Even the threat of bad weather couldn’t keep a crowd of over 550 people from attending Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative’s (MEC) Annual Membership Meeting held in Chase City on Wednesday evening, June 19. Prior to the business session, attendees visited booths with information about EMPOWER Broadband, ElecTel Cooperative Credit Union, MEC’s right-of-way program and SmartHub account management system, Generac, and energy efficiency tips from Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC). A wellness area from Community Memorial Hospital/VCU and the Mecklenburg County Health Department provided free health screenings and giveaway items, while the Kid’s Zone featured games and prizes for the youngsters. Members and guests alike enjoyed a hearty dinner prepared by Risin’ Smoke Barbecue of South Hill.
The theme of this year’s meeting was “Driven by Responsibility;” and after calling the meeting to order, Board Chairman David Jones of Bracey emphasized the organization’s ongoing commitment to serving its member-owners. “That responsibility begins with the strategic direction provided to your cooperative by the eleven-member board of directors here on this stage, elected by you, to represent the membership in every decision,” he stated. “We are driven by the responsibility to serve you, and we are very proud to do so.”
Board Secretary-Treasurer Stan Duffer of Red Oak reported on another successful financial year, noting that over $904,000 in capital credits was returned to MEC members in 2018. He reviewed MEC’s sources of revenue chart, which showed that 70 percent of electricity was purchased by residential members. He pointed out that purchased power was 65 percent of MEC’s expenses in 2018, and at year-end, the Cooperative’s total assets were valued at over $184.6 million.
John Lee, MEC president and CEO, thanked everyone for coming out even with the impending bad weather. He explained that this year’s theme, “Driven by Responsibility,” represents the tremendous responsibility that has been entrusted to MEC and stated, “We are driven to meet our members’ expectations by the confidence and faith they place in us to get the job done.”
He went on to explain that the year 2018, in its entirety, was a very challenging year from an operations standpoint due to inclement weather. Lee noted, “There are no walls within Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative . . . our entire organization works in finely tuned unison to ensure power is available to you. That unity is never stronger, nor more evident than when your cooperative moves into disaster recovery mode.”
Reviewing one such event that occurred last October, Lee pointed out that in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael over 17,000 members were without power sometime over the course of the next four days. MEC line workers replaced 72 broken poles, replaced 180 insulators, repaired damage to wire conductors in 679 places, made repairs to 157 guy wires, and spent countless hours cutting up downed trees. “That kind of damage is one of the reasons that the costs associated with this storm quickly totaled over $1 million,” he stated.
Referring to the meeting’s theme, “Driven by Responsibility,” Lee mentioned, “The responsibility that this organization has to you began in 1938 when Mecklenburg Electric was created for no other reason than to supply electricity to farms and homes and make life easier for you, and your ancestors, across Southside Virginia . . . and today, we proudly carry on that legacy.”
Lee concluded his President’s report by addressing MEC’s construction of an optical-fiber cable network to interconnect the substations and district offices. “With this project, the prospect of offering ultra-high-speed fiber broadband to our members is presented, and subsequently, EMPOWER Broadband, a subsidiary of MEC, was established to provide our members with that opportunity. The interest that EMPOWER Broadband has generated is phenomenal; and as we seek out additional grants and financial assistance opportunities and grow the business, the availability of EMPOWER Broadband’s services will expand into more and more areas. Building out this network is a tremendous undertaking and will take time… but once again, as in the 1930s, we are committed to bringing you something no one else would.”
Cooperative Attorney Warren Matthews conducted the election of Directors and at the conclusion of the process, he announced the re-election of the following to serve for three-year terms: David C. Hall of Hurt, Brandon G. Hudson of Virgilina, Fletcher B. Jones of Palmer Springs, and Angela B. Wilson of Emporia.
Lee introduced the evening’s guest speaker, Marcus Harris who is president and CEO of Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC), the power supplier for Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and 10 other cooperatives located in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Harris complimented the choice for the annual meeting theme adding that ODEC too is driven by the responsibility to meet the electrical needs of the 1.4 million residents that their member cooperatives serve. He spoke to the crowd about ODEC’s commitment to the Clover Power Station and the new Wildcat Point generating facility that recently came online.
After the meeting was adjourned, a drawing was held for door prizes donated by MEC’s vendors and business associates.