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  Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative  
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75 Years of Community Service Celebrated at MEC Annual Meeting

 

 

CHASE CITY--The sound of bagpipes was carried by a light breeze across a large and appreciative crowd of attendees at Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative’s 75th annual meeting, held last Wednesday night at the cooperative pavilion just outside Chase City. With the theme “A Legacy of Service to its Members,” the meeting had a decidedly festive air, celebrating the cooperative’s long record of service to its south-central Virginia communities, and the pride its member-consumers and employees take in the cooperative, that began in 1938 serving 436 members.

 

 

President and CEO John C. Lee, Jr., addressed the members of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative at the Annual Meeting of the Members. He reported on the strong operations of the cooperative during 2012 and focused on safety, service, reliability, and accountability.

Before the meeting began, attendees viewed  a variety of displays celebrating and honoring the cooperative’s history, from tools and appliances used by rural residents before electric service was available; the evolution of  tools and equipment used to provide electric service through the years; to an original pole from 1938; and finally to a listing of MEC’s original members. Members also enjoyed a dinner of fried chicken and barbecue with all the trimmings and an American classic since 1917 for dessert: a Moon Pie.
 

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative members showed great interest in the variety of displays on hand at the Annual Meeting of the Members on June 19.  In addition to the listing of original members shown in the background of the above picture, there were displays of tools and appliances used before electricity was available as well as memorabilia and paperwork dating back to 1938.

 

Attendees of the meeting gave a warm, enthusiastic round of applause to a special guest, J.T. Lenhart, who was able to attend just days before his 95th birthday. Lenhart worked as a lineman at the cooperative beginning in 1950 and later served as superintendent of district operations, retiring after 31 years of service.

 

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) Board Chairman David Jones welcomed those gathered and presided over the business meeting, during which he recounted key milestones during the cooperative’s first three-quarters of a century of service.  Jones  noted that MEC has grown from two original substations to 28 today; from about 136 miles of line to over 4,400 miles of line now, enough, he noted, “to cross the U.S. from Maine all the way to California, and then be able to travel  a third of the way back across the country.” He also noted that MEC has returned over $32 million in capital credits to its members since it first began doing so in 1960.

 

The meeting began with the Presentation of Colors ceremony conducted by the Lake Country Detachment #1085 Marine Corps League Color Guard; and a decidedly patriotic theme prevailed throughout the meeting, highlighted by U.S. Army Special Forces Sgt. Robert White’s stirring rendition on the bagpipes of “Amazing Grace” to accompany the screening of a touching video honoring men and women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice serving our nation and its citizens. The singing of “The National Anthem” was led by Heather Wilson, daughter of MEC members Rhonda and Ricky Wilson of Chase City. 
 

Another highlight was the guest speaker, retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Joseph R. Inge, a native of the Chase City area.  Lt. Gen. Inge kept the crowd of close to 900 attendees spellbound as he recounted the early history of this nation and focused in particular on the primitive living conditions of rural Americans from the nation’s beginning until electric cooperatives helped light up the countryside in the 1930s and ‘40s. “When cooperatives started stringing lights all across rural America, it changed what happened on our farms,” he said. “We had stringing machines instead of tying tobacco by hand.  Everybody had a refrigerator, radio, stove, TV… it was a big deal.”  He praised President and CEO John Lee and MEC’s 112 employees for providing reliable, affordable service to the cooperative’s more than 31,000 meters and  noted that, when MEC celebrates its 100th anniversary in a quarter-century, the reports given at that time “will be written by the actions taken today.”

 

 

In his address to the members celebrating the cooperative’s 75 years of service, he remarked, “[In the late 1930s and ‘40s] cooperatives started stringing lights all across rural America.  It changed what happened on our farms. . . . It was a big deal.”

 

Another strong patriotic note was sounded by the recognition of Infantry Sgt. 1st Class Bob Martin of the United States Army Reserve, whose upcoming deployment to Afghanistan was noted and honored by a strong round of applause from the large crowd. Sgt. Martin has served in the Army for 13 years and is the husband of Kristine Martin, who works in MEC’s Human Resources department.

 

Board Secretary-Treasurer Stan Duffer provided the financial report of a successful year, noting that MEC generated almost $1.4 million in operating margins in 2012.

 


 

Four directors were re-elected at the cooperative’s Annual Meeting of the Members on June 19, for three-year terms:  From left: John L. Waller of Hurt, Fletcher B. Jones of Boydton, Angela B. Wilson of Emporia, and Brandon G. Hudson of Virgilina.

President and CEO John Lee’s report addressed the strong operations of MEC during 2012 and particularly focused on four areas: safety, service, reliability, and accountability. He said, “Safety is job number one at this organization, and that applies to all our employees, not just our line crews and those who work outside.” He noted that in addition to dangerous line work and all day-to-day operations, cooperative employees logged over 1.1 million miles on the road last year as they built and maintained the system and provided service to the members.  He stressed, “Your employees are currently striking the critical balance between safety and result-oriented production, proving that we can work safely and still be among the very best in restoring service. “

Close to 900 people were in attendance at Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative ‘s Annual Meeting of the Members to celebrate the cooperative’s 75th anniversary.


Lee shared with the crowd the fact that MEC’s member-consumers recently gave the cooperative its highest score ever in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey, with an overall rating of 86, well above the electric utility industry  average of 76. Lee thanked the audience for their support and appreciation as MEC has sought to “do more with less,” utilizing automation and technology that help the cooperative “to be as efficient as possible,” he noted.


Concerning reliability, Lee remarked, “Your cooperative has a long history of, not only keeping the lights on, but at being one of the best at getting them back on promptly when Mother Nature throws a tantrum. “ He explained that ensuring reliability is a 24-hour a day, seven-day a week job and maintaining the system and its rights of way are where reliability begins.  Maintenance projects included inspecting over 9,700 poles and replacing 448, building and upgrading 37 miles of line, including both single- and three-phase facilities, and completing 2,086 work orders.  Especially important to reliability in rural areas is right of way maintenance work.  In 2012, Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative side- trimmed trees along 203 miles of distribution line, mowed 56 miles, applied herbicide on 778 miles and removed literally thousands of danger trees.

 

In his remarks on accountability, Lee said, “The cost for materials and services we utilize continue their steady climb upward and knowing that, mitigating this trend, delays future rate increases for those we serve.  Your employees have set out to do more, with less, and to use the savings to offset increasing costs. They have sought out areas where we can reduce costs, and those efforts are resulting in savings, large and small, including everything from reducing the number of vehicles we own and maintain, to reducing the number of printers used by the organization. Several years ago, we also looked at our workforce, and set in motion a plan that would use technology, and attrition, to plot a course for the future that would require fewer employees while maintaining, and potentially even improving, the service we provide to you . . . all at a lower cost.

 

He closed by thanking the cooperative’s employees for their dedication and hard work and added, “There are many great things going on here at your cooperative, all of which are driven by employees and a Board of Directors who care, and whose actions show it.”

 

 

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