Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Brian Crutchfield, July 23, 2020

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - Path to his career at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

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Partial Transcript: Uh, the following is an oral history interview conducted as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Association Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Crutchfield begins the interview by discussing his path to working with the TVA. Prior to working for TVA, he was a regional field representative for the Appalachian Bioregion for the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Their purpose there was to introduce and develop appropriate technologies in communities in that region. He conducted several presentations and was able to award grants to several communities. In his work, he was introduced to a few TVA workers and discussed the importance of appropriate technology. TVA expressed an interest in creating a position in appropriate technology and encouraged Crutchfield to apply. He was accepted to the position in December of 1978. Crutchfield explains that appropriate technology is choosing technology that is best fit to meet needs of the community.

Keywords: Appalachian Bioregion; Applications; Boone (N.C.); Cultural use; E.F. Schumacher; Funds; Highlander Center; Interviews; Job applications; Jobs; National Center for Appropriate Technology; North Carolina; Positions; Regional field representatives; Small communities; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Appropriate technology; Careers; Communities; Grants; Technology; Tennessee Valley Authority; Villages

GPS: Boone (N.C.)
Map Coordinates: 36.211389, -81.668611
00:05:55 - Need for appropriate technology in Tennessee Valley

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Partial Transcript: I can see how, as you indicated, appropriate technology might be, uh, useful or, uh, relevant for developing countries...

Segment Synopsis: Crutchfield explains that, although the United States is considered a developed country, certain areas of the Tennessee Valley are underdeveloped, especially along the river and in the mountains. TVA introduced resource development in building dams and bringing new agricultural products. Other areas like Nashville and Memphis were able to develop on their own as they were more heavily populated. In counties with under 30,000 people, they require a lot of help to get started. TVA used multiple methods of development in each community, all with the goal of making the area more self-sustaining.

Keywords: Agricultural products; Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC); Chattanooga (Tenn.); Growth; Knoxville (Tenn.); Mandates; Memphis (Tenn.); Nashville (Tenn.); Poor counties; Populations; Regions; Resource development; Small communities; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Underdeveloped communities; Wartime

Subjects: Appropriate technology; Communities; Developed countries; Developing countries; Sustainable development; Tennessee Valley Authority; United States

GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
GPS: Nashville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.162222, -86.774444
GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
GPS: Memphis (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.1175, -89.971111
00:08:14 - Thoughts about TVA at 50 years

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Partial Transcript: So here comes, uh, Brian Crutchfield, being hired at TVA, in uh, 19, uh, 78 as the first, uh, person to specialize in, in this area.

Segment Synopsis: In his time at the TVA, they were focusing on telling their story, trying to show what integrated resource management was all about. In his first three years there, Crutchfield considered building a sustainable village as a permanent facility. While that plan did not work out, they ended up retrofitting two barges to hold the history of TVA in managing dams for industry and flood prevention. They also included agricultural history and farming techniques. When they had access to technology, they worked to contact companies to work with them. On TVA's fiftieth anniversary, they took the barges up and down the river, visiting various communities that they had helped in the past. They were having boosters coming in from all over the country. Crutchfield spent much of his first three years sitting down with others needing advice. Crutchfield describes TVA as a successful socialist project, created by the United States government.

Keywords: Anniversaries; Barges; Bicentennial Volunteers, Inc. (BVI); Boosters; Community energy management; David Freeman; Farming techniques; Integrated resource management; Jobs; Norris (Tenn.); Permanent facilities; Plans; Recruiting; Solar energy; Specialization; Sustainable agriculture; Sustainable village; TVA plants; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Wind energy; World's Fair

Subjects: Appropriate technology; Communities; Electricity; Exhibitions; Expertise; History; Technology; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167
00:15:53 - Community Energy Branch

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Partial Transcript: Say, I, uh--you've been talking about, uh, the first couple of years and, uh, you were in that, uh, position of focusing on appropriate technology...

Segment Synopsis: Crutchfield spent his first few years focusing on appropriate technology. In trying to become more effective, the TVA would often reorganize. He began by working in the watershed area and trying to find a use for the various tributaries. In the economic and community development area, he can remember reorganizing at least five years. Crutchfield became a branch chief of the community energy branch, an entirely new focus on renewable energy. They worked to generate energy without damaging the environment. The community energy branch he led worked on identifying the source of the energy and making sure that they were well-equipped for the future. The TVA also worked in conservation and it was a national leader in those areas.

Keywords: Amory Lovins; Area development; Assignments; Branch chiefs; Community Energy Branch; Construction; David Freeman; Departments; Energy alternatives; Environmental impact; Focuses; Improvements; Jobs; Nuclear energy; Office of Tributary Area Development (OTAD); Personal history; Reorganizations; Solar energy; Supervisors; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tributaries; Utilities; Watershed; Wind energy

Subjects: Appropriate technology; Careers; Economic development; Environmental impact analysis; Expertise; History; Renewable energy; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:24:00 - Community development

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Partial Transcript: So, after, after you were in the community energy, uh, branch, uh, you went onto community development, I believe?

Segment Synopsis: After leaving the community energy branch of the TVA, Crutchfield moved on to work in community development. Crutchfield shares that in the TVA, "reorganization" was common, in which groups would shift to a different focus area. In community development, Crutchfield focused on housing and creating jobs. He worked in areas of affordable housing, ensuring that houses were energy efficient. Crutchfield shares details of areas he worked in, mentioning a strip mining community, as well as a minority economic development project in Knoxville, Tennessee. They worked to include local leadership in the projects to ensure the community's needs were met.

Keywords: Affordable housing; Community energy; Creating jobs; Jellico (Tenn.); Knoxville (Tenn.); Leadership; Local leadership; Mechanicsville; Projects; Small communities; Small towns; Sustainable energy; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Underdeveloped communities

Subjects: Appropriate technology; Communities; Community development; Economic development; Housing; Renewable energy; Strip mining; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
GPS: Jellico (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.5825, -84.130556
00:26:57 - Waste management

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Partial Transcript: And then, uh, after community development, uh, you had--you went to uh, from what I know, uh, waste management?

Segment Synopsis: After working in community development, Crutchfield moved to waste management. The TVA noticed that several communities had rather rudimentary methods of trash disposal. They started to focus on waste management on a community scale, encouraging recycling programs. In the early eighties, communities would have green dumpsters where residents could take garbage from their homes. These green dumpsters created a host of problems, attracting rats as well as encouraging dumpster divers. The TVA designed a convenience center where garbage could be managed in a different way. The sites were enclosed in a fence and residents could bring their garbage at a set time. These centers also had options to recycle and donate other gently used items. This project was replicated in over twenty communities. TVA oversaw the installation and helped the community request funds for the project. The waste management project also encompassed the safe disposal of hazardous materials. The cost for cleanup of hazardous materials is rather high, so the TVA focused on finding a safer method of disposal.

Keywords: Donations; Dumpsters; Hazardous materials; Projects; Recycling; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Trash disposal; Waste management

Subjects: Communities; Community development; Hazardous substances; Recycling advocates; Refuse and refuse disposal; Salvage (Waste, etc.)

00:36:02 - Economic development opportunities and leadership development

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Partial Transcript: Well, my next question is, what was in store for you after you were, uh, participating in TVA's waste, uh, efforts?

Segment Synopsis: After working in waste management, Crutchfield began working in sustainable economic development. They developed a focus on job development and creating different types of industries. Through the TVA, they began a program developing bailing waste instead of flattening waste as a means of creating more jobs. Crutchfield describes the process of bailing waste and how it differs from flattening waste. They found they could create jobs in constructing the machines as well as in recycling. They also began working in the automobile industry, focusing on electric cars.

Keywords: Assembly; Baling waste; Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative; Construction; Industries; Jobs; Machinery; Southern Growth Policies Board; Sustainability; Sustainable development; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Waste management

Subjects: Appropriate technology; Careers; Communities; Community development; Economic development; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:42:51 - Favorite memories

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, well, uh, Brian, uh, you've taken us on a great, and quite diverse, uh, trip through your, uh, experience at TVA...

Segment Synopsis: Crutchfield discusses his overall career at TVA, focusing on his favorite memories. Throughout his various projects with TVA, Crutchfield shares that one of his favorite aspects was learning from others. TVA was supportive of its members continuing their education by attending conferences and meetings. They strove to continually improve the experience and encouraged innovation. Crutchfield discusses the information sharing methods TVA used to promote innovation. They worked to become a national demonstration agency, to lead by example.

Keywords: Conferences; Improvements; Information sharing; Innovation; Meetings; Members; Networking; Precedents; Projects; Recognition; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Appropriate technology; Careers; Communities; Community development; Economic development; Experiences; Leadership; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:49:35 - Leadership award

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Partial Transcript: You said you were involved in a lot of different things, but I would like you to pick out just one or two maybe that, uh--some--two of the most important accomplishments in your career.

Segment Synopsis: Crutchfield discusses the TVA Leadership Award, which he won as a member of a team recognized for its work with an exemplary community project that has truly made an impact. The community convenience center model for waste collection and its impact on the environment provided a model for other communities. He describes its direct impact on the communities and how it helped their waste management situation. Crutchfield helped implement the community convenience center program. He shares that it was a nice feeling knowing that he was part of something so unique that made such a lasting impact.

Keywords: Community centers; Community convenience centers; Community project; Demonstrations; Leadership Awards; Production; Programs; Projects; Sustainability; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Waste management

Subjects: Appropriate technology; Awards; Community development; Economic development; Leadership; Tennessee Valley Authority