How Utah man accidentally ended up at roundtable with Pres. Obama

Posted at 5:00 PM, Apr 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-09 14:00:57-04

HILL AIR FORCE BASE - A Utah solar company employee is finding himself in the spotlight after a slight miscommunication landed him at a roundtable discussion with President Barack Obama.

So what happened? According to the post on Reddit:

"The Obama administration sent an invitation to his speech in Utah at Hill Air Force Base. We thought they wanted a representative from our company in the audience. Turns out they wanted the representative for a special round table with the president. Due to this mix up we sent my friend (a leader in our CAD dept) instead of the CEO.

Edit. I still haven't had a chance to talk to my friend in the picture. but I have learned that the event did not have a lot of communication beforehand. it sounds like the leaders of the company sent him because he is in the air force and part of the speech Obama gave was about employing veterans in our industry. It wasn't known by our company before hand Obama wanted our representatives input in such a small group meeting."

The Air Force Materiel Command released the photo below, with someone noticeably absent or perhaps cropped out.

Credit: Air Force Materiel Command

The photos are getting a lot of attention online including a quick mention on Mashable.

So who is the gentleman who accidentally ended up at the roundtable discussion with President Obama at Hill Air Force Base?

According to Vivint Solar, a solar company based in Lehi, it is Lance Futch, a current Vivint Solar CAD designer and active member of the Utah National Guard. Wednesday, FOX 13 News' Todd Tanner spoke with Futch about the encounter.

"I walk into the room, everyone else is in suit and tie, and I did feel a little under-dressed," he said.

He was wearing a white polo shirt from Vivint, and Futch said he had been told they wanted a Vivnt Solar representative at the event and that he'd dressed as instructed for the Friday meeting.

"We were told I may have an interview with a senior White House official," he said. "...I was told this is going to be an informal event, wear business casual."

But that "senior White House official" proved to be Futch's Commander-in-Chief.

"I see the name tags," Futch recalled. "I see President Obama, I see Senator Orrin Hatch... And my name, two seats down from President Obama."

He said the President asked him about Vivint Solar and that it took him some time to adjust and figure out what to say, but he said he was glad for the opportunity.

"I was actually able to speak with him about something that's important to me," he said.

As for the photo cropping, Futch said he wasn't in the loop on that incident either.

"I didn't even know that I was cropped out of a picture until earlier today," he said. "...might have been spatial issues, trying to focus more on the President, also, I do admit: I was in a white polo."

The shirt may not see future wear, because even though he described it as now being "special", Futch said an accident with his 2-year-old son stained his now slightly infamous white polo.

"I got home, saw him, he tripped, busted his lip, and there's now blood all over it because I picked him up," Futch said.

Aside from the shirt, he also will have memories of his meeting with President Obama--and some commentary from his mother on his manners.

Futch recalled his conversation with his mom after the event: "She's like, 'You're sitting there, and you have your elbows on the table. No one else does.' ...My thought process was like, I cannot believe these people are here."

Futch is one of the 1,063 Utah residents employed by Vivint Solar in Utah, according to officials. He said he has also served in the Utah Air National Guard for almost five years.

Vivint Solar sent Fox 13 the following statement explaining the situation:

"On Friday, April 3, President Obama visited Hill Air Force Base in Ogden to announce the further expansion of the Solar Ready Vets program—a DOE SunShot transitioning service officer solar training effort—from the current three military base locations to a total of 10.

Lance Futch, a lead photovoltaic CAD designer at Vivint Solar and active Utah National Guardsman, had been invited by the White House to join the ceremony audience and was instructed to wear business casual clothes. Upon arriving at Hill Air Force Base, Lance was ushered into a roundtable discussion with the POTUS, Senator Orrin Hatch, Representative Rob Bishop and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.

The discussion lasted about 40 minutes and President Obama asked Lance personally about Vivint Solar, the second largest residential solar provider in the United States, and whether there was a career path for transitioning military service veterans in the solar industry."