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Posted: November 4, 2009 12:00 a.m.

SSEMC linemen win first place in country-wide rodeo

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Top linemen: Snapping Shoals EMC linemen Byron Burke, left, Keith Garner, Melvin Brake, Chris Harper and Don Ritchey hold the awards they won at the 2009 International Lineman's Rodeo in Kansas City.

Snapping Shoals EMC's linemen took home the top co-op prize at the 2009 International Lineman's Rodeo in Kansas City, Mo., recently. Each year, the rodeo brings together linemen from around the world to compete in timed events that mirror the kinds of challenges they face daily. Contestants must climb poles, change insulators, reconfigure fiberglass arms and complete a simulated rescue of an injured co-worker, all while racing against the clock.

"These are situations that (our linemen) get into every day," says Victor Hurst, vice president of line services at Snapping Shoals. "(The events) require so much thinking on your feet that it helps us keep our standards high in every area."

As top-placing contestants at the statewide event held in May, the SSEMC linemen earned the opportunity to attend the annual competition in Kansas City. Making the 850-mile drive, linemen Chris Harper, Byron Burke, Melvin Brake, Keith Garner and Don Ritchey funded their trip to Kansas City by raising money with a golf tournament and through donations from co-workers. The team of Harper, Burke and Brake won first place out of 23 teams from across the country in the Co-op Division. The team won second place overall among 153 teams and took fourth place in a Mystery Event, which was replacing a bad lightning arrestor.

Ritchey was the team's coach while Garner served as a judge.

"These competitions contribute to how well they're able to do their jobs," says Hurst. "They promote safety, efficiency, teamwork and quality standards."

Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corporation is a consumer-owned electric cooperative providing electric service to approximately 95,000 homes and businesses in an eight-county area. Most of the utility's service area is in Newton, Rockdale and Henry counties. Portions of DeKalb, Butts, Walton, Morgan and Jasper counties are also included. The company's headquarters is on Brown Bridge Road in Newton County.


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