Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Philip Mummert, March 8, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Being hired at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

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Partial Transcript: Good morning Phil.

Segment Synopsis: Mummert discusses how he was hired at TVA. Mummert explains why he chose a job in the Environmental Quality Staff over a position in the Office of Economic and Community Development.

Keywords: Application; Associate Professor; Attracted; Candidacy; Chairman; Corporate environmental program; Dean; Decision; Disorganized; Enjoyed; Environmental Quality Staff; Factor; Faculty; Fertilizer Development Center; Field trips; Great; Hiring; Interests; Job offers; Jobs; New; Office of Economic and Community Development; Opposed; Policy making; President; Process; Projects; Richard Freeman; Rumors; S. David Freeman; Support; TVA Board; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tenure; University of Memphis; Unruly; Urban planning; West Tennessee Soil Conservation projects

Subjects: Change; Dilemma; Directors; History; Interviews; Knoxville (Tenn.); Land Between the Lakes (Ky. and Tenn.); Leadership; Memphis (Tenn.); Memphis State University; Muscle Shoals (Ala.); Norris (Tenn.); Organization; Outreach; Planning; Regional planning; Staff; Students; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work

GPS: Memphis State University [now called University of Memphis]
Map Coordinates: 35.119, -89.937
GPS: Memphis (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.1175, -89.971111
GPS: Land Between the Lakes (Ky. and Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.856944, -88.074722
GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
GPS: Muscle Shoals (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.750833, -87.650278
GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167
00:06:38 - Career overview

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Partial Transcript: Tell me just a little bit more about your career, just an overview...

Segment Synopsis: Mummert provides an overview of his career at TVA.

Keywords: Bill Willis; Choice; Corporate program; Decision; Downsizing; Environmental Quality Staff; General Manager; Intelligence; Interesting; John Waters; Line organizations; Manager of Waterway & River Cleanup; Moving; Offer; Office; Office of Economic and Community Development; Pay; Phone call; Projects; Reduction; Regional waste/water supply assistance; Reorganization; Resource group; Resume; Ronald Reagan; Scope; Services; Shocking; Skills; Special Assistant to the Board of Directors; TVA Board; Talking; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Test; Trouble; Unfilled; Unstable; Volunteer support activities; Waste management

Subjects: Change; Environmental protection; Experience; Federal government; Knoxville (Tenn.); Meeting; Money; Retirement; Staff; Successful; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Work

GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
00:11:50 - Favorite aspects of career

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Partial Transcript: Sounds like you enjoyed them.

Segment Synopsis: Mummert lists some of his favorite aspects of working at TVA.

Keywords: Clients; Enjoyed; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Environmental movement; Exhilarating; Favorite; Focused; Gratifying; Ground water; Help; Implementation; John Waters; Market; Municipal water supplies; New; Pay; Priorities; Recycling; Recycling programs; Regional waste; Results; Rewarding; River; Services; Solid waste; Special; Surprised; TVA Board of Directors; Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Terms of contracts; Wastewater; Willing

Subjects: Authority; Communities; Education; Environmental protection; Native American tribes; Native Americans; Regional planning; Satisfaction; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work

00:15:17 - Least favorite parts of TVA

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Partial Transcript: What did you--uh--like least about working at TVA?

Segment Synopsis: Mummert considers some of the more unfavorable aspects of being a TVA employee.

Keywords: Agenda; Big organization; Conflict; Dislike; Downsizing; Exciting; Fiefdoms; Hierarchy; Levels; Managers; Motivation; Reorganizations; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Uncaring

Subjects: Budget; Bureaucracy; Ego; Environmental protection; Organization; People; Planning; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work

00:17:07 - Background in environmental work

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Partial Transcript: Let me begin with--um--the work in--uh--recycling.

Segment Synopsis: Mummert talks of his background in environmental work, including experiences prior to his TVA career, during the 1970s in Michigan and Tennessee. Mummert also details TVA environmental efforts he participated in, such as landfill management and anti-dumping programs.

Keywords: Advanced; Background; Big; Challenges; Congress; Course; Dangerous; Decisions; Demand; Dick Freeman; Different; Difficulties; Discharge; Dumping; Emphasis; Encourage; Environment; Environmental improvement; Expertise; Fertilizer center; Forum; Garbage; Groundwater; Hazardous waste; Head of waste program; Help; Incidents; Landfills; Learned; Municipalities; National Science Foundation; National legislation; Natural resources management; New; Office of Economic and Community Development; Office of Power; Operating landfills; Perfect; Positive; Program; Recycling; Reducing waste; Requirements; Resource; Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; Route; S. David Freeman; Situation; Solid waste; Stimulant; TVA Board; Team; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Unknown; Unproductive land; Unsure; Unusual; Unwritten; Waste management; Wastewater management system; Water quality amendments

Subjects: Agriculture; Assistance; Attention; Budget; Cities; Counties; Drinking water; Economic development; Engineers; Environmental protection; Industries; Irrigation; Love Canal Chemical Waste Landfill (Niagara Falls, N.Y.); Materials; Memphis State University; Michigan; Muskegon (Mich.); Organization; People; Public health; Rural; Teaching; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water quality; West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission; Work

GPS: Muskegon (Mich.)
Map Coordinates: 43.234167, -86.248333
GPS: Memphis State University [now called University of Memphis]
Map Coordinates: 35.119, -89.937
00:23:08 - Memories of recycling program

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Partial Transcript: What are some of your memories--

Segment Synopsis: Mummert reflects upon his involvement with setting up a recycling program in Grainger County, Tennessee.

Keywords: Abandoned school building; Agreements; Assumptions; Below market rate; Buy back center; Cans; Cardboard; Controversial; Cool; County sheriff; Development; East Tennessee; Experienced; Garbage; Girl; Glass factory; Grainger County Recycling Program; Incentive; Landfill; Litter; Opening day; Photographer; Poor; Potential; Processed; Rare; Recyclable; Recycling; Remote; Requirements; Roadside; Rural recycling program; Secondary materials; Social event; Solid waste; Stockpiles; Supervising; Talking; Team; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Transportation costs; Trucks; Uncooperative

Subjects: Aluminum; Building; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Contracts; Counties; Design; Glass; Grainger County (Tenn.); Markets; Memory; Money; Newspapers; People; Poverty; Prisoners; Responsibility; Rooms; Rural; Skepticism; Stability; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Tractor trailers; Uncertainty

GPS: Grainger County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.28, -83.51
GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
00:28:28 - Non-profit community recycling program

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Partial Transcript: Another one--uh--was memory was--uh---going down to Athens, Alabama.

Segment Synopsis: Mummert discusses a non-profit recycling program that he assisted in improving in Athens, Alabama during the 1980s.

Keywords: Athens Limestone Clean Community System; Cardboard; Collection sites; Dedicated; Disorganized; Efficiency; Equipment; Incinerator building; Non-profit group; Non-profit recycling program; Rare; Recycling; School system; Small town recycling; Small-scale; Smart; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Athens (Ala.); Building; Keep America Beautiful, Inc.; Model; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Athens (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.789722, -86.969444
00:31:24 - Advancing rural solid waste collection

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Partial Transcript: W--what do you think were the key ingredients that made this program work?

Segment Synopsis: Mummert explains why rural recycling programs that TVA began to establish in the 1980s had long-term success and longevity.

Keywords: Acceptance; Adapting; Advertisement; Allocation; Appalachia; Burnt; Cities; Collection centers; Common; Communication; Conceptualizations; Convenience centers; County; County executives; County officials; Demonstrating; Diesel trucks; Discretionary funds; Dumped; Dumpsters; Effective; Effort; Example; Expensive; Feasibility study; Fence; Garbage; Great; Greenbox systems; Help; Hours; Implementation; Improve; Instructions; Landfill; Machinery; Manager of Waste program; Nationwide; New; Private sector; Problems; Program; Recyclables; Reduction; Request; Resources; Road; Roadside dumping; Rural solid waste; Schedule; Secure; Solid waste assistance; Solid waste collection systems; Solid waste crisis; Solutions; South; TVA Board; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Today; Trash; Unaffordable; Vermin; Willing; Work; Work week

Subjects: Anderson County (Tenn.); Building; Career; Cleaning; Communities; Counties; Design; Georgia; Good; Grainger County (Tenn.); Income; Insects; Knox County (Tenn.); Lobbying; Money; Monitoring; Mountains; North Carolina; Oak Ridge (Tenn.); Organization; People; Poverty; Public health; Retirement; Rural; System; Technical assistance; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Vandalism; Volunteer; Work

GPS: Knox County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.99, -83.94
GPS: Anderson County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.11, -84.2
GPS: Oak Ridge (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.010278, -84.269722
GPS: North Carolina
Map Coordinates: 35.5557, -79.3877
GPS: Georgia
Map Coordinates: 32.6415, -83.4426
GPS: Grainger County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.28, -83.51
00:41:46 - Waste management and water conservation assistance

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Partial Transcript: In the--in the regional waste management--and--program...

Segment Synopsis: Mummert details the technical assistance that TVA provided to allow rural regional waste management programs to perform efficiently.

Keywords: Activities; Agronomists; Avoid; Benefits; Bio-solids; Byproducts; Chemical fertilizers; Demonstration project; Distribution lines; Energy costs; Energy from waste; Energy savings; Facilities; Fertilizing value; Growing crops; Help; Important; Leaks; Maintenance costs; Nutrients; Office of power; Operation costs; Problem; Program; Program manager; Rain; Rates; Records; Regional waste management program; Regional water supply program; Researchers; Savings; Sewage sludge; Sludge; Small town; Sonic water leak detection equipment; Superior; TVA engineering lab; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Treated water; Waste; Waste management; Wastewater treatment; Water loss leak detection; Water plant; Water systems

Subjects: Communities; Cost; Crops; Energy; Gallatin (Tenn.); Muscle Shoals (Ala.); National Fertilizer Development Center (U.S.); Popular; Research; Rural; Technical assistance; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water; Water conservation; Water use; Water-supply; Work

GPS: Gallatin (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.381389, -86.451389
GPS: National Fertilizer Development Center (U.S.) [now called International Fertilizer Development Center]
Map Coordinates: 34.7698259, -87.6564063
GPS: Muscle Shoals (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.750833, -87.650278
00:47:03 - Relationship of work to TVA mission

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Partial Transcript: Well, how do you see that relating to TVA's mission?

Segment Synopsis: Mummert explains how his work in waste management and environmental protection relates to TVA's original mission.

Keywords: Academic life; Continued; Disappear; Ecological system; Ecologist; Equipped; Expensive; Focus; Forestry; Guiding principles; Influenced; Interrelated; Loaned; Mission; National resource management; New; Problems; Provide; Quote; Realization; Regional resource development agency; Resources; River management; Soil erosion; Sonic water leak detection equipment; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Treatment; Valuable; Waste

Subjects: Agriculture; Air; Communities; Erosion; History; Land; Technical assistance; Technology; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; View; Water

00:49:49 - Recognition of work outside Tennessee Valley

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Partial Transcript: Did you work ever go outside the valley? Were you ever recognized or...

Segment Synopsis: Mummert reveals to what extent his work at TVA was recognized outside the Tennessee Valley.

Keywords: Adopted; Board of Directors; Chair; Chapters; Civic; Classes; Convenience center approach; Curriculum; Demands; Easy; Government; Integrate; Litter prevention; Local; Local affiliate; National Advisory Council, Keep America Beautiful; National curriculum; Nationwide; Official curriculum; Program; Projects; Recognition; Requirement; Strong; Symbiotic relationship; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Transferred; Waste management technicians; Waste management work; Waste: A Hidden Resource (school curriculum)

Subjects: Alabama; Athens (Ala.); Awards; Business; Counties; English; Infrastructure; Keep America Beautiful, Inc.; Leadership; Mathematics; Schools; State governments; Structures; Teachers; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work

GPS: Athens (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.789722, -86.969444
00:54:12 - Challenges of work

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Partial Transcript: Were there any significant challenges or conditions that you had to overcome to do some of this work in the 1980s?

Segment Synopsis: Mummert highlights some of the challenges of his work at TVA.

Keywords: Conditions; Convenience; Convenience center systems; Conventional thinking; Converting; Expensive; Important; Obstacle; Overcome; Recycling; Resources; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Terrain; Today

Subjects: Behavior; Change; Counties; Participation; Poverty; Rural; Skepticism; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Volunteers

00:55:53 - Lake improvement plan and John Waters’ river trip

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Partial Transcript: Well, I understand that when you were working with John Waters...

Segment Synopsis: Mummert details a TVA publicity river trip that he took with John Waters, a former member of the TVA Board of Directors. Mummert explains why Waters had the perfect personality and connections for such a publicity tour.

Keywords: Aeration; Area; Barge; Benefits; Bicentennial Volunteers Incorporated (BVI); Boat captain; Campaign Director; Chambers of commerce; Chris Ungate; Commercial office; Communications; Comprehensive; Congressional staff; Connected; Contribution; Conversations; Critical; Decisions; Different; Driving; Edge; End; Enjoyed; Environmental groups; Exhibits; Experts; Federal co-chair; Flow of water; Focus; Friends; Great; Hostess; Howard Baker; Implementation; Improved water quality; Indoor shelter; Information; Inspection; Instrumental; Interested; Interesting; Interpret; Invited; John Waters; Lake improvement plan; Lake levels; Loved; Mapping; Media; Minimum flows; Mixture; Natural; Needs; Negotiations; New; Office of Power; Operation protocol; Pilot house; Politics; Possibility; Presentations; Project director; Raising dissolved oxygen levels; Recommendations; Recycled materials; Reservoir Revaluation Study; Revaluation; River; River management; Roles; Segment; Senate campaign; Startup; TVA Archives; TVA Board; Tail waters; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Thunderstorm; Towboat; Tributary lakes; University; Video; Withdrawing

Subjects: Appalachian Regional Commission; Attention; Building; Change; Dams; Diversity; Experience; French Broad River (N.C. and Tenn.); Friendship; Good; Habitats; Historic; Kentucky Lake (Ky. and Tenn.); Lakes; Leaders; Learning; Management; Mayors; Mississippi; New York; Nuclear power plants; Oxygen; Paducah (Ky.); People; Recreation; Sevierville (Tenn.); States; Summer; Tennessee; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Tourism; Volunteers; Weather

GPS: Sevierville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.8775, -83.57
GPS: Mississippi
Map Coordinates: 32.7364, -89.6678
GPS: New York
Map Coordinates: 42.9538, -75.5268
GPS: French Broad River (N.C. and Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.959167, -83.85
GPS: Paducah (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.072222, -88.6275
GPS: Kentucky Lake (Ky. and Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 37.01256, -88.27003
01:07:11 - Final thoughts

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Partial Transcript: Are there any questions that I have not asked that you wish I had asked or anything else that you wanted to say today? About your good work at TVA?

Segment Synopsis: Mummert shares his final thoughts on being a TVA employee, including interesting assignments with river cleanup teams and Native American tribes.

Keywords: Agreed; Appreciative; Bicentennial Volunteers Incorporated (BVI); Big; Cleanup; Contribute; Decisive; Dedicated; Dream career; Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (N.C.); Government; Great; Groups; Help; Implemented; Invitations; Land management; Materials; Outside entities; Poarch Band of Creek Indians (Alabama); Projects; Recommendations; Regional planner; River action teams; River cleanup work; Shoreline; Southeast; Supportive; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Trust; Warehouse

Subjects: Bags; Career; Drinking water; Florida; Gloves; Knowledge; Legacy; Manager; Maps; Muscle Shoals (Ala.); Native American tribes; North Carolina; Participation; People; Planning; Protection; Public institutions; Public relations; Seminole Tribe of Florida; Storage; Successful; Tennessee; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Volunteers

GPS: Muscle Shoals (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.750833, -87.650278
GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36.162222, -86.774444
GPS: Florida
Map Coordinates: 28.6305, -82.4497
GPS: North Carolina
Map Coordinates: 35.5557, -79.3877