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Tenth-annual Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s Rodeo


Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative Linemen Compete in Regional Event


Chase City, Va. - A three-man team of electric-line workers from Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) competed in the tenth-annual Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s Rodeo March 31 at the Caroline County Agricultural Fairgrounds near Ruther Glen, Va. Utility companies from all over the region sent the best of their best to compete in the event with teams from 14 electric utilities, and one line construction contractor, participating in the two-day event.


In the journeyman category, which represents the most experienced linemen, the MEC team of
Jason McKinney, Paul Underwood and Randy Whirley took third-place honors in the “grounding” event of the rodeo and placed fifth overall among all journeyman competitors. While other teams featured two first class linemen and a groundman, MEC competed with a team consisting of one first class lineman (McKinney), a seventh-step apprentice lineman (Underwood), and an equipment operator (Whirley) serving as a groundman.



“It is testament to the quality of employees we have and to the cross training in our organization that we could more than hold our own against teams that have far more experience,” MEC President and CEO John Lee stated. Lee added, “Jason McKinney is as fine a young lineman as you’ll find at any utility, anywhere and as far as Paul Underwood goes, he has one more step in the apprentice program before becoming a journeyman lineman and already he is as good as any of those who competed at the event. And Randy Whirley is not only an outstanding equipment operator, he stepped in and did an excellent job as the team’s groundman; we are very proud of all three of them and appreciate them carrying on MEC’s legacy of successful event competitors, and for representing our organization with class, strength and ability.”


In addition to the team competing, MEC employees Joe Hostetter and Nelson Smith, and retired MEC employee W.R. Creedle served as judges for rodeo events. Lee, who serves as chairman of the Gaff-n-Go Rodeo Committee of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives Board of Directors, opened the event with comments for the competitors and spectators. He emphasized safety and the spirit of competition and thanked contestants for their participation and willingness to put their skills on display at the event. He closed by addressing all the linemen’s spouses who were present by saying, “We thank you for the many sacrifices that you make so that these men can take care of the needs of others at any time of day or night, and for the many stormy nights you have spent alone or with your children, often without power at your own home, holding things together for your family while your husbands restore power to those our organizations serve, your contributions to keeping the lights on, do not go unnoticed or unrecognized.”


A total of 122 utility workers from Virginia and four other states competed in the rodeo. When the competitors gather and compete, the event offers great opportunities for interaction among line crew workers and the exchange of ideas and techniques about how to accomplish the various tasks they are all expected to perform day in, and day out safely and efficiently. MEC’s Whirley commented, “I want to support our cooperative at the competition, and I like meeting the other guys from the different organizations and talking about new and better ways to do things and how to do them safely.”


The Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s Rodeo is the only event of its type held in Virginia and offers professional linemen the opportunity to demonstrate their technical skills as they perform a variety of designated electric line-work tasks. Their performances are scored, with safe-work practices the most important factor in judging. To see a video account of the event, click here, or log on to www.youtube.com and enter “2012 Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s Rodeo.”


“The primary purpose of the Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s Rodeo is to promote safe work skills and practices,” notes John C. Lee, Jr., the co-op’s president and CEO. “We are particularly pleased that some of our line workers chose to participate in the rodeo, it’s an event that sharpens the skills they use on the job every day, where safety has to be the foundation for every task. Our members have come to expect excellence from MEC with regards to outage restoration and we are able to meet that expectation because we have excellent line crews who are committed to their responsibility to ensure the delivery of electric service to our membership.”


Lee’s comments were echoed by the MEC team. McKinney stated, “I like the fact we can carry our families and get them involved and they get to see what we do every day, also everything we do there re-enforces vital safety habits and ultimately makes us better at our jobs.” Underwood added, “I like the family atmosphere, meeting the people from other cooperatives and learning new ideas.”


Headquartered in Chase City, Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative is a member-owned electric-distribution utility serving more than 31,000 meters in nine counties in Southside Virginia.



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