Tracy Hightower

Senior Program Manager | Chattanooga, Tenn.

Visit Tracy Hightower’s office during the month of March, and you’ll find that a little corner of it is piled with toiletries. It’s just the beginning of what will be—by December—a mountain of lotions, shampoos, soaps and more, ready to stock the 600 bags of toiletries she organizes TVA employees into filling each year for the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

She’s been doing the job for the past 11 years, but it never gets old. “Helping others is the thing I’m most passionate about in life,” she says.

Doing unto Others

She’s not kidding around. This TVA project manager does so much for her workplace and community, she seems almost superhuman. Hightower serves on the board of a new non-profit called Chattanooga Robotics, which supports STEM education in more than 40 southeast Tennessee and north Georgia schools.

She works with the American Heart Association, and serves on the auction committee for their annual Heart Ball. “What that mostly means is that I go and gather items for their live auction event.” It couldn’t be for a better cause.

Her true calling, however, is serving at Chattanooga’s Ronald McDonald House, where she is on the board of directors. “That’s a place where families can stay if they have a child that’s sick in the hospital right across the street,” she explains. “I started truly helping there with their phone-a-thon fundraiser. I did that for about a year, then a spot opened up so that I could join their adopt-a-meal program. I’ve been doing that—cooking for families staying at the house once a month—for the past 15 years.

Hightower has assistance as well as persistence—“The best thing I do with charity is talk people into coming in to help”

She also has assurance that her efforts at Ronald McDonald House are well worth it. “One night I was I was in kitchen cleaning up, and a lady said, ‘I just want to thank you for being here and doing this,’” Hightower remembers. “‘We have to drive an hour and a half to get to this hospital. My grandson was born three days ago and has been on life support ever since. We are taking him off life support tomorrow. If we’d been driving back and forth, that’s 12 hours of his life we would have missed.’ We don’t think about 12 hours making a difference in someone’s life, but for her, it was an eternity.”

Working Together to Make Things Better

Hightower’s office life is about service, too—not only to the people of the Valley, but to the people of TVA. She’s a senior program manager in the Enterprise Project Management Office partnering with Information Technology on the TVA project management collaboration tool using the new Enterprise Content Manager (ECM).

Now, that might sound a bit dry and technical when you first hear it, but it’s all about helping people—which, of course, is what Hightower does.

“It’s really a collaboration tool designed to help people work more easily together across the organization,” she explains. “Right now, TVA has files on different projects stored in different places and in different ways. ECM will help to create a standardized system for documenting and storing data so that it is captured and accessible to all. No more recreating the wheel, no more lost information, no more having to learn a new structure every time you move from one project to another.”

Hightower is in charge of introducing the collaboration tool throughout the entire organization. “I go out and train people on the tool; I work with people one-on-one,” she says. “I have to sell the tool, too. I’m a one-stop shop.”

The program will provide efficiencies for TVA, too—in computer storage, in cutting some fat away, in making data and process more available, and, therefore, employees more efficient. To see it done, Hightower says, “I will sign people up, I will add their initial data for them. Whatever it takes to make this successful, I will do it.

Hightower has worked at TVA for 22 years, mostly in IT, gravitating toward jobs that allow her to help people, including an extended stay in enterprise desktop. “I love getting to work with people,” she says. “I love being able to show people new ways to streamline their jobs and make their lives easier. And when I meet someone who seems negative or resists a tool, I embrace the challenge of showing them why it’s a good thing.”

Personal Mission

Hightower is married to husband Jamie, himself a retiree from TVA. The two have children from his first marriage—Jessica, 25, who’s in law school in Memphis, and Josh, 28, who works in Chattanooga as an accountant for Mauldin and Jenkins.

Though she’s often busy working either on the job or for charity, she makes time for fun, too. She and Jamie use their free time to boat around Watts Bar Lake, to hike, to golf, and—when it’s chilly outside—go bowling. To stay fit, she trains year-round for an annual half-marathon to benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital. “I run for a purpose,” she says. “I do it because it makes a difference.”

Sound exhausting? “If you listen to me, I never have a quiet, still time unless I’m sleeping. That’s what my life is.”

And that’s the way Hightower likes it. Indeed, she appreciates the energy she has to pursue her passion for charity work—and the way her job has supported her personal mission of service. “TVA fully supports me in doing my charity work,” she says. “In the end, it goes back to trying to serve the people of the Valley, and make our region a better place to live. That’s something we strive for together.”

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