The theme for Tennessee’s electric cooperatives in 2017 is “Unified.” We’ve just completed one of the most contentious elections in our nation’s history, and this country is as divided politically as ever.
With that backdrop, leaders gathered in Nashville in late November for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting. There, they focused on the things that bring us together rather than those that push us apart.
Your co-op exists today because small groups of men and women across the state were dedicated to bringing electricity to rural areas. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Such was the case with those co-op trailblazers. They were unified.
Serving on a co-op board is not a fulltime job — it is a volunteer position that requires sacrifices of time to share talents. Serving as a board member can be time-consuming and challenging, but the co-op members who serve are driven by a desire to improve the communities in which they live. Our role at the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association (TECA) is to provide leadership, advocacy and support to the co-ops, their employees and these board members.
The annual meeting marks our preparation for the coming year. TECA provides leadership through our educational programs, advocacy through our communications and legislative efforts and support through our mutual aid programs. Our efforts are designed to empower your cooperative’s leaders as they perform their mission of improving everyday life for you, the co-op’s member-owners.
During the course of the meeting, attendees were given updates on the political climate and what to expect in the coming months and years. A large part of what we do involves political issues. We actively engage legislators and policymakers at local, state and federal levels to ensure that legislation and regulations don’t interfere with a co-op’s ability to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy. What happens in Nashville and Washington, D.C., can have a dramatic effect on the cost of your electric bill.
A major issue this year is our relentless effort to bring broadband to rural Tennessee. Rural residents deserve the same access to essential services as their urban and suburban counterparts. Without the access that broadband internet provides, our communities are left behind in education, economic development and healthcare. This is our century’s great effort — like rural electrification was for the 1900s.
We also took time to honor legislators who have gone above and beyond in their commitment to our cooperatives. State Sen. Ken Yager received the first K.T. Hutchinson Award. Read more about Dr. Hutchinson, Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s first manager, on page 8.
We are dedicated to the future of our communities by supporting our youth. Each year, nearly 200 high school students participate in a weeklong educational trip to Washington, D.C. During TECA’s annual meeting, Megan Lewis, a delegate from Tri-State Electric Membership Corporation on the 2015 Youth Tour, was recognized for winning a $10,000 scholarship provided by Tennessee’s electric cooperatives.
Though the annual meeting lasted only a few days, communications, government relations, education and training are activities that go on year-round. TECA’s role is to train our cooperative employees and directors to be leaders. Our education and training programs elevate the effectiveness and professionalism of co-op directors and employees, increase workplace safety and prepare co-ops for the rapid changes impacting our industry. These are critical roles that TECA fulfills for our member cooperatives.
Working together and speaking with one voice that carries a unified message amplifies the impact we have. It is critical to our cooperatives and the communities we serve.