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Line crews among those honored for Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts



Line crews from Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) and seven other Virginia electric cooperatives that traveled out-of-state to help restore electric service following Superstorm Sandy have been honored by the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC).

Each year since 1968, VMDAEC has sought through its “Unsung Virginian” award to recognize individuals who have rendered a significant service without having sought or received public recognition. 

In place of an individual award, this year, the VMDAEC Awards Committee agreed to recognize 85 co-op crew members from eight different electric cooperatives. The MEC employees spent as much as two weeks out-of-state following Superstorm Sandy, working in cold, snowy conditions to “get the lights back on” for residents in New Jersey.

At a luncheon held at the Richmond Omni Hotel on Jan. 28, Robert Lankford, MEC’s on-site general foreman during the project, accepted the “American Lineman Hero” award on behalf of the MEC line workers who left their families in the wake of a major storm and headed north to unselfishly assist others.  The award states:  

“To Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative

For service to others after Hurricane Sandy

November 2012

American by birth, Lineman by trade, Hero by choice” 

Lankford was elected to represent MEC at the ceremony by the 12 other employees who restored power in New Jersey for the investor-owned utility, Jersey Central Power and Light.  They were Mark Bandy, Brad Clark, Matthew Doss, David Holloway, Joe Hostetter, Garey Huff, Ronnie Long, Myles Moore, Norman Rose, Coleman Shelton, Nelson Smith and Randy Whirley. 

Accepting awards from other electric cooperatives were Central Virginia Electric Cooperative – Allan Thacker; Community Electric Cooperative – Rickey Brame; Northern Neck Electric Cooperative – Randy Thompson; Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative – Skip Hollcroft; Prince George Electric Cooperative – Lane Chambers; Rappahannock Electric Cooperative – Bradley Silvia; and Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative – Mark Feltner.

 “Here at MEC, we are blessed to have dedicated line crews who are also people that care about others…when the call went out for volunteers to go north and assist those severely impacted by Sandy, many hands were raised,” said John Lee, MEC’s president and CEO. 

“Our cooperative’s ability to get the lights back on safely and efficiently is a tremendous source of pride throughout our organization, and it shows in our employees’ willingness to assist others when the call comes in. They are a capable group who always put our members first, but have that same strong desire to make a difference wherever they are working and apply the same commitment to others who are in need. That dedication can also be found in all those who support our line crews as well. While our line crews are out front when Mother Nature strikes, there are countless others in the background at the district offices and headquarters ensuring they have the tools they need, that their equipment is tested and safe, that they have accommodations where they are working, that their vehicles are in excellent working order and ready to roll, and the list goes on. It is always a team effort at MEC. We are very proud of all of them, and it is my sincere hope that all our members are proud of them as well,” he added.

“Electric cooperatives across the nation have long provided mutual aid to their sister co-ops, sending crews hundreds of miles to speed restoration efforts following severe weather events,” said K.M. Beasley, chairman of the VMDAEC board of directors. This past October, Superstorm Sandy’s devastating effects in states to the north caused investor-owned utilities to make an unprecedented request for assistance from the nation’s electric cooperatives.” 

“Aided by pre-positioned crews from six Southeastern states, Virginia’s 13 locally owned electric cooperatives rapidly restored power to their member-owners following the devastation that Sandy caused in Virginia,” explained Richard Johnstone, VMDAEC executive vice president.  “Those member co-ops who were able to participate were delighted to have the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ and help folks in the Northeast who were still without electric service,” said Johnstone.