Mitch DeJarnette remembers as a boy riding along with his dad, who worked as a contractor clearing rights-of-way for electric cooperatives along the East Coast. That impressed the young man enough to pursue his own career in line work — most importantly, at a cooperative.

“Coming out of high school, I just had a long list of things I knew I didn’t want to do,” DeJarnette says. That’s when his journey began. He enrolled at Southeast Lineman Training Center in Dade County, Ga., a trade school that offers training and education in line work much like the Power Line Worker Program at Southside Virginia Community College. DeJarnette learned the basics of line work, including pole climbing, and obtained his commercial driver’s license.

He joined the team as a groundman at Edgecombe-Martin County EMC in Tarboro, N.C. Education continued on the job, as he assisted the cooperative foreman and line technicians by gathering materials and wire for jobs and learning how to frame a pole. An apprenticeship with Central Virginia Electric Cooperative followed.

Today, as a journeyman line technician serving his hometown with Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, DeJarnette has some leadership responsibilities and makes trouble calls alone.

Taking advantage of MEC’s tuition assistance, DeJarnette finished his associate degree at SVCC and plans to return to the classroom to earn a four-year business degree and continue advancing in the organization. “I appreciate the time and money Mecklenburg Electric has put into my career and my education,” he says.

DeJarnette also serves MEC’s subsidiary, Empower Broadband. He says, “We’re bringing high-speed internet to these rural communities, just like we did 80 some years ago when they were in need of electricity. We’ve realized just how essential we are.”

Line work may be a job with high risks, but DeJarnette says, “We put safety first in everything we do.” Every day and every job begin with a detailed discussion.

DeJarnette encourages young men and women who appreciate hard work and enjoy being outside to consider a career in the line trade. “It’s a very rewarding job. It gives you the opportunity to help serve your local community, or other communities, and possibly to see parts of the world depending on what you want to do and where you want to take it.”