“We are very proud of these men,” remarks Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative’s (MEC) President and CEO John C. Lee, Jr., referring to employees who volunteered their personal time to represent the cooperative and compete at the Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s & Equipment Operator’s Rodeo last weekend. Competitors from MEC fared very well, with the journeyman team of Jason McKinney, Brad Clark, and Mitch DeJarnette earning the distinguished Jimmy Gardner Award that is given to the highest-scoring team in the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperative’s (VMDAEC) family. They also placed first in the Conductor Transfer event and third in the Recloser Change-out event.
In the Apprentice category, T.W. Parks placed second on the Written Test and finished second overall against 53 other competitors. This win qualifies Parks to compete in the International Lineman’s Rodeo in Bonner Springs, Kansas, in October. This will be his second time to compete in Kansas, as he placed third overall at last year’s Gaff-n-Go.
Additionally, Apprentice Line Technicians Rob Clary and J.P. Sweitzer also competed in the Apprentice category and performed exceptionally well throughout the event. Randy Whirley served as coach for the MEC participants, and Ray DeJarnette served as head cook for MEC’s Fire-in-the-Wire grill team, which competed in the BBQ competition held on Friday.
Held at Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Virginia, the 16th Annual Gaff-n-Go event was another huge success and an exceptional opportunity for these linemen to gain experience, practice their safety skills, and build camaraderie among their peers. Approximately 150 utility professionals from seven states participated in the two-day competition. The only event of its type in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s and Terex Equipment Operator’s Rodeo offers professional line workers the opportunity to demonstrate their technical skills as they perform a variety of designated tasks. Their performances are timed and scored, with safe work practices being the most important factor in judging. The event has evolved into the largest regional competition east of the Mississippi River.
Fellow line workers from various utilities serve as event judges, and employees from Mecklenburg Electric who lent their expertise as volunteer judges for the events were Joe Hostetter, Blake Hutcherson, Matthew Doss, Brian Woods, and B.J. Seamans, with MEC’s Manager of Chase City District Operations Clint Card serving as the Rodeo’s head judge.
Lee, who chairs the VMDAEC’s Gaff-n-Go Rodeo committee, says, “Competing at this event sharpens skills, promotes teamwork and unity, builds strong employee morale and pride in MEC, and gives our men the opportunity to demonstrate their skills to their family members and friends.” He adds, “These men HAVE to be top-notch . . . they often work in the worst possible weather conditions to restore power whenever outages occur. Line work requires mental toughness in addition to physical strength. Working around energized lines is extremely dangerous, so line technicians must be able to concentrate on the task, even when confronted with rain, ice, snow, wind, and frigid or stifling temperatures. I am thankful to say, that despite all of those challenges, MEC’s line technicians have an outstanding safety record. MEC’s legacy of strong competitors in these lineman rodeos is alive and well, our men are just really good at what they do.”
Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative is the not-for-profit energy provider to over 31,000 meters located in portions of the Virginia counties of Brunswick, Charlotte, Greensville, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Pittsylvania, Southampton, and Sussex and the North Carolina counties of Granville, Person, Northampton, Vance, and Warren. It is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative, headquartered in Chase City with district offices in Gretna, Emporia, and Chase City. This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer. For more information, visit the Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative website.