MEC Line Workers Receive Distinction of International Competition

Following yet another great showing at the regional Gaff-N-Go Rodeo held earlier this year, four line workers from Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) earned, once again, the opportunity to compete in the Annual International Lineman’s Rodeo & Expo in Overland Park, Kansas. This event attracts the best line technicians, ground technicians, and apprentices from across the United States and around the world, as they display their skills before thousands of spectators.

MEC Line Foreman Jason McKinney, Line Technician Mitch DeJarnette, and Equipment Operator Brad Clark competed as a journeyman team along with over 200 other teams from across the nation and several other countries; and Apprentice Line Technician T. W. Parks represented MEC competing against over 300 other apprentices.

Each of them qualified to participate in this international competition by excelling at their regional rodeo event held in Doswell, Virginia, earlier this year. It was there that McKinney, DeJarnette, and Clark were awarded the distinguished Jimmy Gardner award given to the highest-scoring team in the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives. Parks qualified for the international event as he placed Second among all apprentices at the regional event.

McKinney, the senior member of the group, has been successful in these prestigious events in years past and has also served as a coach. He comments, “It is important to me that MEC is strong for its members; and going to the Rodeo and Expo gives me an opportunity to become even better at my job, exchange ideas with other members of our profession, and learn about new equipment and technology that will make me even better at my job.” He continues, “Line work is a tough job, but I love it. I remember as a young child being fascinated with bucket trucks, with the men climbing poles and watching them do line work. Even then, my mother used to tell me it was a really good job.”

MEC Manager of District Operations Clint Card, who serves as a chief judge for the event and is on the International Rodeo Judging Committee, emphasizes, “The primary purpose of the Rodeo and Expo is to help emphasize and maintain a focus on safety and safe work practices, to provide a forum for the public to better understand and recognize the technical skills our linemen have, and to provide an opportunity for these professionals to receive recognition for their proficiency in the craft.”

While participating in the Rodeo, where teams’ skills are ranked on the most minute of details regarding finesse and safety, MEC’s journeyman team placed tenth in the Cooperative Division, and Mecklenburg’s T.W. Parks went on to finish 17th among cooperative apprentices.

John C. Lee, Jr., president and CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, comments, “It is all too easy to discount the impact of training as a primary means to influence safety and efficiency. Our participation in the International Lineman’s Rodeo has many overlapping benefits, including a rigorous technical analysis of on-the-job challenges, an opportunity to evaluate innovation in tools and equipment, and a peer-to-peer comparison of work practices. This event hones the skills and expertise of our capable personnel that really pays off as it enhances our daily work and timely efforts during outages.”

MEC also took part in the event’s Safety Conference, where participants heard first-hand the consequences of taking shortcuts, learned to maximize body mechanics to reduce injury in line work, and were instilled with a better understanding of safety regarding electrical arcs. Employees also participated in the Expo which showcased tools and equipment specifically designed to maximize the efficiency of electrical workers.