Linemen Sculpture to be Unveiled in Lakeland, FL
“I lost my husband almost 16 years ago, on August 26, 2002,” says Tracy Moore, whose husband Marc was tragically electrocuted while working for the city of Lakeland, Florida. “I learned that day the true power in electricity, and the true sacrifice our linemen make — all give some, some give all, “ she says, continuing, “Lineworkers are truly first responders and I would love to see them recognized as such.”
With that as her mission Tracy established the Highline Hero Foundation to advocate for linemen and their families. In 2012, she succeeded in making August 26 Lineworkers Appreciation Day throughout the state of Florida. She then set her sights on securing a day to commemorate lineworkers nationwide.
In the process, she was introduced to Cynthia Haffey, executive director of Platform Art, a cultural organization in Lakeland specializing in public art projects that impact communities.
Platform Art was hosting a design competition for schools in the Lakeland Electric service area with the winning design to be modified and fabricated full size in stainless steel and bronze. The winner was the sculpture of a Lineman, based on a concept designed by three high school students.
“Tracy inspired our project,” says Haffey, who, on June 29, will unveil a public art sculpture recognizing electric linemen as the first of first-responders during times of natural and man-made disasters.
“The Lineman sculpture will serve as a public, visual and permanent representation of their contributions to the electric industry, and for their important and dangerous work,” Haffey says.
The sculpture will be installed at the Lakeland Electric HQ on Lake Mirror, a prominent public location where festivals and public events are held regularly, with an audience of tens of thousands of people each year.
“We are grateful for the work Tracy, Cynthia, and many others are doing to recognize linemen as first responders,” says Mike Stewart, president of Local 604 representing the Lakeland Electric workers. He adds, “This art piece gives linemen everywhere the recognition they deserve. A lot of time linemen are the first of the first responders.”
The UWUA logo will be prominently displayed with the sculpture, a reminder that the union has played a vital role in giving members a voice to negotiate for better working conditions and benefits.
Nationally recognized artist, Becky Ault of Art Research Institute, in Lancaster, PA was commissioned to produce the sculpture. The three high school students who won the design competition, Angel Mitchell, Maddie McDaniel, and Gabby Thomas, traveled there in April with their teacher, Kimberly Mortimer, and Haffey to see the sculpture fabricated. There they were met by two UWUA linemen, Local 102 Branch Local President Dennis Boyer, and Area VP Ron Kinna to witness the historic moment.
“It was awesome meeting the girls, seeing them involved and interested in our work, and watching the mold being poured,” Kinna says. “As utility workers, I think we all feel that we are first responders. It’s very rewarding that others are recognizing our profession as first responders.”
The students came up with the idea of honoring electrical workers after experiencing the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma last fall and watching them work day and night to restore power to thousands of homes in Polk County, where Lakeland is located.
“I never really thought about the importance of linemen until we started working on this project,” student Maddie McDaniel says. “They are first responders and are underappreciated. We are going to reach lots of people with this sculpture which says ‘thank you so much’ for everything you do.”
“It’s been rewarding and fascinating to see what goes into making a monument,” says Mortimer, McDaniel’s teacher, “the sculpting, the mold making, the pouring of the metal, the finishing process — to get to see my girls grow.”
The winning design the students submitted depicted a lineman encased by a globe and surrounded by dangling light bulbs, each containing images of Polk County residents.
“It’s awesome how an idea a lineman’s widow had to get first responder recognition for the work we do got young minds involved and how that turned into a public sculpture in Lakeland,” says Local 102’s Kinna.
UWUA President Mike Langford agrees, “On June 29, utility workers, whether in water, gas or electric, will be one step closer to achieving our long sought goal of being recognized as first responders. It’s only right because without us, those who are already recognized as first responders — police, fire, and emergency medical technicians – wouldn’t be able to do what they do.”