Front Porch Blog

A conversation about co-ops

Electric co-op members in Cumberland Gap learn their rights in a special community forum

On Tuesday evening, residents of Claiborne, Hancock and Hawkins counties in Tennessee attended a Community Forum hosted by Appalachian Voices where they learned about their role as member-owners of Powell Valley Electric Co-op (PVEC).

Around 25 participants gathered at the Cumberland Gap Town Hall and discussed multiple topics, including structure and decision making in their co-op, member rights and responsibilities, and positive member engagement. Looking over bylaws and discussing their co-op’s 990 (the tax form used by nonprofits) was a first-time experience for many of the members who attended.

The crowd heard some local examples of members engaging with representatives of their electric cooperatives, including testimony from Becky Johnson, vice president of the Heritage Beekeepers and member-owner of Holston Electric Co-op. Becky was able to share her experience of working with other beekeepers and co-op management to establish a right-of-way herbicide “opt-out” policy at Holston. She told the PVEC members in the room to not underestimate their ability to make positive changes in their co-op. Afterwords, a survey created by a group of PVEC member-owners called MAC, a self-designated “Member Advisory Committee,” was distributed in order to collect member input for creating an opt-out policy at Powell Valley.

Despite the forum running over by about 30 minutes, participants stayed around even longer to continue their conversations. Appalachian Voices is looking forward to hosting another event with PVEC members to go deeper on these topics and to discuss special programs available to electric co-ops in Tennessee.

If you’re a member of Powell Valley Electric Co-op or another electric co-op in East Tennessee and you want to see a forum like this in your community, contact Bri Knisley at (865) 291-0083 or If you’re a member of PVEC and you live in Hancock County, keep an eye out for the PVEC Member Survey in the Sneedville Shopper.

Originally from southern Ohio, Bri has been organizing with communities in Tennessee since joining Appalachian Voices in 2017. She enjoys foraging, growing things and bringing fancy desserts to porch sits.

  1. e l coooper says:

    Let us know if you host one in Madison Co. We’re not full-time residents so can’t engage with many, but understand the co-op really more than “works the system,” to control the voting, etc.

  2. lauren says:

    Hi, Emily. We don’t have a forum planned for Madison County, but we would be open to providing this information in the area if residents want to engage on these issues. Feel free to call or email me to discuss the possibility further.

    -Lauren Essick

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