Proud to be a public power community

By Rob McGarrah

Special to the Outlook

Tallahassee has been a Public Power community since 1902. As a Public Power community, Tallahassee owns and operates its electric utility and is focused on enriching the quality of life in Tallahassee. Each October, we celebrate with community-owned utilities across the country during Public Power Week. This is normally a time for us to recognize and honor our focus on Main Street, not Wall Street; the benefits of local control; and that our employees are local to the community.

This year’s celebration was scheduled to occur the week of October 7-13. Instead of our normal observance, however, City of Tallahassee Your Own Utilities’ focus was on preparing for and responding to Hurricane Michael. It was a celebration of Public Power – but different than we expected or how any of us would have liked. As I have reflected post-storm, I have recognized that the events that transpired in response to Hurricane Michael demonstrates what Public Power is all about.

Leading up to the storm, our team of dedicated employees began implementation of storm plans in preparation for Hurricane Michael’s arrival. They checked supplies, fueled vehicles, reviewed protocols and more.

At home, each team member also prepared his/her family, making sure loved ones would be alright while the employee responded to the damage the hurricane brought to our community.

To support our staff, I reached out through the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) for mutual aid assistance from our partners across the country. In response to FMEA’s call for help, over 400 Public Power employees from over 50 cities across 15 states came to Tallahassee. Many of these employees arrived in Tallahassee prior to Hurricane Michael and rode the storm out with our community so restoration work could commence as soon as the storm left Tallahassee. We had Public Power communities from Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Ohio support our restoration efforts. All of these Public Power employees left their families and joined the Tallahassee team working 16-hour days until we had our customers back in service, with lights on and ACs churning. Once we were restored, mutual aid teams set off to support Quincy, Blountstown and Chattahoochee. And just a few days later, our city crews also headed west to provide much needed assistance.  

There’s an adage that during the worst storms of your life, you will see a person’s true colors. The Public Power community showed its true colors during this year’s Public Power Week, in a way far different than usual. It was a celebration of community spirit and service shown through sweat, skill and sacrifice. I am proud to be a member of the Public Power community and thankful that Tallahassee is, too.  A heartfelt “thank you” goes to the City employees, with unprecedented support from our Public Power community partners, who worked tirelessly to restore power to every home as if it was their own because, in many cases, it was.

Rob McGarrah is the 

General Manager, City of Tallahassee Electric Utility.