Director, Learning Growth + Management | Chattanooga, Tenn.
“I'm a director of a talented team of 19 diverse individuals that fosters stronger leaders at TVA. I'm proud to be a part of the TVA story.”
Sharon Best experienced TVA’s commitment to service and reliability firsthand before she became an employee. It is part of an experience permanently etched in her memory. Here’s how she tells the story:
“It was April 27, 2011. My husband Garth and I were living in Cleveland, Tenn., next to his family’s farm, and I was working for a manufacturing company in Dalton, Ga. There had been several tornado warnings that day, and Garth and I both decided to get home between the storms.
“Our 14-month-old son, Grant, was with my in-laws, so we went to their house on the farm. The storms had knocked out the power earlier in the day. We were sitting in their living room that evening, and I remember my mother-in-law asking, ‘What’s that sound?’ The rest is a blur, but I know I bolted up the stairs, grabbed Grant from his crib and ran for the basement.
“We could hear the tornado coming through. I’d always heard people say that a tornado sounds like a freight train, and that’s exactly how I would describe it. It was terrifying.
“When things quieted down, Garth went upstairs to see what had happened. We were incredibly lucky. The damage to our two houses was minor. But I remember Garth saying that our neighbor’s house was gone. The tornado came through at night so we didn’t see the devastation until we woke up the next morning. It was unbelievable. One of the transmission towers that ran through the farm was lying on the ground with a car wrapped in it.”
Amidst the damage and the dark-out, Best remembers, there was a bright light: TVA.
“You could tell the TVA people because they had TVA shirts and hard hats on,” she says. “They were so concerned. I remember them asking us if we were okay, if we needed anything. They were patient, too. They kept reassuring everyone that they were going to work as hard as they could to get the power back on as quickly as possible.”
The positive impression they made lasts to this day, Best says: “You could tell the TVA people really cared.”
The next week, Best interviewed with TVA for a job in human resources. Three months later, she accepted a position supporting the very transmission group that had been so supportive to her friends and family.
“Working with that group gave me an opportunity to see the impacts of the storms from a new point of view,” recalls Best. “It gave me a much better understanding of the effort and coordination involved in getting the power back on after a tornado outbreak of that magnitude.
“The transmission tower in our neighborhood was just one of 500 transmission towers TVA had to rebuild to spread the load out again. And yet our power was back on in a week, and all the towers were back up three months after the storms. That’s just amazing.”
But Best’s story ends on a personal note, much as it began. Eight months after that terrifying night in April, she met a Cleveland Transmission Center employee at a TVA meeting.
“I was talking with him and mentioned that I lived in Cleveland,” Best recalls. “He asked if we were impacted by the tornados. I told him we were and where we lived. On the next break, he came up to me and said, ‘I remember you. You were the blonde with the baby on your hip on that long driveway. How’s your baby?’
“I was astounded that he remembered our place with all that he saw during the restoration. It confirmed what I felt the day after the storm. TVA is truly powered by people who care.”
Today, Best is director of Learning Growth and Management. She oversees a 19-member team that provides programs and resources for employee and leadership development.
“I think we have the best jobs in human resources,” says Best. “We have the part focused on helping employees get better at what they do. That translates into better results for the people of the Valley.
“The skills we help develop—the ability to lead, the ability to communicate effectively, the ability to inspire interest, trust and engagement, for example—are transferrable, too. They’re skills people can use at home and in their communities.
“That’s important to me personally because I live, work and am raising my family in one of those communities,” she concludes. “I hope my kids will choose to stay here when they grow up.”
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