An American Hero Inspires TECO Veterans

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The TECO Veterans Alliance with Florida State Senator Jay Collins (middle left) and Tampa Electric President & CEO Archie Collins (middle right). 

The TECO Veterans Alliance (TVA) Employee Resource Group (ERG) recently had the privilege of participating in a unique meet and greet with Florida State Senator Jay Collins.

TECO veterans connected with the highly decorated Army Special Forces combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient. Senator Collins kicked off the discussion by learning about the fellow veterans in the room. That’s when he discovered Tampa Electric’s Senior Administrator of Organizational Development Bruce Napier was the longest serving veteran at the event, after 25 years with the U.S. Air Force. 

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Senator Collins told TVA members, “The biggest differentiator in life is audacity - the courage to step into the mix and do what you know has to be done. Ask those hard questions.”

Senator Collins revealed that he committed 23 years of his life to military service, during which he deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Tragically, during his 18th year of service, Collins suffered the loss of his leg.

When it came time for him to transition to a civilian role, Senator Collins continued to serve his community by overseeing the distribution of millions of meals to veterans, first responders and those in need through a nonprofit organization.

“I wanted to work in the nonprofit space because when I was lying in a hospital bed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, not sure if I was ever going to walk again… three strangers helped lift me and my whole family up,” recalled Collins. “So, I thought it was extremely important for me to help pay that back. It’s a purpose-driven life. In the military, we’re part of a team – a brotherhood and sisterhood – we have that purpose.”

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Facility Services Contract Coordinator Jose Lopez (left) with Senator Collins.

That purpose led the senator into politics to serve as an advocate for veterans' rights and community improvement. “I got into politics because I realized that those who can, should. And it’s about time we start getting people who built things and bleed for things to be a part of the process.”

In 2022, Senator Collins was elected to represent parts of Hillsborough County, which includes a majority of Tampa Electric’s service area, in the Florida State Senate. “TECO is so vital,” Senator Collins told the dozens of TVA members during the Oct. 3 Lunch ‘n Learn. There is nothing more important than power and regulating that and solving issues for our grid and for our community. It’s hard to go to school, have a job and be a parent without power, sustainability and a resilient grid. And that’s what you guys do day in and day out.”

Senator Collins spent the power hour answering questions from the TVA, including one from President & CEO Archie Collins who asked for advice on how to deepen TECO’s ties with veterans as they transition out of the military.

“I wish we would hire more veterans,” said Archie. “We like to be seen as a company that folks are considering. We have an important mission and purpose. We make a big difference in our communities by delivering clean, reliable energy to keep our customers safe and secure.”

Senator Collins left the attendees with many words of wisdom, including, “The biggest differentiator in life is audacity - the courage to step into the mix and do what you know has to be done. Ask those hard questions.”

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Senator Collins took a tour of the ECC to learn about many of the tools and equipment we use to keep the community’s lights on.

During their stop, Senator Collins and his team were able to take a tour of the ECC to learn how TECO restores power as safely and quickly as possible. He also got to learn about many of the tools TECO uses to keep the community’s lights on and even got to take an impromptu bucket truck ride up 55-feet in the air.

At the end of the day, the self-proclaimed “one-legged retired Green Beret” was seen instead as a true American hero to all those in attendance. “We are delighted Senator Collins stopped by,” said Archie. “He strikes me a very authentic caring individual.”

Vice President of Legal and General Counsel and TVA Executive Sponsor David Nicholson agreed, “He is a real advocate for our company, for our business and for veterans.” 

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Senator Collins enjoyed an impromptu bucket truck ride up in the air.

As we continue to honor and support our veterans and their families, Tampa Electric is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with leaders like Senator Jay Collins, who share our mission of making a positive impact on our community and the lives of those we serve.