Virginia License Plates to Honor Lineworkers, Benefit Co-op Scholarship Fund

Georgia honors electric utility lineworkers with one, as do South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi. And soon Virginia will have one, too.

Officials from Virginia electric cooperatives recently presented Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam with a prototype of the new “Honoring Powerline Workers” license plate. Northam approved the new plate after it garnered the required minimum of 450 pre-paid applications.

The “great bipartisan effort” in the Virginia General Assembly was a proud moment for co-ops, said Andrew Vehorn, director of government affairs at the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.

“Gov. Northam knows co-ops. He’s one of us,” said Vehorn. “He and his family have been members of A&N Electric Co-op since the lights came [on] back in the 1930s.”

The plates become official July 1, but motorists can preorder through the Glen Allen, Virginia-based co-op association.

Don’t own a car? No problem. Decorative versions are available, too.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam shows off his own “Honoring Powerline Workers” license plate. Partial proceeds from plate sales will go to post-secondary scholarships for co-op members. (Photo Courtesy of VMDAEC)

Sales of each plate—$25 for regular plates and $35 for personalized ones—will help provide college or trade school scholarships for children of co-op members. This includes the Power Line Worker Training School in partnership with Southside Community College. When 1,000 plates are sold, the statewide association’s scholarship fund will get $10 from each sale. Students within the association’s 15 member co-ops are eligible.

“I really think these plates are just one small way to recognize lineworkers’ efforts while supporting the development of young people in the future,” said Shawn Hildebrand, CEO of Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative in New Castle, Virginia, whom Vehorn credits for coming up with the idea.

More occurrences of destructive storms and widespread power outages have raised public awareness of “the tremendous effort and sacrifice lineworkers make each and every day, no matter the conditions,” said Hildebrand.

Members of the statewide association only had six months to reach that 450-plate threshold. “We had a late start and it came down to the wire,” said Vehorn.

That whirlwind of activity included finding a backer in the General Assembly—Del. Terry Austin—to sponsor legislation authorizing the license plates and mobilizing investor-owned utilities, municipals and contractors for support.

And last, but certainly not least, the group needed a design for the license plate. That’s where NRECA’s Rochelle Sambur, a graphic designer, comes in.

“Supporting our lineworkers was an easy source of inspiration,” said Sambur, who drew from memories of attending a linemen’s rodeo several years ago. “This was a team effort and that’s what made us succeed.”