From educating children about electricity to helping the less fortunate afford to pay their bills, this community relations coordinator from Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation truly lives to serve.
For people throughout the Tennessee Valley—and especially for electric utilities—the winter storm of 1994 was a bad thing…a very bad thing. It was a blizzard, really, delivering a wallop of ice and snow that blanketed roads and downed power lines throughout the region, trapping people in their homes for days. For most, it felt like a curse. For Cathy Mitchell, it was a blessing.
“That’s when the good lord sent me my husband, Tom,” says Mitchell of Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, based in Murfreesboro, Tenn. “I was a meter reader at that time and was leaving the office and he was installing a generator and we met on the dock and started talking and the rest was history. It just took an ice storm to get him to me.”
Mitchell is the kind of person who sees blessings in everything and everyone, which makes her perfect for her job—she’s now MTEMC’s community relations coordinator.
“My job involves the programs that are designed to help us make a humanitarian impact on the community, serve our members better and keep them educated and informed about co-ops, safety and energy,” she explains. “And all these things are our endeavors to meet our mission statement: Provide safe, reliable, affordable electricity with outstanding member service.”
Her work is basically divided in three ways, she explains. One is outreach to area schools. “I go and assist teachers in programs learning about electricity and safety,” she says. “I have a little demonstration called Power Town. It’s a miniature of the power system. I get to light things up and burn things—really, it draws an arc, but it looks like I’m burning a doll. Kids love that.”
Her second area of focus is the charitable arm of MTEMC, a program called Sharing Change, in which members can round their bills up to the nearest dollar and donate the proceeds to local rescue squads, food banks, health services and other not-for-profit organizations. “We concentrate on four main focus groups,” Mitchell explains, “aid to the needy, health care for the under-insured or uninsured, emergency response and services and education outreach.”
Thirdly, Mitchell handles all the community outreach on behalf of MTEMC, including career days, home shows and fairs, as well as cooperative service efforts with the local chapter of United Way. “The thing I love more than anything else about my job is being able to help others,” she says. “I pinch myself all the time. I really get to do this? Thank you so much.”
Mitchell was born into public power; her father worked for TVA for more than 30 years as an electrician foreman, and retired in 2000. She loves to tell the story of her the company she works for, and to share the public power message.
“MTEMC was actually established in 1936, the year of TVA’s unified plan,” she explains. “It was formed by farmers and home owner in the area that felt that co-ops were the thing to do for the community.
“The cooperative story is that big industries of the time did not feel that it was economically feasible to provide electricity to rural areas, so men and women decided they could form a cooperative to do it themselves. They put up the lines, and here we are 78 years later. Today we are the fastest growing co-op in Tennessee and largest in Tennessee in terms of kWh sold.”
Mitchell has been at MTEMC since 1981, and has loved every minute of it. “It’s an amazing place to work,” she says. “It’s a family-oriented place to work. People who have been here 35 years and new people are not differentiated; we are treated the same.
“We are all in community together and we belong together. You have to have a service heart to be in the business we’re in or you won’t fit. You have to be in it for how it makes you feel.”
NOTE: Cathy Mitchell retired from Middle Tennessee Electric Cooperative in December 2016, and remains active in the community. However, she has more time to pursue her passion for kayaking the Duck River with her husband Tom and her daughter Tiffany, and spends her evenings watching movies and playing games with her many nieces and nephews.
TVA works hand-in-hand with our 154 local power companies (LPCs) to fulfill our mission of providing low-cost, reliable public power to the 9 million people of the Tennessee Valley. See a full list of our partners throughout the region.
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