President Obama’s nomination of Richard Howorth – Oxford’s former mayor and owner of the nationally recognized Square Books and its affiliated stores – to the TVA board of directors matches impressive public-sector experience and private-sector business success in oversight of the nation’s largest public utility.
The nomination, which must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, immediately won the public endorsement of U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, both Republicans, who have known Howorth, a Democrat as mayor, for decades.
Oxford has one of 14 municipally run electric departments in TVA’s 36-county Mississippi service area. TVA serves 320,000 Mississippi households, third-largest customer concentration in the seven-state TVA region, trailing only Tennessee and Alabama.
The last previous TVA director from Mississippi was former Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough, who became chairman of the authority under the three-director executive governance which was replaced by a nine-member corporate board in 2005. It remains a wholly owned agency of the U.S. government, and it has great independence from some regulatory laws under which for-profit utilities must operate.
Tupelo was TVA’s first municipal power customer.
Howorth, a graduate of the University of Mississippi, served eight years as a director and officer of the North Mississippi Industrial Development Association, an economic development consortium related to TVA.
“Mississippi should have representation on the TVA board of directors,” Cochran said, “and Richard’s understanding of Mississippi and the TVA should make him a valued member of that body.”
The nine-member structure of TVA has brought broadly based individual experiences to the board, which is a part-time position but has the final word on setting TVA rates.
Howorth is both a business and household consumer of TVA power. He and his wife, Lisa, have owned Square Books, an independent store, for 32 years.
Howorth also has completed advanced studies for senior public-sector executives and administrators at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and he was deeply involved in Oxford’s planning as the host city for the first 2008 presidential campaign debate.
Mississippians have many expectations of a TVA director, and the most widely understood and anticipated is a continuing role in regional economic development.
TVA, since 1933, has helped make the economy stronger in the valley region.
TVA’s economic development efforts in 2010 helped attract or retain 41,000 jobs and leveraged $4.3 billion in capital investment, it reported.
Howorth’s confirmation will provide Mississippi a deserved seat on the corporate board, and an experienced view based on public and private success.
NEMS Daily Journal