Tracey Freeman

Nuclear Measuring & Testing Equipment Technician | Athens, Ala.

TVA echoes through Tracey Freeman’s past. Her grandfather came to work for TVA, just out of World War II, as a laborer at Wilson Dam. Later, he helped build Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. When her dad returned from the Vietnam War, he got a job at Browns Ferry as a pipefitter. She continued the legacy and began her TVA career in 2009.

“My grandfather was proud to work here in the 1940’s. My dad felt the same way. My family had a good life because my dad and granddad worked here. TVA gave us food and shelter, literally.”

And, yet, Freeman never expected to follow in their footsteps. It was more a case of bad luck turning into good luck, she says.

A Duck in Water

“I was a special service officer in the City of Florence Police Department when I was laid off after 11 years due to cutbacks. I was devastated, but my chief wrote me a letter of recommendation that helped me land a job with Pinkerton Government Services. I worked at Browns Ferry as a Pinkerton security officer for six years and then transitioned to TVA’s in-house security force in 2009.”

Freeman took to her new job like the proverbial duck to water and before long she became TVA’s first African American nuclear site security supervisor.

Today, she’s a measuring and technical equipment (MTE) technician in TVA Nuclear, a job she slipped into just as easily thanks to the experience she gained managing security equipment inventory in her first job.

She explains: “I make sure the electronic and physical equipment used at Browns Ferry for measuring and testing—from torque wrenches to confined space monitors and digital voltage meters—is properly controlled and calibrated and meets required accuracy limits.”

MTE accuracy can decline as it ages or undergoes environmental and mechanical stress, so regular inspections are important, she explains. “As an MTE technician, I help ensure equipment quality, reliability and safety which, in turn, helps ensure the quality, reliability and safety of the plant.”

Safety Focused

Plant safety is never far from Freeman’s mind. In addition to her duties as an MTE technician, she co-chairs Browns Ferry’s Health and Safety Committee and often spends part of her day in safety meetings. She also works hand in hand with the plant manager to make sure employees feel comfortable coming forward with safety concerns and safety suggestions are addressed in a timely and objective manner.

“I’ve worked under four different plant managers,” Freeman says, “and I’m honored by the trust they’ve placed in me. Having had a seat at the table with plant management for the past four years, I can tell you that we’re serious about safety at Browns Ferry. Nothing is more important than making sure everyone who steps foot on the site is safe”

Freeman earned the nickname, “Momma BEAR,” as a result of her efforts to start a behavior-based safety program at Browns Ferry called Behaviors Equal Accident Reduction, or BEAR. The program’s purpose is to recognize positive safety behaviors, as well as to identify behaviors that cause the most common safety incidents. It’s an employee-driven program based on a “No Name, No Blame” principle, Freeman says. “BEAR team members do observations to see if employees are practicing safe behaviors—wearing safety glasses, gloves and hard hats, for example—and help to promote a safety culture by increasing peer-to-peer coaching on the plant floor.”

The Power of Diversity

As a mother of three and grandmother of five, most of Freeman’s free time is focused on her family. During the past four years, she’s made countless trips to Tuskegee University to support her youngest daughter, Kayla, as she followed her dreams.

Since she was little, Kayla wanted to fly, says Freeman. “That’s why she chose Tuskegee—because of their ROTC program. After she graduated, she enrolled in the Army Aviation School at Fort Rucker. My proudest moment was watching her get her wings this summer.”

That moment also made history. Kayla, now an aerospace engineer at the Redstone Arsenal, is the first African American female pilot in the Alabama National Guard.

Kayla’s journey shows the power of diversity, says Freeman, who has facilitated TVA’s diversity and inclusion training and is active in several different employee groups, including African American Voices and Women in Nuclear. Freeman also participates in Pride Month each year supporting Spectrum, TVA's first lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allies employee resource group.

“Offering the same opportunities to everyone, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation or spiritual beliefs, releases people’s potential,” she explains. “I believe in equal opportunity and treating everyone with respect and dignity. I care about diversity and inclusion, and I want to be part of the progress we’re making at TVA.”

Her grandfather and father would be proud.

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