Nick Akins lineman

Hurricane-Wrecked City Erects Statue to Thank Linemen Nationwide for their Help

Sept. 14, 2022
A new statue in Lake Charles, Louisiana, salutes the lineworkers who restored power following Hurricane Laura.

Local philanthropists Oliver G. “Rick” and Donna Richard have dedicated a downtown statue saluting the linemen and linewomen who came from all over the United States to restore electrical power after Hurricane Laura.

The larger-than-life statue depicts a lineman looking skyward, equipped with gear and a work belt. He stands just off the sidewalk outside the Richards’ Phoenix Building at the corner of Ryan and Kirby streets.

Rick Richard, CEO of Empire of the Seed, was inspired to launch the project after seeing the steady streams of bucket trucks headed down highways in 2020 to help restore power in storm-wrecked Southwest Louisiana.

Hurricane Laura was the most destructive natural disaster in the region’s history, causing unprecedented property damage and a massive power outage that, for many, lasted nearly two weeks or more.

Tasked to help rebuild the system and restore power were thousands of linemen and other professionals who came down to the Lake Charles area from dozens of states and Canada.

The armada of help from across the continent was made possible by widespread mutual-assistance agreements. Utility companies agree to send their people and trucks to other companies facing emergencies and disasters elsewhere — knowing that when they face a crisis of their own, the fellow utilities they help now will come to help them later.

These agreements are not only helpful, but voluntary — a point not lost on Rick Richard, who served on the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the Reagan administration. Richard said he appreciates that these vital reciprocal agreements are arranged by the industries themselves and have not required the force of a federal regulation to mandate it.

Texas-based sculptor Janie Stine LaCroix, a native of the Lake Charles area, was commissioned by the Richards to create the statue.

“The greatest things come from people within the community,” said Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter in his dedication remarks — a comment that spoke to both the Richards’ philanthropy and the area’s resolve after Hurricane Laura.

Political leaders, business leaders and energy executives also took part in the statue’s dedication.

“I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to how far this community has come over the past two years,” said Phillip May, Entergy Louisiana president and CEO. “In my mind, this statue does more than recognize the more than 26,000 men and women who came from every corner of the country to restore a sense of normalcy. This statue represents the spirit of this community, the tenacity, the perseverance, the selflessness that is the spirit of Southwest Louisiana.”

May brought in linemen and a display of bucket trucks for the ceremony.

Also attending the statue’s dedication was Nick Akins, chairman and CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power. AEP serves 5.5 million customers in 11 states and owns the nation’s largest electricity system. Akins, a Louisiana native, said mutual assistance agreements are essential, and the work done here by thousands of people after Laura was an illustration of that.

“We come together anytime there’s a storm, anywhere in the nation,” Akins said. “It’s the line person’s finest hour.” LaCroix’s statue was installed by Tim Flavin and Flavin Construction Co. with coordination by the Richard family and Eva Riviere Gabilondo.

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