TVA’s nine-member board of directors has four vacancies, all subject to nominations from the Obama administration, and at least one of those seats should go to a nominee from the TVA region of Mississippi.
May 18 – Monday – was the final term day for former Board Chairman Bill Sansom of Knoxville, and would have been the final day for Don DePriest, a Columbus, Miss., entrepreneur who resigned in April when his entangled private financial issues became public.
Nothing in law requires Obama to nominate a Mississippian, but our state’s historic affiliation with TVA (Tupelo was the first TVA power contract city in 1934), 321,000 household customers, and 80,000 commercial/business customers establish our legitimate interests in a board position. TVA’s power revenues in Mississippi amounted to more than $676 million in fiscal year 2007 – about 9 percent of all TVA operating flow.
Mississippi, in fact, has the third-largest TVA customer base, following Tennessee and Alabama.
TVA is a seven-state public utility serving all or parts of seven southeastern states, with 8.7 million consumers.
Obama’s election in 2008 and control of the U.S. House and Senate by Democrats changes somewhat the dynamics of nomination politics, which historically reside with a state’s U.S. senators. Nominees to the TVA board must be confirmed by the Senate regardless of how the nomination process unfolds before it gets to the White House.
Mississippi’s U.S. senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, both are Republicans, as is the case in Tennessee.
Cochran’s and Wicker’s movement to claim a vacant seat for Mississippi apparently won’t fly with the White House.
However, U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, a Democrat from Booneville, is working to steer a seat toward a Mississippian. TVA’s service area includes most of the 1st Congressional District, which Childers has represented since May 2008.
In Tennessee, Democratic members of the House delegation are seeking all four vacant seats for their state, a politically understandable but geographically excessive stretch.
DePriest was appointed by former President George W. Bush, but the previous Mississippian on the TVA board was former Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough, a Republican appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton. McCullough was nominated at the same time as Skila Harris, a Kentuckian and Democrat, who worked most closely with McCullough on the former three-member, full-time board, which McCullough eventually chaired.
TVA’s board seats are officially non-partisan; in practice they need to be at least bipartisan and geographically representative.
Plenty of Mississippians qualify by business experience, knowledge and expertise for TVA board service, and that’s the direction the Obama administration should go.