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Committed to Service

Fulfilling a lifelong desire to serve his community

November-December 2023

Dustin Francis with Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative students at Graves’ Mountain Lodge for the 2023 VICE conference. (Photo by Jim Robertson)

by Jim Robertson, Staff Writer

A lifelong member of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, Dustin Francis fondly remembers attending co-op annual meetings with his grandparents. Now serving his local electric cooperative as its community relations coordinator, Francis continues planting similar seeds and influencing the direction of today’s youth.

“I was interested in something that would allow me to stay in my home community and be involved,” he says. “I’ve had a lifelong passion for agriculture and wanted to be involved in some way in agriculture and rural America.” That passion for agriculture and serving his rural community has only strengthened over time.

In his role with MEC, Francis serves as a liaison for the co-op and the communities it serves, seeking out new opportunities and developing programs to grow the co-op’s influence. Highly involved with the youth in Southside Virginia, Francis serves as the local coordinator and chaperone for the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour, an annual leadership conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

His commitment to providing positive direction to youth continues with his servantship on the Virginia Cooperative Council board of directors. Each spring, the Council hosts a weekend camp for high school students at Graves’ Mountain Lodge in Syria, Va., from across the commonwealth. The Virginia Institute for Cooperative Education — better known as VICE —challenges students to operate a cooperative in a game setting while also learning about the various types of co-ops. They compete for scholarships while having fun and making new friends.

“Since joining the Council, Dustin has been an active and valuable leader,” says Mary Howell, Virginia Cooperative Council executive secretary. “I couldn’t be more grateful for the guidance and mentorship he has provided to the kids at VICE each year. We count on him at each event for a moving and inspiring invocation.”

Francis attended Virginia Tech to study animal and poultry sciences before transferring to Liberty University, where he studied religion to be used in Christian ministry. His career includes serving his community as a deputy with the Halifax County Sheriff’s Department — a role he continues to fulfill today as a reservist with the Crime Prevention program as time allows.

Past president of the Dan River Baptist Association, Francis currently serves as a member of the Halifax County Planning Commission, board member of the Halifax County Cattlemen’s Association, and committee member of the Southside Showdown livestock show. He also makes time to operate a cow-calf operation (F5 Farm), raising registered and commercial Angus and SimAngus cattle.

“I was provided with hands-on training and exposure to the more detailed responsibilities of the electric cooperative and how MEC provides its members with reliable electric service,” says Francis with gratitude. His responsibilities have evolved to include community-relations responsibilities for MEC’s subsidiary, EMPOWER Broadband. “I have also been involved in a larger capacity in seeking grant opportunities and working to obtain funding for the broadband expansion project.” He has recently become more involved in the demand-side response and energy-efficiency program, with a focus on educating members on how to use electricity more efficiently.

Francis encourages those in search of a career to consider how cooperatives strive to serve their members, and that all cooperatives were formed to fill an unmet need. “For me, being a part of the cooperative community means making a real difference for my neighbors, friends and children,” he says. “I feel like I can help shape the outlook of what tomorrow will look like for the next generation.”

For more, visit vmdaec.com/powerfulcareers.