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VOL. 10 | NO. 8 | Saturday, February 18, 2017

Evans Brings Precision, Experience To Chairmanship of TVA Board

By Bill Dries

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Lynn Evans is precise, a trait that comes with being a certified public accountant and the owner of her own accounting and consulting firm. It also works well with her path to becoming the new chairwoman of the Tennessee Valley Authority board.

Lynn Evans, the newly elected chairwoman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, says the organization will remain focused on low-cost energy, environmental protection and economic development.

(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)

Precision and complexity are not only part of being a CPA. They define Evans’ unplanned and lengthy tenure of 13 years on the TVA board and on the board of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division before that.

“I didn’t expect that I would be doing this at all,” said Evans, who was named to the MLGW board by Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton in 2004. In 2013, she received a voicemail asking her to call the White House, where she learned of her appointment by President Barack Obama to the TVA board.

Evans became interim chairwoman of the TVA board in January after three other directors, including chairman Joe Ritch, saw their terms expire. Under TVA bylaws, the interim position fell to her as chair of the board’s audit committee.

Weeks later she was elected chair “and that vote ended up having to be a notational vote because the 30-day calendar day timeline would have run out before the next official board meeting,” she said.

Her first meeting as board chairwoman was earlier this month in Gatlinburg.

Evans is the first woman, the first African-American and the first Memphian to chair the Tennessee Valley Authority board.

She assumed the role during a tumultuous change in administrations at the White House. However, Evans says the changeover shouldn’t affect the TVA, and she cites chapter and verse of the precise and technical directives that govern the authority.

“The trajectory and the long-term vision that is in place for TVA right now is what we will continue to follow unless there is some change that would cause us to modify that,” she said. “A change in administration in and of itself would not necessarily make that change.”

Things that would lead to such a modification include a leap in technology or a shift in demand for electricity, either because of economic development or because of some disaster.

“We’re just going to stay focused on carrying out our mission, which is to provide low-cost energy, protect the environment … and support economic development,” she said. “No matter who sits on the board, that will be their mission as well.”

As an MLGW board member, Evans had toured several TVA facilities that generate power across a multistate area. Memphis Light, Gas and Water is TVA’s largest customer.

Both assignments – TVA and MLGW – are touchstones for public reaction from a utility bill that comes every month as well as controversies from Smart Meters to TVA’s decision to drill water wells into the Memphis aquifer to cool a new natural gas-fired plant in southwest Memphis.

“Whenever you make a decision on any given day you can find someone who thinks you are totally brilliant or someone who thinks you are a complete idiot on the same subject,” Evans said. “You just have to raise your determination and make a decision that can hold you true to yourself. Not discouraging – frustrating sometimes, exhausting sometimes, always exhilarating but not discouraging.”

The decision to build the natural gas-fired Allen Combined Cycle Plant to replace the coal-fired Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis was made before Evans came on the TVA board. But she agrees with it and says there could be more of a move to a diverse portfolio for generating electricity in the TVA system.

“This is a dynamic time. Technologies that have been around in the past few years now are getting to some price points that they make some economic sense,” she said of solar and wind production in particular. “Electricity storage is one of the things that has to be taken into consideration. How to store it – nobody’s been able to figure it out completely yet.”

Evans came to Memphis in 1977 from Anguilla, Mississippi, a town 175 miles south of Memphis. After graduating from Jackson State University, she worked for an international CPA firm in Southfield, Michigan, during what she remembers locals describing as the coldest winter on record. That was followed by a second winter that was even colder.

“I can do trend analysis,” Evans said. “And I determined that I might have to work for a living, but I don’t have to freeze.”

After getting her CPA test scores that February, she flew to Jackson, Mississippi, for a job interview.

“I just needed to not be in a cold environment,” she remembers. “I ended up in Memphis because the Jackson office of a regional firm where I interviewed didn’t have an opening, but interviewed me on a courtesy instead.”

The company had offices in Birmingham, Atlanta and Memphis, and Evans sent her resume through the Jackson office to all three. She got the job in Memphis, which she says was “far enough south and I could drive home.”

“It’s been a wonderful place to be,” Evans said.

Evans established V. Lynn Evans CPA, an accounting and consulting firm, in 1983 as she served as internal auditor for what was then the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, now known as Regional One Health. She left The MED in 1989 to devote herself full-time to her firm.

She also serves on the boards of First Alliance Bank and the Thomas W. Briggs Foundation.

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