MEC’s Annual Meeting Celebrates 80 Years of Service and Launch of Co-op Broadband Initiative

Steel-gray skies threatening a summer storm were no deterrent to more than 500 Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) members and guests who gathered last Wednesday in Chase City for the cooperative’s Annual Membership Meeting.

Before the business meeting got underway at 6:30 p.m., members enjoyed a chicken dinner under the cooperative’s large outdoor pavilion, received free health screenings at the wellness area, and learned about MEC programs at other information booths. In celebration of the cooperative’s 80th Anniversary and the recent launch of MEC’s subsidiary, Empower Broadband, red helium balloons were passed out at the Kid’s Zone, which also offered games and prizes for the children.

MEC Board Chairman David Jones called the meeting to order and led a recitation of the pledge of allegiance and singing of “God Bless America,” afterward recognizing special guests, including State Delegate Roslyn Tyler of the 75th District. Jones noted how the co-op’s board of directors, management, and dedicated staff formed a team effort that included recent distribution system upgrades as well as right-of-way maintenance and helped the co-op achieve an outstanding 99.96 percent reliability rate in 2017.

Board Secretary-Treasurer Stan Duffer reported on a successful financial year. MEC ended 2017 with $1.5 million in operating margins; and for the past six years has returned an average of $1 million in capital credits to members per year, bringing the total returns to more than $37.8 million since the co-op’s inception.

Marcus Harris, the new president, and CEO of MEC’s power supplier, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC), served as keynote speaker. After sharing his experience at utilities in South Carolina and Kansas, he detailed ODEC’s diverse power supply assets.

“Wildcat Point, our newly operational 1,000-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas plant in Rising Sun, Maryland, is not only one of the most efficient power plants in the world but is located close to the Marcellus Shale, an abundant source of low-cost natural gas,” Harris stated.

Explaining how the electric grid is evolving to include more renewable energy sources, as well as battery storage and electric vehicles, Harris pledged that ODEC staff would strive to provide their 11-member co-ops and the 560,000 meters they serve with safe, reliable, and environmentally responsible electricity at the best possible value.

“As a nonprofit organization, all we do is on your behalf,” he concluded.

President & CEO John Lee began his update to members by showing an appreciation video for our nation’s military and their families. Echoing this year’s theme, “We Deliver,” he began, “When Mother Nature unleashes her wrath on our system, you can count on our crews in uniform to respond promptly, at any time, in any weather, to get your service back on as quickly as possible. When it comes to efficient service restoration … We Deliver!”

Noting that MEC members gave their cooperative an overall rating of 86 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey, well above the national cooperative average of 78, Lee thanked the audience for their support as MEC has sought to “do more with less,” utilizing automation and technology that helps the cooperative operate as efficiently as possible. “When it comes to keeping our rates consistent and affordable and returning excess margins to you … We Deliver!” he stated.

Lee wrapped up his remarks by explaining the significance of the red balloons: “empowerment. On June 7, just down the road, our cooperative strung its very first section of fiber-optic cable for the backbone ring we’ll use to meet the growing communications needs between our substations and district offices. Capacity in that cable of fibers will be leased to EMPOWER Broadband, an affiliate of MEC. I believe the event that occurred that day will one day be recalled by our membership as the day our region finally began to successfully close the digital divide between our rural area and our urban neighbors!”

After members of MEC’s Credentials & Election, Proxy, and Nominating committees were introduced, cooperative attorney, Warren Matthews, noted that 3,286 members were present in person or by proxy forming a quorum. Incumbent directors D. Stanley Duffer, David J. Jones, and Larry W. Layman were unanimously re-elected.

In conclusion, Lee honored MEC’s Chief Operating Officer R. Glen Gillispie, who will be retiring in early 2019, for his more than 38 years of outstanding service to the cooperative.