Although linemen are indispensable first-responders amid the most dangerous and calamitous extreme weather emergencies, their heroism is frequently overlooked. Residents of Lakeland, Florida, however, have been determined to change that. As Hurricane Irma swept through Florida last September, linemen from across the state, and the nation, braved uniquely hazardous conditions to restore power and safety to thousands of residents—Lakeland noticed. Former city commissioner Don Selvage, having experienced his share of hurricanes, was determined to honor the sacrifice of these first-responders.
“We have memorials to law enforcement, firefighters, veterans; I thought we ought to have something for linemen” he said. “I have a passion about honoring people who serve our community and the more I learned about the linemen, I thought, ‘They really are legitimate first responders and they need to be recognized for that.’ ”
Selvage then met with Lakeland resident Traci Moore, whose husband, Marc Moore, was a City of Lakeland lineman who was killed in the line of duty. Moore, a special equipment operator, was electrocuted while restoring power to an East Lakeland mobile home park in 2002. Four other workers were injured when the metal arm of the boom touched a primary electric line, charging the rain-soaked ground with around 13,000 volts.
Selvage and Moore’s meeting set off an impressive initiative to finance and construct a linemen memorial in Lakeland. The city has worked with a Lakeland-based nonprofit group that links regional artists with public art projects. The organization hosted a sculpture design competition in February for high school students in the Lakeland Electric service area.
The three Lakeland students submitted the winning design—a large bronze emblem picturing linemen hard at work, and in the presence of Polk County residents.
The students expressed their gratitude and inspiration at seeing lines of utility trucks heading into Lakeland to restore power after Hurricane Irma.
“Seeing that made me want to do the project because these people are under-appreciated and they’re doing so much for us,” one of the students said.
The three young artists recently got to witness their award-winning statue come to life. They travelled all the way to a foundry in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to meet the artists who would craft each piece of the statue the students designed. They had the opportunity to learn about each stage of the construction process, and to witness the statue come to life. As it began to take shape, they stood in awe of the 12-foot-tall sculpture.
“We literally made this out of window blinds,” says Maddie McDaniel, one of the student artists, pointing to the bent steel bands that are part of the model they made. “We sat in (their art teacher’s) junk room for 20 minutes, looking around to see how we could put it together and make something beautiful, and now it’s here in stainless steel.”
Local 102 Branch Local President Dennis Boyer, and Local 102 Area VP Ron Kinna traveled to Lancaster from Maryland to meet the students, and to thank them for their contribution. “It’s nice that linemen are being recognized for the work they do and the time that they put into it. Typically, we’re unseen — until they need us,” Kinna said.
When finished in June, the sculpture will be installed outside of Lakeland Electric headquarters in Lakeland, Florida.