It’s a rare opportunity when someone has the chance to represent their entire state at a national event, but that’s exactly the opportunity Tyler Tautges had when he represented the state of Wisconsin at PowerXchange in Nashville, Tennessee.
PowerXchange, held in early March, is the annual meeting for NRECA.
Tautges’ journey to Nashville began in 2019 when Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative (CWEC) sponsored his attendance at Youth Leadership Conference (YLC), which is an annual event youth can attend to learn more about co-ops and to gain leadership skills. While at YLC Tautges ran for a position on the WECA Youth Board. He was elected to the Youth Board by his peers. As a member of Youth Board, Tautges helped plan the YLC event the following year, and it put him on a path to represent the state of Wisconsin at PowerXchange.
Also, in 2019, Tautges applied to be the state representative. The application process included Tautges submitting a short video in which he explained in the video why he wanted to be the state representative.
Prior to leaving for Nashville, Tautges said he was excited for the opportunity, adding he had been attending Webex meetings with representatives from other states.
“We’re separated into groups and we brainstorm ideas once in a while, so it’ll be nice to see those people in person and talk to them,” Tautges said.
Tautges said he knows it is a privilege to be able to represent Wisconsin.
“It feels pretty great to be chosen from all of the kids who were on the board and to be asked to come back this year again,” he said.
Tautges said he was involved in two events during PowerXchange. The first day he and the other representatives opened the event.
“We came running out at the cameras and threw ducks into the crowd wearing cowboy hats because it was Nashville,” Tautges said. “The second day we introduced ourselves and where we were from and our sponsored co-ops.”
Being in front of around 10,000 people was exciting for Tautges. When introducing himself and the state he was representing, he shared the Wisconsin “W” with his hands.
“I was very honored,” he said. “It felt amazing. Being the only one from Wisconsin and representing the state in front of so many people.
In addition to participating in PowerXchange, the youth state representatives got to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, participate in a scavenger hunt throughout the city of Nashville, and help put up a hot air balloon in front of the Music City Center, among other activities.
Tautges said the highlight of the trip was meeting new people and visiting with representatives from other states from as far away as Hawaii and New York.
“Just to be in one place because we are all part of the cooperative world,” Tautges said. “That’s pretty amazing.”
Looking back, Tautges said he is glad that he attended YLC in 2019. In addition to ultimately being able to attend PowerXchange, Tautges said attending YLC helped him improve his speaking skills, meet new people, make new friends, and learn more about co-ops.
The knowledge of co-ops helped Tautges obtain a summer job at CWEC in June 2022, which led to a part-time job while he attends secondary school.