Not just lights and water: CU earns prestigious community service award
by RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Aug 11, 2014 | 925 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JOHN McLAIN, center, a Cleveland Utilities Electric Division lineman, holds the Community Services Award received recently by the utility company during the 48th Annual Meeting of the Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association. McClain accepted the honor on behalf of the entire CU workforce whose members provide a variety of humanitarian outreach services within the Cleveland and Bradley County area. From left are Ken Webb, CU president and CEO; McClain; and Aubrey Ector, chairman of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities. Banner photo, RICK NORTON
JOHN McLAIN, center, a Cleveland Utilities Electric Division lineman, holds the Community Services Award received recently by the utility company during the 48th Annual Meeting of the Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association. McClain accepted the honor on behalf of the entire CU workforce whose members provide a variety of humanitarian outreach services within the Cleveland and Bradley County area. From left are Ken Webb, CU president and CEO; McClain; and Aubrey Ector, chairman of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities. Banner photo, RICK NORTON
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Keeping the lights on and the clean water flowing is their job, but some utility companies also understand the role of humanitarian outreach — and those who do it well often become models from which others can learn, follow and appreciate.

One such example is a familiar face to the Cleveland and Bradley County community.

For the third time since 2003, Cleveland Utilities has earned the prestigious Community Service Award from the Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association, an organization whose 60 company members serve more than 2 million electric customers.

TMEPA, whose business load represents more than 70 percent of total electric customers statewide, held its 48th annual meeting recently in Franklin — the well-attended gathering in which CU was named to the community service honor.

“This award belongs to the employees of Cleveland Utilities,” said Ken Webb, president and CEO who is still in his first year in the leadership role. “They are the ones working on a daily basis to improve the lives of others in the community and also serve in many volunteer roles, enhancing the quality of life in Cleveland and Bradley County.”

The TMEPA award is given each year based on several criteria; however, the same utility can earn this distinction only once every five years.

Criteria for utilities to be considered for this distinction include:

1. Achievement or sustained performance showing the commitment of the member and its employees for enhancing the quality of life in its community through social, cultural, educational and economic development.

2. Coordinated effort by the utility to enhance the standing of public power in the state, to improve service to customers and to provide an opportunity for employee involvement.

CU first won the TMEPA honor in 2003 and received it again in 2009. Receiving it in 2014 was the first year the local utility was again eligible.

“We will be eligible for the award again in 2019, and will plan to make another bid for it at that time,” according to Jamie Creekmore, CU customer relations representative. “Cleveland Utilities always seeks out the best for our community. We take pride in serving this community and [we] look for ways to improve it on a daily basis.”

Webb, who informed the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities of the honor at a recent formal session in the Tom Wheeler Training Center, credited CU’s entire workforce. He later called the utility’s employees “... 185 of the finest folks I know of.”

The CEO also credited the work of another CU associate — Deanna Hitch of the Human Resources Department — who took the lead in developing the package of credentials for TMEPA review.

As an example of how CU employees are reaching out into the community to provide humanitarian assistance — and not just lights, water, sanitary wastewater treatment and traffic signal coordination — Webb pointed to the after-hours efforts of longtime lineman John McClain.

McClain regularly volunteers his service — on behalf of Cleveland Utilities — on emergency assistance missions to other communities that have been ravaged by storms. Two of the most recent examples are Hurricane Sandy that devastated the Eastern Seaboard and New England a couple of years ago, and last winter’s ice storm that paralyzed the Memphis area.

But McClain also gives his time to the Boy Scouts.

Saying McClain’s service is typical of the community outreach by many CU workers, Webb read to board members from a letter he received in mid-June from Scott Fosse, Boy Scout executive representing the Cherokee Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

“... I am very pleased to inform you that your employee, John McClain, has used [his] personal vacation time provided by your company to serve as a volunteer leader at Skymont Scout Reservation, our Boy Scout summer camp,” the Fosse letter stated. “On behalf of Scouting, I always like to notify employers of the time given by their employees.”

Fosse’s letter pointed out the Cherokee Area Council serves more than 5,000 youth with the majority of the leadership being provided by adult volunteers.

“Our programs, including camp, could not flourish and grow without the dedication and commitment to youth within our communities from individuals like John,” Fosse stressed.

Webb said McClain’s service to others is just one example of the workforce’s outreach at Cleveland Utilities.

The CEO also pointed to two other awards received recently by CU. One is from the Kentucky-Tennessee Water Environment Association and the other is for employee performance in the recent 2014 Tennessee Valley Lineman Rodeo.