U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander claims no input on TVA picks

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander claims no input on TVA picks

September 25th, 2012 by Andy Sher in News

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

TVA nominees

President Obama has nominated five people to fill current and upcoming vacancies on the nine-member TVA board:

• Peter Mahurin, of Bowling Green, Ky., executive vice president for Hilliard Lyons.

• Mike McWherter, of Jackson, Tenn., president of Central Distributors Co., son of former Gov. Ned McWherter and unsuccessful 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Tennessee.

• V. Lynn Evans, of Memphis, an accountant and member of the Memphis Light Gas & Water board.

• Joe H. Ritch, of Huntsville, Ala., an attorney, chairman of the Tennessee Valley Base Realignment and Closures Committee, and former University of Alabama trustee.

• Dr. Marilyn A. Brown, a current TVA board member and Georgia Tech professor.

NASHVILLE -- U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is withholding judgment on President Obama's four nominations to the Tennessee Valley Authority board, saying the administration has told him nothing and he's not happy about it.

"TVA's obviously a low priority to the administration," Alexander told reporters Monday during a conference call. "I've had zero conversations with the White House about these appointees, to my regret since I've placed a very high priority on it."

He said "it would be much better if the nominations would have come earlier."

Obama on Friday nominated four people to the nine-member board of the nation's largest federally owned utility. Two of the appointments were for board members whose terms expired at the end of 2011.

Among the Democratic administration's nominees is Tennessee's 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike McWherter, a Jackson, Tenn., businessman.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has complained for weeks that the current TVA board lacks members with corporate board experience, which he says is necessary to run the $11 billion utility.

He recently declared TVA's entire "governance structure," the brainchild of then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., should be examined.

TVA is at a critical juncture. TVA CEO Tom Kilgore is retiring at the end of this year or when the board names a replacement.

Meanwhile, membership on the current board, which already is one member short, could dip below the required five-member quorum in January if the Senate does not act soon on Obama's current nominations as well as one that has been pending since February.

Senators on Saturday left Washington and won't come back until after the Nov. 6 election for a lame-duck session.

Alexander downplayed the significance of the board possibly losing its quorum in January, absent action, although he acknowledged "it'd be much better if when we get to the first of the year the TVA board had a quorum, a majority of directors, and I hope that it does.

"But the TVA board can continue to operate without a quorum," Alexander said. "There'll be no interruptions in electric service, and there'll be no interruption in the daily operations of TVA even if there's not a quorum after Jan. 1."

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said TVA's board is "just like any other governing body that has to vote on actions. The next board meeting isn't until February, so we certainly have between now and February to deal with those confirmations."

If not, he said, "we would have to decide on what actions they would have to postpone, if necessary."

But he said the existing eight members are expected to name Kilgore's replacement before losing a quorum.

One TVA board nomination already pending before the Senate since February is Peter Mahurin of Kentucky, who would replace former National Republican Committee Chairman Michael Duncan, who left in 2011.

Obama's nominees include current member Marilyn A. Brown for a full five-year term on the board as well as McWherter, who replaces Dennis Bottorff, a banker whose term expired at the end of 2011.

Obama also is nominating Vera Lynn Evans, a Memphis certified public accountant, to replace William H. Graves, a Memphis minister.

His fifth nominee is Huntsville, Ala., attorney Joe H. Ritch, who would fill a vacancy left when Thomas C. Gilliland's term expired at the end of 2011

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com.