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Hundreds turn out for Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative meeting

Despite temperatures in the upper 90s, hundreds of members of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative gathered for the organization’s 74th Annual Meeting of the Members on June 20 at the Cooperative’s Pavilion in Chase City. 

More than 700 people braved the heat to participate in the election of board members, hear operational and financial reports from cooperative staff and enjoy some fellowship with fellow cooperative members.

Prior to the business meeting, attendees had the opportunity to learn more about programs and services offered to Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative members to help keep their power bills low, including free home energy audits and no cost/low cost ways to save electricity.  

Another booth featured the Co-op Connections discount card, a benefit of cooperative membership that has saved Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative members more than $221,000 on prescriptions alone and countless additional dollars on discounts offered by local businesses.

Paying tribute to the United States military has become a patriotic tradition at the cooperative’s annual event, and the meeting began with the Presentation of Colors ceremony conducted by the Lake Country Detachment #1085 Marine Corps League Color Guard, followed by The National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and the singing of “God Bless America.” 

A video was shown paying tribute to military personnel who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives and will not be coming home to their loving families. 

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative President and CEO John Lee introduced the video by saying, “While you’ll only see an occasional brief mention in the national media of the fact that, right this moment, many soldiers are in harm’s way far from home, we ask that you join your cooperative board and employees in vowing to never forget the past and present sacrifices made by all these American heroes on our behalf.” He continued by stating, “Last year’s video focused on our fighting men and women returning home to surprise their loved ones. This year’s presentation pays tribute to those who will not be coming home and to the families they leave behind whose life-changing, inconceivable and perpetual sacrifices were made to keep all of us safe and free.” 

Following the video, Lee asked all veterans, those currently serving in the military, and their family members to stand and be recognized for their service and sacrifice.

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative Director David Jones recognized special guests in attendance, which included Virginia Senator Frank Ruff, Virginia Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Lottie Nunn from the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, Debra Smiley and Dr. Dixie Dalton of Southside Virginia Community College and Dr. Charles Lee, interim Clarksville Town Manager.  

Special guests from affiliated organizations included Jack Reasor, president and CEO of Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, the power supplier for Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and 10 other electric cooperatives, and Richard Johnstone, executive vice president of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.

Also recognized was the large number of retired Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative employees and directors in attendance, whom Jones asked to stand and be recognized. Jones thanked the retirees for their service to the cooperative and for laying the foundation upon which the organization is built and continues its success.

The event’s guest speaker was Louis Mitchener, vice president of U.S. Operations for Oran Safety Glass, Inc.  Oran Safety Glass, Inc. designs and manufactures bulletproof glass products for military vehicles as well as commercial and architectural applications from their facility in Emporia. This company is the sole supplier for transparent armor for the U. S. battle truck fleet serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has become the No. 1 ranked company in the nation for supplying ballistic and blast mitigation transparent armor to leading truck manufacturers as well as our military and armed forces.

Oran Safety Glass, Inc.  is a member of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, and the Cooperative was instrumental in helping Oran Safety Glass, Inc.  establish their first facility in the United States and in bringing over 50 jobs to the Emporia area.  Mitchener commented, “Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative has been an invaluable partner in the success of our facility in Emporia. From the process of site selection for our operation, during the construction of the plant, and now during ongoing operations, they are there, providing reliable power and access to low interest funding that has helped us grow, expand our product line and add more jobs.”  In closing, Mitchener concurred with the theme of this year’s meeting, “MEC Membership Matters” stating, “Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative provides excellent service, and we are most pleased to have them as our electric service provider. We appreciate the fact that we are not just customers, we are members.”

In the President and CEO’s Report, Lee reviewed 2011 with the members present and said, “As you know, the business model for a cooperative is unique in that the organization is owned by those it serves; and accordingly, members play the most critical role in a cooperative’s success. I am pleased to report that your cooperative continued to perform well in 2011, due in large part to the strong relationship we enjoy with you, and to the fact that you take your membership in this organization seriously through your active participation.”

Lee continued, “We strive to make certain that your lights come on every time you flip the switch, that our service to your home or business is safe, and that each month your bill represents a reasonable amount for the kilowatt-hours you have used and the cost of maintaining your distribution system. We endeavor to accomplish those tasks with excellent member service that reinforces the fact that you own this cooperative and that all of us here work for all of you.”

He also discussed the area’s shrinking population and the issues that presents for the cooperative and Southside Virginia. He discussed the organization’s work on controlling costs and maintaining affordability for the cooperative’s services, adding, “We will continue to look for opportunities to do more with less by implementing more efficient work practices and by better utilizing available technology while keeping  a keen eye on making certain that our customers’ service is maintained at a high level.  Controlling costs is critical for our organization.”

Energy efficiency and renewable resources were also part of his presentation, and Lee explained that their cooperative and its power supplier, ODEC, are sensitive to both those concerns explaining, “For example, without regulatory mandate, ODEC provides over three percent, or 162 megawatts, of its members’ wholesale power needs from renewable resources including wind, land fill gas and hydro facilities, and do so at a reasonable cost. That figure will rise significantly to 6.5 percent of our needs next year when an already executed power supply contract with a wind farm that is currently under construction, begins.”

Lee closed by thanking the cooperative employees stating, “They (cooperative employees) proved time and time again in 2011, through two tornados and a major hurricane, that their commitment to you never waivers, and that when it gets tough outside, they are up to the task. They are a proud and competitive group that wants your cooperative to be the best.  Most importantly, they work together under the single goal of meeting your expectations of us.” 

Secretary/Treasurer Stan Duffer reported on the sound financial status of the business.  He noted that the cooperative’s net plant of buildings, land, substations, equipment, vehicles and 4,400 miles of energized power lines amounts to approximately $114 million, and equity in the business exceeds $54 million. As for the cooperative’s financial condition, Lee’s comments also included, “Your Cooperative continued its positive performance in metrics used to evaluate financial condition and, additionally, returned over $1.8 million in capital credits to you, our membership last year.”

Three directors were elected by the membership - Stan Duffer of Red Oak was elected to represent District 6, David Jones of Bracey was elected to represent the members residing in District 8, and Nathalie’s Larry Layman was elected to serve members in District 4 in a position previously held by Robert “Bobby” Conner, also of the Nathalie community.  They will serve three-year terms.  

This year’s Annual Meeting marked the last as an Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative board member and as chairman of the board for Robert (Bobby) Conner, who announced his retirement after 30 years of service.  Lee presented a Resolution of Appreciation and Thanks to Conner along with a thank you from members, employees, and board members for his many years of dedicated service to Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative.  Those gathered expressed their appreciation to Conner with a standing ovation and a hearty round of applause as the meeting ended.