By Victoria Hosey
Former Oxford Mayor Richard Howorth has been removed from the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors.
President Donald Trump dismissed Howorth along with TVA chair Skip Thompson on Monday. Trump criticized the federally owned corporation for hiring foreign workers and threatened to remove other board members if they continued to use foreign labor.
Howorth, who is the owner of Square Books in Oxford, said that he believes his dismissal was used as a political opportunity to replace him with a Republican appointee.
“I’m the only Democrat left on the board… I’m at the end of my term. I was going off at the end of this year. I’m expendable,” Howorth said. “But what I’m worried about is the TVA itself. I’ve been on that board for nine years, and I’ve worked hard with a lot of people to take care of it.”
According to Trump, the authority has attempted to use foreign workers under the H1-B visa program for highly skilled workers to replace part of its technology workforce. Howorth said that while the TVA did hire an external company to perform some of its tech services, the same company is used by federal agencies such as the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
“All three are federal entities, and I haven’t heard about getting rid of people there,” Howorth said.
The TVA was founded in 1933 as a way to provide the Tennessee Valley with flood control, fertilizer manufacturing, electricity manufacturing, and economic development. The TVA mainly serves Tennesse, along with parts of Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and small portions of Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. Howorth said the TVA works to attract jobs to the areas it serves.
“Ninety-percent of industries or large businesses out there pay more (for electricity) in other places in the U.S. than if they’re in the TVA,” Howorth said. “We deliberately keep industrial rates low as a way to attract jobs.”
Trump was also critical of the salary of the Chief Executive Officer of the TVA, Jeff Lyash, who he said earned a salary of $8 million dollars a year. Howorth believes that while Lyash’s salary may seem excessive, it would be nearly impossible to find someone to run an organization as complex as the TVA without a high salary.
“At the end of the day, the $8 million dollars he was paid is in the bottom quartile of similar utility companies in the U.S.,” Howorth said.
Howorth also stated that the TVA, while it is federally owned, does not receive money from the federal government. The TVA states on its website that it “receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from the sales of electricity”.
Howorth will be replaced on the board with Oxford businessman Charles William “Bill” Cook Jr., who was nominated to serve a five-year term.
Mississippi’s GOP U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith welcomed Trump’s nomination of Cook, according to a press release from Wicker’s office.
“Bill Cook is a terrific choice for the TVA board and would represent our state well as the only Mississippian on the panel,”Wicker said. “Bill has built a successful career managing complex networks of data and information and advising businesses to help them grow and prosper. I know he will bring the same vision and leadership to this position, which is critical to economic development and reliable energy in our state.”