On Monday, Aug. 2, former governor and gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe spent the day visiting Virginia’s electric cooperatives.

McAuliffe’s first stop was a visit to the Electric Cooperative Training Center in Palmyra for a roundtable discussion with cooperative CEOs.

Accompanied by CEOs from seven Virginia cooperatives, McAuliffe and his staff toured the facility in order to learn about the training programs offered and to see the training tools that apprentice linemen use to earn their journeyman’s certification.

During his term as governor of Virginia, McAuliffe worked with co-ops to establish the Power Line Worker Training Program at Southside Virginia Community College. The program was partially funded by a Workforce Development Grant that was a top priority of McAuliffe’s administration. McAuliffe was interested to learn more about the Palmyra training center and the continuing education opportunities provided there to graduates of the Power Line Worker Training Program.

After surveying the facilities and training tools on site, McAuliffe tried his hand at climbing a utility pole. Donning gaffes, gloves and a buck squeeze, McAuliffe inched his way up the pole, remarking about the hard work that line crews go through to ensure that co-op members always have safe and reliable electric service.

From left, CEOs Jeff Ahearn of CBEC, Gary Wood of CVEC, John Lee of MEC, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and CEOs Butch Williamson of ANEC, Mike Keyser of BARC, Steve Harmon of CEC and John Hewa of REC.

During a roundtable discussion with co-op CEOs, McAuliffe answered questions about broadband funding, support for maintaining complex electric infrastructure and security of the grid. Counting broadband access among his top priorities, McAuliffe remarked, “In rural Virginia, we’ve got to fix broadband; we cannot get to where we need to go if we don’t have broadband access, be it for education, jobs, or anything. … I’m committed to getting that done in the first two years.”

McAuliffe also expressed support for co-ops leading the way in clean energy programs. His aggressive agenda to have 100% clean energy in Virginia by 2035 will require all utilities to step up. “I need the cooperatives to be a big part of that for us to be successful,” said McAuliffe.

McAuliffe Visits First Distribution Cooperative
Following the roundtable, McAuliffe and his team drove up the road to neighboring Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative where he toured the facility and met with leadership and staff.

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe meets with Greg Rogers, president and CEO of Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative.

Hosted by CEO Greg Rogers, McAuliffe learned about the cooperative business model and the impact that distribution cooperatives have on their communities as economic development drivers and leaders in renewable energy innovation.

McAuliffe toured the SVEC operations center and their sustainable arboretum for a discussion about co-locating solar panels with sustainable species of plants and pollinators that will allow Virginia’s electric cooperatives to lead the transition to a clean energy economy.

After a day of discussing the cooperative difference with CEOs and staff, McAuliffe promised, “We’re going to make sure that here in Virginia we have the best co-ops in the United States of America.”

—Report by Sadie Gary, Director of Legislative Affairs, VMDAEC

Above Photo: Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gets a taste of lineworker life.