My good friend Kent Lopez is manager of the Washington Rural Electric Cooperative Association, serving in a position similar to mine. Kent is a transplanted Tennessean, and he recently shared the following about his work:
“My alarm goes off an hour earlier this time of the year. The State Legislature is in session. So I spend some extra time every morning getting ready for the day because there are special people relying on me. There is the rancher in Nespelem, the motel owner in Winthrop, the wheat farmer in Ritzville, the school teacher in Colfax … Each one has joined his or her neighbors to own and run their own local electric utility. They do this because they believe it’s in the best interest of their community. They do it without making a profit so their community will profit. They do this because they believe that the decisions that affect their community should be made locally, by individuals like themselves and their neighbors. Like I said, they are very special people. That’s why my alarm goes off an hour earlier this time of the year. I’ve got very important work to do.”
I’ll readily confess that I don’t begin my day like Kent. But my efforts, and the work of our entire staff at the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and The Tennessee Magazine, are no less focused on supporting our cooperative members across our state. Our government affairs staff has worked nonstop over the past several weeks as our own legislative session began. Other staff have been busy communicating with our members across the state, planning for a busy year of cooperative education and training.
Andrew Carnegie envisioned his Carnegie Corporation as a foundation dedicated to the goal of doing “real and permanent good in this world.”
That describes perfectly the work of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives. Too often, Wall Street gauges success from one quarter to the next, cutting expenses and making rash decisions that undermine long-term growth, all in an effort to drive up stock prices quickly.
We measure success on Main Street over a much longer period — at least a generation or two.
Our co-ops are run by our members — which is a difficult concept for some to accept. How does that work exactly? A governing board is elected to set policy for the co-op. That board is composed of local co-op members who volunteer to serve.
That’s the purest, most direct form of local control — local people making decisions that are in the best interest of the community. And they’re decisions that bring about “real good” for today and “permanent good” for tomorrow.
So, for the banker in Bumpus Mills, the accountant in Sparta, the farmer in Hillsboro, the insurance adjuster in Ramer, the dentist in Hohenwald, the vineyard owner in Jamestown and the retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel in Jefferson City, we recognize the effort you put in serving your community. It’s not done for recognition or prestige; it’s done because you’re committed to making your community a better place.
People rely on you. The work you do on behalf of the co-op members in your community is important. It’s important to the members of your cooperative, and it’s important to us at TECA.
We keep that in mind every day, whether it’s publishing The Tennessee Magazine, educating tomorrow’s leaders through our youth programs, training workers on electrical safety or protecting your interests in the legislature.
It’s very important work.