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Mecklenburg linemen power through competition

Four line workers from Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative’s (MEC) Chase City District participated in The 2014 Annual Terex® Equipment Operator’s Rodeo and the Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s Rodeo in early April. They quite capably and professionally represented MEC resulting in multiple awards, according to Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative’s President and CEO John Lee. 

As a team, Line Foreman Jason McKinney, Lineman/Serviceman Paul Underwood and Equipment Operator Brad Clark competed among 16 equipment operator teams in three events and among 23 teams in five journeyman lineman events. They placed first among Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC), earning the coveted Jimmy Gardner Award. 

This prestigious award is named in honor of the late lineman who served as one of the first cooperative linemen in Virginia and lived into his 90s to see the early success and growth of the rodeo event.

The various wins that qualified the team for the award were first place in the Switch Change event, first place in Performance of the Life-saving Techniques of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator) and second place in the Bucket Truck Rescue event. 

Chadd Harding, a second-year apprentice lineman in the Chase City District, also won an impressive award. He competed among 50 fellow apprentices in five events, including a comprehensive written test, winning second place in the Re-fuse Cutout event. 

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative’s awards also included a first place trophy for its design of the T-shirts worn by MEC rodeo participants.

The rodeos were held at the Caroline County Agricultural Fairgrounds near Ruther Glen. The only competition of its kind held in Virginia, this utility equipment operator rodeo and climbing rodeo was open to line workers from electric utilities from all over the country.  

More than 120 electric line personnel from Virginia and six other states attended, some from as far away as Ohio. The event was coordinated and hosted by VMDAEC and its members. 

Two other teams represented Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative. Lineman/Serviceman Jamie Walden, Lineman/Serviceman Matthew Doss and Apprentice Lineman Jason Holley were from the Gretna District, and Line Foreman Craig Phelps, Lineman/Serviceman Andy Epperson and Apprentice Lineman Adam Brewer were from the Emporia District. 

Gaff-n-Go judges commended the teams for their observance of safety requirements while demonstrating their abilities and skills. 

MEC employees serving as coaches for the teams were Jeff Howerton, Robert Lankford and Randy Whirley. 

Experienced volunteers from participating utilities served as judges for each event, and among almost 70 judges were MEC employees Joe Hostetter, Blake Hutcherson, Danny Rowles, B. J. Seamans, Nelson Smith and Clint Card, the event’s master judge. 

Card said, “Being a line worker is a proud profession and all of these men want to be the very best. This competition gives them the opportunity to put into practice the best and safest techniques they later implement in the field.” 

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative’s President and CEO Lee, who also serves as chairman of the VMDAEC committee that oversees the rodeo event, said, “Each team or individual apprentice was judged on the time it took to perform a task and, more importantly, on whether the task was performed according to safe and efficient work practices. Safety is job one at Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, and we were pleased to take part in this event that shares that priority as well as sharpens our skills, promotes teamwork, inspires unity, gives our men the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and builds strong employee morale and pride in MEC.”

He continues by commending all the participants in this year’s event. 

“This was our 10th year of participation in this unique event, and I am very proud of our past participants, all of the men who competed this year, those who served as coaches and judges, and MEC’s strong legacy of excellent line crews. We also appreciate the tremendous support we received from our teams’ families, our employees, our board of directors and our great members. The MEC participants were simply excellent and represented our organization very capably and with class and professionalism. We are very proud of every single one of them.....they are all winners.”  

To view pictures taken at this year’s event and previous competitions, go to