State-of-the-Art Training Center

Electric Cooperatives Dedicate State-of-the-Art Training Center

MEC President and CEO John Lee Unveils “Storm Soldier” Statue at Facility

A dedication ceremony that brought more than 120 electric cooperative officials, elected representatives, government officials, and other dignitaries to Palmyra, Virginia, was held at the site of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Electric Cooperative Training Center which officially opened on May 22.

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) representatives in attendance at the event were President & CEO John C. Lee, Jr., Director Bob Jones of Boydton, Vice President of Engineering and Operations B. J. Seamans, and Safety & Security Coordinator Matt Shaw. Lee, who had seen the artwork for a Storm Soldier statue at another cooperative in the Midwest, proposed one for the Center and then led the effort to purchase and secure the sculpture, had the honor of unveiling the 20-foot-tall statue on display at the Center.

“It is my hope that those who pass through these doors will recognize this statue as a monument to the legacy of outstanding line workers who can be found at the electric cooperatives in our three-state area,” Lee states, adding “It will also stand as a reminder to all that we hold our line workers in high regard and memorialize our expectations that those who earn journeyman status and other training here at this Center carry on the proud tradition of the line workers who power this nation...I am very proud of the monument and the new school.”

“This figure also makes an inspirational impression on visitors as it stands as a constant reminder of all line workers—past, present, and future—who sacrifice their own wishes and desires to be readily available at all times to come to the aid of electric cooperative members throughout the world,” Lee adds.

The statue, which weighs in excess of 1,500 pounds and was cast at a foundry in Arkansas, has a bronze plaque on the front that is inscribed with the following words penned by Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC) President and CEO Richard G. Johnstone, Jr.:

“Storm Soldiers”

“To those who, on cold nights,

leave warm beds and loving families,

to serve others in need.

To those who, with skill and savvy,

Repair, rebuild, and resurrect

what wind and water have ravaged.

To those who, in cold and heat and darkness,

climb to perilous heights,

to face even greater peril.

To those who risk life and limb,

not for honor or glory or reward,

but just to see the faces,

the faces of co-op members—

Members who are grateful to these Storm Soldiers,

for restoring light…and warmth…and safety.”

A second bronze plaque on the statue base states the following:

“A Monument to Line Workers”

“The member-owned electric cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland & Delaware proudly dedicate this monument to honor those brave, dedicated individuals who keep the lights on around the clock, across tens of thousands of miles, from the Cumberland Gap to the Delaware shore, from the suburbs of D.C. to the North Carolina line. - Dedicated May 22, 2019.

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative President & CEO John C. Lee, Jr. unveils the 20-foot Storm Soldier statue that diligently stands watch over the new Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Electric Cooperative Training Center. Lee spearheaded the effort to secure the statue which he states, “pays well-earned tribute to those who power our nation…our line workers.”

Special thanks to Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative CEO John C. Lee, Jr., for his inspirational leadership in making this monument possible.”

For years, line workers from Mecklenburg and other electric cooperatives belonging to the VMDAEC received training at an aging building adjacent to a converted Vo-Tech Center in Culpeper, Virginia. That site’s insufficiency was demonstrated during one class when a snake fell on Ron Campbell, former vice president of safety & training for the VMDAEC, and retired MEC safety director. In 2013, training moved from Culpeper to three modular trailers at the Palmyra site with an eye toward a new building. “We’ve always had this in mind,” Campbell says. “This is my dream here.”

The 9,600-square-foot building is located in Fluvanna County and features three classrooms — one each named for Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware. The rooms employ state-of-the-art video technology with a touchpad system to control lighting and A/V equipment. The building also offers a full-service kitchen with a catering window, a break room, and showers in the men’s and women’s restrooms. A large garage bay provides space for equipment demos and training in inclement weather.

Lee, who chairs the VMDAEC Finance and Gaff-N-Go Lineman’s Rodeo committees, is Vice Chairman of the Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, and serves on the Human Resources, and Safety and Training Committees, and made the motion to move forward with the construction of the Training Center in 2017, explains, “The completion of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Electric Cooperative Training Center is a shining example of Cooperative Principal Number 6: Cooperation Among Cooperatives at work,” adding, “The really great story behind this long-term project has been how the cooperatives partnered to create a shared training facility, and then collectively supported that project. Over time, this center will train thousands of cooperative employees and directors to capably serve members of electric cooperatives throughout the Southeast, providing reliable electric power and the very best in service to our collective memberships.”

Storm Soldier Statue at Training Center
This close-up photo of the life-size bronze statue at the training center shows the detail of the artwork. It is located at the Center’s entrance and features two bronze plaques on the base. The statue weighs over 1,500 pounds and was cast at a foundry in Arkansas.

“This is a day we have literally dreamed about for decades,” says Richard G. Johnstone Jr., president and CEO of VMDAEC. “The training center is really the embodiment of the cooperative spirit. Every one of our member systems identified a need for a state-of-the-art training center and worked diligently to bring this day about. In addition to line workers, we’ll be providing training to engineers, accountants, customer service representatives, and the elected directors who serve on the boards of our member cooperatives. We’ll also offer training to employees from Virginia municipal electric systems, and we intend to work with community colleges as well.”

Johnstone stated, “Since day one, MEC’s CEO John Lee has played an integral role in developing the Association’s Training Center. He has strongly supported our training programs during his entire tenure at Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative because he is a strong believer in the value of lifetime learning for all of MEC’s employees and directors.

In addition to everything else he has done to help us plan this new facility, it was John’s idea and mission to purchase a statue of a line worker—called “The Storm Soldier”—and to place it near the front entrance of the training center. This monument has already become the signature emblem of the training center’s purpose: to provide the highest-quality training to all who enter its doors, especially those line workers who risk life and limb to keep the lights on.

“In short, John’s leadership was an indispensable ingredient in the successful effort to build this facility,” Johnstone concludes.