Tanya Townsend

Program Manager, Protective Strategy | Decatur, Ala.

"I am part of a team that's responsible for protecting the plant and its employees to they can continue to make low-cost, clean, reliable power. I am proud to work at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant."

If you could travel back in time about 15 years, you’d find Tanya Townsend working three jobs. From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., she worked with special needs students at a local high school. Then she’d rush to her second job at a nearby day care center, which offered her a chance to peek in on her six-month-old son, Austin. When the day care center closed at 6 p.m., she’d drop Austin off at his grandparents and work at a women’s clothing store until closing.

The break-neck pace was physically grueling. It was an emotionally tough time for Townsend, too: Within a two-year span, she’d lost both her parents and gotten a divorce.

And then she got an ‘unbelievable’ break.

“One of my coworkers at the high school told her husband what I was going through, and he suggested that I put in an application with the company that was providing security guard service to Browns Ferry,” Townsend remembers. It was just after 9/11 and, like other nuclear plant operators, TVA wanted more security personnel on site.

“I didn’t have any experience,” Townsend says. “And, as a single mom, some would have considered me a ‘high risk’ employee. But as crazy as it sounds, I got hired. TVA took a chance on me, and I will always be grateful for that.”

As it turned out, Townsend took to security work naturally. She mastered firearms quickly and, a few years later, was offered a position as a security training specialist, encouraged by her supervisor. “He told me I was their poster child for turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse,” she laughs. “I wasn’t really sure how to take that.”

Other opportunities came along, including a chance to work in Training Support at Browns Ferry. Then in November 2015, Townsend moved into her current position: Program Manager, Protective Strategy.

Protecting Reliability

“Coming back to security—back to my original group—feels like coming home,” says Townsend. “It feels like where I belong.” Her duties include testing existing security systems at Browns Ferry and identifying ways to enhance site security.

“My team is responsible for the protecting the plant and its employees,” Townsend says. “When we do our job, they can do their jobs. Browns Ferry can continue to provide low-cost, clean and reliable power. When we do our job, the public is safe, too. My family is safe.”

Townsend also leads a team of about 20 Browns Ferry employees who are working to promote diversity and inclusion at the plant—a goal she believes is important to achieving TVA’s mission. “To execute our mission, we’ve got to work together. We have to take advantage of our different perspectives,” she says. “As individual contributors, we can’t do anything about who TVA hires. But we can make sure people here feel welcome, know their opinions are valued and want to stay here.”

The team hosts a variety of events to raise awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion, including events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage, Black History and Women’s History months.

Outside of work, Townsend is her son’s biggest fan. He’s now a high school junior.

“Austin is the only singing, dancing football player I know,” she laughs. “He’s won several talent competitions, and he was a star football player until he got hurt last season.”

When it comes to persevering in the face of adversity, though, Austin apparently takes after his mom.

“He’s working hard to get better,” says Townsend. “He’s in the gym almost every day, and he’s staying positive. I’m proud of him for that.”

Call her a protective mother.

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