million Pandemic Relief Credit for the coming fiscal year. The 2.5% base rate credit will begin in October and remain in effect through most of 2021 for local power companies – including electric cooperatives – served by TVA.

“On behalf of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives, we applaud TVA’s decision to provide $200 million in Pandemic Relief Credits,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Electric co-ops and the homes, businesses and communities we serve face extreme challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The region’s economy is fragile, and the future remains uncertain. Today’s announcement is a positive move that will provide needed relief for many. Co-ops exist to provide power, but in reality, we exist to serve our consumers and our communities. As our wholesale power provider and public power partner, it is essential that TVA shares our vision for reliable power, affordable rates and a vibrant Tennessee economy. We appreciate TVA for providing these resources that will assist the entire region.”

“The continued impact of this pandemic on our communities is unprecedented and creates continued economic uncertainty,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA president and CEO. “Because of the TVA team’s strong operational and financial performance under challenging circumstances this past year, we have an opportunity and responsibility to use TVA’s resources and expertise to provide continued support for customers, businesses and communities.”

Our nation’s farmers have worked for generations in fields across the country. They have seen first-hand how farming equipment has improved over the decades to increase efficiency and to feed an ever-growing population.

A major new change for farming equipment is the trend of switching fossil fuel-powered farming equipment towards electric farming equipment. This trend builds on the idea of beneficial electrification, where switching to an electric end-use technology satisfies at least one of the following conditions with adversely affecting the others: saving consumers money over time, benefiting the environment, improving product quality or consumer quality of life, and fostering a more robust and resilient grid.

Historically, the most common form of electrification for farms has been electric irrigation pumping systems. Irrigation systems are crucial for many farmers and can make or break the crop yield for the entire year. Water heaters are the second most-used forms of electric technology on farms. They can be used for many different purposes, like in dairy farm processing, sterilizing equipment and general cleaning. Choosing an electric water heater for the right application depends on efficiency, size, recovery speed and peak temperature.

There are many benefits of replacing diesel motors with electric motors. Highly efficient electric motors can operate at 90% efficiency, which helps to provide cost savings over time, compared to inefficient diesel motors that only operate at 30% to 40% efficiency. Farmers can simply plug in the electric equipment without needing to refill a diesel tank. One of the greatest benefits of electric motors is they do not emit fumes like diesel motors, which means farmers get to breathe in cleaner air around them. Overall, electric motors are cleaner, quieter and easier to maintain. Some farmers are making the switch to electric tractors as companies like John Deere, AgCo and other companies continue to perfect their own electric models. While electric tractors are more efficient, quieter and better for the environment than conventional diesel tractors, they lack the battery power that many farmers need for a long day of working in the fields.

But the largest barrier of converting to electric technologies is the cost. Both the price of the electric technology itself and for the wiring to connect it to the entire farm can be extremely costly. Even with savings on fuel costs over time, farmers will be reluctant to replace their farming equipment because of high initial costs. However, there are federal and local government programs that can help to lessen the upfront costs for farmers. Electric cooperatives can also help farmers in their local territory with energy audits to identify energy efficiency opportunities, or with applying for funding from federal programs such as the Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP) or the Rural Business Development Grants (RBDG).

Besides electric irrigation systems and water heaters, the availability of other electric farming technologies is much less common, such as grain dryers, thermal electric storage systems and heat pumps. Many of these electric technologies are still in the early stages of commercialization and have not fully entered the agricultural market. The accessibility of these other technologies will depend on a variety of factors, like the type of farm, electricity prices versus fossil fuel prices, and any incentives to decrease upfront costs for buying new equipment. Despite these challenges, there are opportunities for expansion, especially for electric tractors and other electric farm vehicles which are used on many different types of farms. With more time and investment, electric farming equipment will likely become more widespread in the coming years.

Maria Kanevsky is a program analyst for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

We all know the internet can be dangerous and scary, and we’ve all seen the lists of ideas for better cybersecurity.

The problem is, cybersecurity tips aren’t helpful unless we act on them. Sure, we should use long passwords and change them regularly—but will we really do that?

This article includes four tips for making yourself safer from cyber scammers and hackers, but first, let’s look at a few reasons that might encourage you to put those tips into action.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Bad things really can happen on the internet. A smooth-talking con artist on the end of the phone can charm or bully you into revealing your Social Security Number or credit card number, or malware can monitor your keyboard and capture your password to your favorite website. Criminals use this information to access your credit cards and bank accounts, especially if you use the same password for multiple accounts. Children can also be victimized by cyberbullying. Think about what’s on your computer or your smartphone that you don’t want to lose or give away. Keeping those dangers top of mind can help motivate you to take small steps to prevent them.

Make your own rules. When you see a good cyber safety tip but don’t think you’ll really take the advice, figure out a way you might be able to put it into action. Maybe you’re the kind of person who pays attention to a reminder note on your refrigerator. Maybe you know you won’t keep track of different passwords on all your internet-connected devices, but you might be more likely to regularly update a strong password on the server in your home—that can be a good option if all your connections are coming through that one point of entry.

The time is now. Experts warn of a triple-threat these days. First, scammers are taking advantage of COVID-19 uncertainty, from offering phony cures and tests, to promises of financial assistance. Second, with more people working from home due to social distancing, there may be fewer office-based security measures in place. Third, the FBI warns that increased use of mobile banking offers more chances for cybercrime. And if you’re the sort of person who thinks in terms of months, October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which can be a great time to act on this year’s theme, “Do your part #BeCyberSmart—If You Connect It, Protect It.”

So, here are four cybersecurity tips to keep you safe:

Use strong passwords

And change them regularly—many sites and apps make that easy to do by clicking on the “forgot your password” link. The best passwords are at least eight characters and include different types of characters—try using a memorable verse from your favorite song and adding a few numbers and special characters, ($ ! _ &) or even a space. If you are like most people, remembering all your passwords is a challenge. Chose a security option based on the value of what you’re protecting. The options you use to secure your bank and retirement account passwords might be different than how you store your social media passwords. Password apps keep them in one place and may be a great option for some passwords, but you can be in big trouble if you forget the password that lets you into that app. Keeping passwords on paper or a in notebook might be more secure than using the same password for everything, depending on how secure and hidden that paper is from other people at the office or kids at home.

Install software updates

Your apps and operating systems will periodically send updates. Install them—they often include protections against the latest security threats. But remember, those updates come from the apps and not from emails or social media notices. An email containing an update may be a scam—instead of clicking on the link, go to the app’s website to see if there really are updates available.

Use two-factor authentication

That phrase is just a fancy word for a technique that adds an extra layer of security in addition to a password. Banks increasingly use this system—when you try to connect with them, the bank may text a code number to your phone that you type in to complete the sign-in process for your account. Keep in mind that answering a security question is similar to having a password––both are something you know. Answering a security question won’t provide the same level of additional security as that of a second factor. A second factor will be something you have, like your phone to receive a passcode, or something you are, like a biometric fingerprint, in addition to something you know, like a password or security question.

Think before you click

Be wary of any offer or link that comes through the internet, whether by email or social media, or even a phone call instructing you to get online. Don’t click on a link unless you know for certain what it is. Ideally, you should be expecting to receive the link. Even emails from friends should be suspect—hackers can impersonate someone you know to send a link or an attachment—both can result in you downloading malware that can take control of your computer in ways you may not even be able to detect. If you have any doubt, whether it’s a link to a software update or an attachment to a funny cat video, give the sender a phone call to find out if they really sent it or if it’s a scam.

To take advantage of the great promise of the internet, we must also recognize the peril. These are relatively simple steps you can take now to keep yourself reasonably safe.

 

Nashville – State officials on Friday awarded $61 million in emergency broadband grants, with $40 million going to Tennessee’s electric co-ops. The grants were awarded through the recently created Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that broadband is essential for modern life,” said Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “From telemedicine and distance learning to telecommuting and e–commerce, Tennessee’s rural communities must have reliable and affordable access to high–speed internet. Families and businesses in rural communities unfortunately understand what life is like without internet access, so today’s announcement is welcomed news.”

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development worked with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and other stakeholders to develop the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund using a portion of resources allocated to Tennessee through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Recipients must utilize the funds before the end of 2020.

Nearly 70 percent of the funds awarded went to electric cooperatives. “When the state asked ‘Who can build rural broadband quickly?’ they turned to electric co-ops,” said Knotts. “Tennessee’s co-ops are demonstrating their ability to expand access quickly and leverage grant funds for maximum impact. We appreciate the trust and confidence Governor Lee has placed in us through today’s announcement.”

Tennessee’s electric co-ops will immediately begin construction on 29 separate projects to bring broadband to locations that currently do not have access. These projects will enable tens of thousands of people in some of the most remote parts of the state to participate in modern work, education and commerce. Broadband expansion will also improve Tennessee’s ability to respond to current and future public health emergencies.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was approved by Congress on June 4, 1919, but it took more than a year for the measure granting women the right to vote to gain ratification by 36 states. On Aug. 18, 2020, the nation marks the centennial of this human rights milestone.

Rural America was built on and owes much of its success to family-run farms and businesses. While dads and husbands are often celebrated throughout history and heritage, wives and mothers have been full partners in creating thousands of communities. In fact, electric cooperatives have served as incubators for the leadership skills that guide co-op-served communities today.

“Historically, rural wives were always isolated and only had interaction with their husbands and children, but they helped run farms and ranches and ran their homes,” said Betsy Huber, president and CEO of the National Grange.

Founded in 1867, the Grange chapters took root as fraternal community organizations committed to promoting sound agricultural concepts in the North, South and the expanding West.

“From the very beginning, women could hold any office in the Grange,” said Huber. “We have 13 offices, including four that are only open to women.”

By the early 1900s, organizations like the Grange were providing rural women with meaningful leadership opportunities and fueling passions for full engagement in public life that included political participation.

With the rise of suffragist sentiments, the Grange in the early 20th century routinely included women in governance decisions, said Huber. “One of our national agriculture committees early in the last century had six members, three men and three women who reviewed and discussed the resolutions submitted by local Grange chapters that ultimately set policy for the National Grange.”


The Woman Suffrage Monument in Nashville’s Centennial Park features five women who were actually in Nashville during the final ratification effort: Anne Dallas Dudley and Frankie Pierce of Nashville, Sue Shelton White of Jackson, Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga and Carrie Chapman Catt, the national suffrage leader who came to Nashville during the summer of 1920 to direct the pro-suffrage forces and stayed at the Hermitage Hotel.

Among the tarm women embracing the suffragist cause was Febb Ensminger Bum, a widow from Tennessee’s McMimi County who ultimately played a decisive role in earning women die right to vote and forever changing U.S. history.

“Suffrage has interested me for years,” Mrs. Bum once told a reporter.

Between miming her farm and caring for her family, she followed news accounts from Nashville and was turned off by harsh opposition speeches against ratification in the summer of 1920. In August, she penned a seven-page letter to her son, Henry T. Burn, a freshman representative in the House of the Tennessee General Assembly.

“Vote for suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt,” wrote Mrs. Burn to her 24-year-old son. “Don’t forget to be a good boy and help.”

With the letter from his mom in his pocket, Rep. Burn broke a 48–48 deadlock by changing his vote to pass the measure, and women nationwide were guaranteed the right to participate in all national elections.

“I spend a lot of my time encouraging co-op members to contact their legislators, and mother-son influence is a great example of true grassroots activism,” said Amanda Wolfe, a National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) senior political advisor who lives in Nashville.

The area where Mrs. Burn once farmed and raised her family is still served by Decatur-based Volunteer Energy Cooperative, said Wolfe, adding that voters there are still inspired by the state’s role as being the 19th Amendment’s “Perfect 36” — a reference to its decisive ratification role.

“Voting is so much more than just a right; it is a privilege,” said Wolfe. ‘The Suffragettes fought for generations to finally win that privilege 100 years ago, and every time we cast a ballot, we honor their memories.”

When electric cooperatives were organized years later, many of the same principles honored by rural organizations, including recognition of property rights, were among the fundamental tenets included in co-op charters. Family memberships were vested in heads of households, regardless of gender, and women were among the founding members of many electric cooperatives.

When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935, farm magazines quickly published stories about the news. Maye Shaw of Quitman, Texas, was a former teacher and regular reader who knew life on the farm would be easier with electric power.

She wrote Rep. Morgan G. Sanders for information and persuaded her husband, Virgil Shaw, to look into it. By 1937, they both were riding through the surrounding countryside, recruiting members and collecting $5 sign-up fees. Mr. Shaw eventually became the founding general manager of Wood County Electric Cooperative, which now serves nearly 36,000 meters and is still headquartered in Quitman.


Erected in 2018, the Burn Memorial depicts Rep. Harry Burn of Niota and his mother, Febb, and honors each of their roles in the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

“Though it was men who signed their names to charter Taylor EMC (in 1937), women have played a vital role in the cooperative’s development and success,” wrote authors of a 75th anniversary book on the history of Flint Energies. The Reynolds, Georgia-based co-op, originally founded as Taylor Electric Membership Corp., has enjoyed an active female membership since its early days.

Beulah Taylor and Ruby McKenzie became the cooperative’s first female board members in 1938 and helped lead the co-op through some of its formative years.

“Homemakers living in rural Taylor County spurred the cooperative’s early membership growth,” wrote authors. “Eager to bring the benefits and conveniences of electricity to their homes and farms, they held neighborhood meetings and took applications to further the cooperative cause.”

In 1939, when the Rural Electrification Administration approved its first loans for electric cooperatives in South Carolina, women were actively involved in the formation of Darlington-based Pee Dee Electric Cooperative.

Mrs. E.S.J. Evans, the home demonstration agent for the Darlington County Agricultural Extension Service Office, was an organizer, and Miss Sue Coker and Mrs. E.A. Gray were elected to the founding board.

America’s electric cooperatives support Co-ops Vote, a grassroots movement designed to encourage voter registration, political engagement and participation in local, state and national affairs.

“We provide the information to co-op consumer-members to find out how, where and when to vote and information on the issues that affect rural communities,” said Laura Vogel, an NRECA senior political advisor. “We do not tell people who to vote for, and we don’t endorse candidates.”

Many electric co-ops are supporting National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 22 to encourage political participation leading up to the November elections.

“With so many uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic fueling concerns about how voting will proceed this fall, electric co-ops can play vital roles in reminding members of important dates and explaining rule changes,” said Vogel. “There will be great opportunities to meet community needs on information about mail balloting or changes in precinct operations, ensuring healthy turnout and widespread voter participation.”

Derrill Holly writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for NRECA, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives that serve 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

Nashville, TENN. – Today Gov. Bill Lee announced that a portion of Tennessee’s aid from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund would be used to expand access to broadband service. The newly created Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund will expand broadband access to better facilitate participation in telemedicine, distance learning and telecommuting.  

“The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the digital divide that exists in Tennessee,” said Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Never before has the need for broadband access been greater or the limitations for Tennesseans who can’t access the internet been more obvious. The Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund will help bring this essential service to many of the homes and businesses that need it most.” 

Since the passage of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act in 2017, 14 of Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives have launched broadband projects, and Tennessee’s electric co-ops have proven their ability to maximize state and federal funds. For every dollar of grant money received, Tennessee co-ops are investing $15 of their own money. This multiplier means that Tennessee electric co-ops are stretching grant funds further to have the greatest impact. 

“The Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund can position Tennessee to better respond to the current pandemic and be better prepared to face the challenges that will come our way in the future,” said Knotts. “The impact of this investment will be felt for years. We appreciate the vision of Gov. Bill Lee and Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bob Rolfe as well as Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, Speaker Cameron Sexton, Senate Finance Chair Bo Watson and House Utilities Chair Pat Marsh. Their allocation of these funds will positively impact tens of thousands of Tennesseans. 

Learn more at tnelectric.org/broadband.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | 615.515.5534 | tscott@tnelectric.org 

David Callis, executive vice president and general manager, TECA

Many years ago, the band Alabama had a big hit called “Angels Among Us,” a song about those around us who stand out by doing good deeds. The inference is that they are actually angels, heavenly beings who walk among us, doing good works and making the world a better place.

I don’t know much about celestial beings; I don’t know that I’ve seen any, much less know how many can fit on the head of a pin. But, I do know that there are a lot of heroes among us — some highly visible and some who stay well under the radar.

Many of our Tennessee heroes are well known for their deeds over the years: Andrew Jackson, David Crockett, Sam Houston, Sgt. Alvin York and Cordell Hull.

Others are less well known but their impact just as profound, maybe moreso.

There is a good chance you’ve never heard of Sue Shelton White, Abby Crawford Milton, Anne Dallas Dudley, J. Frankie Pierce, Phoebe Ensminger Burn or her son, Harry. They were vital in the passage of the 19th Amendment, with Rep. Harry Burn casting the deciding vote. Elsewhere in this edition, we recount fully Tennessee’s pivotal role in cementing into the Constitution the right of women to vote.

The fight for women’s suffrage may have reached fruition here on Aug. 18, 1920, but the accomplishment had been years in the making. Efforts to gain the right for women to vote in the United States began as early as 1848. Sue Shelton White from Henderson and Anne Dallas Dudley from Nashville were pivotal in pushing the issue forward in Tennessee. Dudley joined the Nashville suffrage movement as early as 1911 and later served as the group’s leader.

Today, it seems unthinkable that there was a time when women didn’t have the right to vote, even though it was only 100 years ago.

Their accomplishment wasn’t as dramatic as fighting to their deaths in defense of the Alamo or capturing 132 enemy soldiers. Yet, this group of activists, which is what they were, changed forever every future election in the United States.

When we look back through the prism of history, it’s easy now to recognize the determination of Anne Dallas Dudley and the courage of Rep. Harry T. Burn. They are honored and respected today, but during their time, they were often ignored or even disparaged.

Heroes don’t always take actions that are immediately recognized as heroic. That term, “prism of history,” is at best misleading. The deeds of those long past don’t change over time. They acted as they did in their time because of deeply held convictions; the positions they championed and actions they took stand on their own. The only change is how we view their actions. The prism is ours.

Harry Burn later had this to say about his vote: “I had always believed that women had an inherent right to vote. It was a logical attitude from my standpoint. … On that roll call, confronted with the fact that I was going to go on record for time and eternity on the merits of the question, I had to vote for ratification.”

Heroes are among us for time and eternity.

Your vote matters! Early voting for the Tennessee State and Federal Primary and County General Election begins today and runs Monday to Saturday until Saturday, August 1. Election Day is Thursday, August 6.

By voting early you can avoid Election Day crowds and take advantage of the flexibility of evening and Saturday hours and multiple polling locations in many counties.

During early voting and on Election Day, Tennesseans are encouraged to do their part. This includes wearing a face covering and maintaining a six-foot distance from poll officials and other voters. You should expect to see signs with further safety instructions at your polling locations. All poll officials will be wearing face coverings and are trained to take appropriate protective measures.

Find your polling location, view and mark sample ballots and much more with the free GoVoteTN app or online at GoVoteTN.com. You can also update your registration on GoVoteTN.com. Reviewing your sample ballot and making sure your registration is up to date will reduce the time you will need to spend at your polling location.

Remember to bring your ID to the polls. Information about what types of ID are acceptable can be found on GoVoteTN.com.

Make your voice heard. Vote Early!

Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and its not-for-profit subsidiary, Gibson Connect, have announced their boards have approved moving forward with Phase III of their broadband network buildout.  Phase III work will begin in the Rutherford, Kenton and Newbern zones.  These zones have met their participation goals using Gibson Connect’s registration website, join.gibsonconnect.com.

“A start date for Phase III has not been set, but board approval will enable us to soon begin the engineering step of the buildout,” says Dan Rodamaker, President and CEO of Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect.  “We plan to start Phase III with these three zones and add more zones a little later, based on join.gibsonconnect.com registrations, as well as engineering and grant/loan requirements,” he said.

Charles Phillips, Gibson EMC VP of Technical Services and Gibson Connect VP of Operations, explains, “Gibson Connect provides its internet service through Gibson EMC’s substations, meaning work must be completed in the substation and the fiber network must be built from the substation to the zone before Gibson Connect can begin construction in the zone.  A grant or loan can impact the order of our buildout because it is typically for an area that has met grant eligibility requirements and may have deadlines by which we must complete the work to receive the funding.”

“Gibson EMC is actively seeking out and taking advantage of every grant opportunity in order to save our members’ money on construction costs,” Rodamaker says.  “Where grants are not available, we’re applying for low-interest loans.”

Rodamaker says the ReConnect loan Gibson EMC was awarded by the USDA will ultimately help construct the fiber network in certain parts of Obion County in Tennessee and in Gibson EMC’s Kentucky counties.  ReConnect also has a deadline by which Gibson EMC must complete the work, but Rodamaker says, “it allows a five-year period as opposed to the shorter deadlines of the grants.  Utilizing grants and low-interest loans will make the fiber network construction more affordable for Gibson EMC’s entire membership,” he says.

More than 4,700 consumer-members have been connected since construction started in February 2018.  “We’ve completed the initial construction in Phase I zones, and we are diligently working to connect those who have more recently signed up for the service,” Phillips says.  “Phase II is well underway, but there is still considerable work to do.  Board approval for Phase III zones will enable us to begin the initial step of the build in those areas,” Phillips said.

“We plan to ultimately provide high-speed internet access to all of our eligible members, but the buildout is a massive project that is time-intensive, he says.  “With about 3,100 miles of the fiber network to engineer and build, we knew from the time we started construction in August 2018 that it would take at least five years to provide access to all of our members.  Even so, we understand how urgently this service is needed and we are doing everything within our power to provide it as quickly as possible.”

“We began this project because our members told us they needed this service,” Rodamaker said, “and after experiencing the necessity to work and learn from home during the pandemic, we are more convinced than ever that we are doing the right thing for our members and our communities,” he said.  “Those who have already been connected are extremely pleased with and grateful for this service.”

Nashville, TENN. – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives recently awarded $16,000 in scholarships to young people from across the state.

Kelsey Bizzell, a recent graduate of Rossville Christian Academy, was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Bizzell was a 2019 delegate of the Washington Youth Tour, an annual leadership and education event sponsored by the state’s electric cooperatives. In the year following the tour, delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperatives and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Bizzell was randomly selected from among the delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

“When I found out I won the scholarship, I was shocked and excited,” said Bizzell. “I was shocked that out of 186 people, my name was chosen! Writing the paper was fun. I didn’t think I would win, and getting the opportunity to go on the trip was fantastic. I learned so much on the trip, and this scholarship is just the cherry on top of the entire experience.”

“The Youth Tour and Cooperative Youth Ambassador Program are great opportunities to help students learn about public policy, cooperatives, and leadership,” says Andrea Kee, communication specialist for Chickasaw Electric Cooperative, Bizzell’s sponsoring co-op. “We are proud to help prepare Fayette County’s next generation of leaders, and we are excited to see the impact Kelsey will have on our community.”

Students are selected for the Washington Youth Tour by writing winning short stories about electric co-ops. While public health concerns forced the 2020 tour to be cancelled for the first time in the program’s 55 year history, TECA judged more than 10,000 short stories submitted from across the state. Lily Durbin from Pickwick Electric Cooperative, Zoe Clever from Caney Fork Electric Cooperative and Leah Brewer from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative were awarded $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships for having the first, second and third place papers.

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

“We were heartbroken to cancel the 2020 event, but Youth Tour has always been about more than a trip to D.C.,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Electric co-ops share the belief that the communities we serve are truly special places, and we are confident that these young people will have an impact on the world. An investment in them is an investment in the future of Tennessee, and we think that is a sound strategy that will pay enormous dividends.”

 

Murfreesboro, TENN. – Having just completed its merger with the Murfreesboro Electric Department, Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE) announced today $100,000 in donations to three Murfreesboro-based charitable organizations. Rutherford County Area Habitat for Humanity will receive $50,000 while Wee Care Day Care and Community Helpers will receive $25,000 each.

“We think it’s fitting and appropriate to mark our first official day of service to Murfreesboro by investing in those who are serving in such an impactful way,” said MTE CEO Chris Jones. “One of the seven cooperative principles is ‘Commitment to Community,’ and we plan to live this out consistently as we serve in our home city.”

Jones said the donation to Habitat will support construction of a subdivision in East Murfreesboro, while the donations to Wee Care Day Care and Community Helpers will support their ongoing missions.

“We have a long-time relationship with Community Helpers, as they assist electric customers who are having difficulty paying their electric bills” he said. “Wee Care Day Care is an inner-city organization that we’ve never been able to assist before, but with the merger opening that door, we are honored to aid their worthy mission.”

While MTE features a charitable arm of its own called, SharingChange, these are one-time donations facilitated by the cooperative in recognition of July 1 being day number one for the merged utility.

“We’re very excited to call our brothers and sisters from MED teammates…officially,” Jones said. “We have an incredibly bright future in front of us.”

Loyd Muncy

Somerville, TENN. – On July 1, Loyd Muncy became Chickasaw Electric Cooperative’s fifth general manager. Muncy replaces John Collins who announced his retirement in 2019.

Muncy, a 30-year veteran of the cooperative, has served in many capacities while at the cooperative including engineering supervisor, IT manager, project manager, and manager of finance and administration.

Muncy was drawn to the position because he has been involved with management and policies at the cooperative for several years, and he likes the direction the cooperative is headed. “Plus, it is pretty much the only title I have not held at the co-op,” he added. Muncy says his favorite cooperative principle is “Cooperation among Cooperatives,” and he believes there is great value in the co-op network that allows co-ops to solve problems together and learn from one another.

“I have always appreciated and respected the wise counsel of John Collins,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of TECA. “We salute him for an exceptional career and wish him a wonderful retirement. The TECA team also congratulates Loyd and looks forward to working with him as he leads a great co-op.”

Murfreesboro, TENN. – The merger between the Murfreesboro Electric Department (MED) and Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE) became official and finalized today.

“Now we begin bringing our two great teams together for the benefit of all those we serve,” said Chris Jones, MTE’s president and CEO. “While we’ve been preparing for some time, now it is real, and we are thankful and excited.”

Upon completion of TVA’s regulatory review and approval, which came in early June, MTE, MED and the City of Murfreesboro have coordinated efforts to close the transaction over the past few weeks. Closing was completed June 30, making July 1 the first official day that the two utilities are now one.

“There are a number of efficiencies and synergies our coming together will realize,” Jones said. “We are merging our technology platforms, unifying processes and over time we will reduce duplication of effort and investments.”

Jones added that MED customers, now new MTE members, can look for information and updates via U.S. mail and at mtemc.com beginning the week of July 6.

“Our teams are working hard to ensure the transition goes smoothly,” he said. “Most MED customers should not notice any changes. ”

Trimming trees is one of the most expensive things your local co-op does. Co-ops spend million of dollars each year keeping trees and other vegetation away from their power lines. This may leave you wondering, if trimming trees is so expensive, then why do it?

There are three reasons your local co-op trims trees: safety, reliability and to save our consumers money.

The first two reasons seem simple enough. Trees near power lines can pose a safety threat to people and pets on the ground. When trees get too close to power lines, outages are sure to come.

But the third reason – saving money – is a little more complicated. Even though co-ops spend millions of dollars each year trimming trees, it is actually cheaper to trim trees than not. Here’s why.

Trees and other vegetation growing near power lines can create serious damage to the distribution system. A tree falling into a power line can not only break the wire, it frequently breaks the pole as well. Replacing a pole can cost thousands of dollars. If the pole has a transformer, security light or expensive monitoring equipment on it, the cost could be even higher. In most cases, the expense of trimming the tree is far less than repairing or replacing equipment.

Another factor to consider is the efficient use of our crews. Co-op construction and maintenance teams work very hard for about eight to 10 hours each weekday. Statistically, tree damage is far more likely to occur when our crews are not “on the clock.” We believe it is reasonable to pay our crews more when we ask them to make repairs outside of normal business hours. This means that planned tree trimming is far less expensive than making emergency, after-hour repairs.

The final reason that trimming trees saves money is something called line-loss. If you have ever driven along the road where there is poorly maintained right of way (hopefully not on one of our systems), you probably saw the tips of trees burned by power lines. Not only is this a serious safety hazard, it is also an indication of power flowing out of the lines and into the surrounding trees. This “leakage” is called line-loss, and it can add up to serious money for the cooperative. Co-ops buy energy from TVA to sell to their consumers, and loosing power during distribution is a very inefficient way to operate an electric system.

The 111th General Assembly completed its final order of business for the year in the early morning hours Friday, June 19after a marathon through-the-night session. The final hours were marked with plenty of disagreement between political parties and the two chambers. 

The final act was headlined by a $39.4 billion budget that replaced and further trimmed one the legislature approved in March. The scaled back spending plan anticipates a $1 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2021 and, following a “stalemate” between the two chambers, eventually cleared the impasse in a conference committee. 

The new budget closely resembled the one proposed by the governor and approved by the senate last week, reducing expenses for a number of priorities initially proposed by Governor Lee. That, of course, was before the state was physically and financially rocked by two devastating tornadoes and the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are a few notable cuts to the administration’s original list of priorities: 

  • reducing the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant Fund from $25 million to $15 million; 
  • eliminating pay raises for teachers, state employees and legislators; and 
  • reducing funding for capital maintenance projects for state-owned properties and higher education, including $37 million worth of projects at the University of Tennessee and $9 million at the University of Memphis.

“Safe Harbor and Recovery Act” Stalls

A bill designed to encourage and stimulate economic activity, by increasing civil liability protection against coronavirus lawsuits against essential businesses and others that reopen amid COVID-19 uncertainty, stalled in the early hours Friday.  Despite support from a broad coalition of interests representing business, healthcare, and education industry, the “Tennessee Recovery and Safe Harbor Act” ultimately failed because republicans in the two chambers vehemently disagreed on the legislation’s effective date.   

Senate Republicans and industry supporters favored retroactive application of the legislation that dated back to early March. House members and opponents, including the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, fought hard against retroactivity and questioned the provision’s constitutionality. Notably, both sides relied on a 2010 opinion by former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William Koch that addressed the constitutionality of retrospective laws in Tennessee. 

Ultimately, Republicans in the two chambers held their ground following a conference committee that adopted the senate version. After a bipartisan attack on the bill’s retroactive application, the house fell four votes short of approving the conference committee report. 

Co-op Priority Passes Both Chambers

Despite the last minute budget changes and acrimony caused by controversial legislation, the General Assembly did pass legislation clarifying that electric cooperatives may purchase the Powering Tennessee specialty license plate. Sponsored by Rep. Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville) and Sen Becky Massey (R-Knoxville), the bill was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate. Effective immediately upon the Governor’s signature (which is expected in the coming days), the law ensures that electric co-op vehicles weighing less that 9000 pounds and used for the purpose of passenger transport are eligible to purchase the plate. Proceeds benefit the Tennessee Lineworker Lifeline Fund, and each plate driving on Tennessee roads increases awareness of the important work performed by Tennessee’s 3,500 lineworkers.