Eliecer Viamontes was just eleven when his father died. While he and his mother, Ana, adjusted to life without him, they struggled to pay the bills. They turned to their friends and neighbors in Hialeah, Florida, for support when they needed it.
“Even though my mother did everything in her power to keep our household running, I remember there were situations like Thanksgiving where we received a turkey and all the goods from friends, our church, and local organizations to have a meal on Thanksgiving,” Viamontes recalls.
Leading with Humility
Sure enough, Viamontes discovered that where there is humility, there is wisdom. Born in Miami with Cuban and Colombian origins, he leaned on his Latino community, and in return, it inspired him to live with grace and lead by example for years to come. Whether he was at the office or away from it, he pledged to embrace this ethos.
While Viamontes spent over a decade as a manager and director at Florida Power & Light Co, he championed an empathetic approach to leadership that the industry lacked. Viamontes would see his compassion pay off, not just in his personal life but in his career. He joined Entergy as its vice president of utility distribution operations in 2020, and by 2021 became the president and CEO of Entergy Texas.
Viamontes leads the Greater Houston-based electric utility provider, which serves over five hundred thousand customers. He drives success across its customer service, public affairs, resource planning, finance, operations, and resource planning teams. Plus, he ensures it offers safe, affordable, reliable, and sustainable service.
“It’s not just about me being a leader externally,” the CEO says, “but focusing internally to recognize the commitment of our employees, motivate them, thank them, and make sure that we’re doing everything we can as a leadership team to ensure they’re working safely and [are] able to go back home to their families the same way they came in.”
Of course, Viamontes knows the buck stops with him. He oversees projects with national and global implications and with changes in market demand, he also wants to foster grid resiliency and sustainability throughout Southeast Texas.
“The other side of what we’re working on is a pretty big wave,” Viamontes says. “There’s an energy transition happening where a lot of companies, many of them our customers, have sustainability goals and are looking to electrify their processes. We as the energy provider play such an important role in helping our customers, the industrial sector, [and] the nation decarbonize [our] society. We are passionate about how much we impact the energy transition.”
Viamontes is trying to meet those same business and sustainability objectives by making the push to construct the Orange County Advanced Power Station—a combined cycle plant near Bridge City, Texas—that can power over 230,000 homes. The Public Utility Commission of Texas recently approved Entergy Texas’ proposal to build the plant which will serve as the foundation to power and enable growth in Southeast Texas. The decision also preserves the opportunity for Entergy Texas to unlock the plant’s ability to cofire hydrogen soon which supports the plant’s long-term viability and benefits customers.
Giving Back to the Community
Despite being far removed from his Hialeah days, Viamontes gives back to a place that hits home. He is partnering with his alma mater, Florida International University (FIU), to launch CasaCuba, a think tank and cultural hub for Cuban affairs and culture.
CasaCuba will be live in an iconic 57,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility (under construction at the time of this interview) with galleries for exhibitions, an event and performance venue, classrooms for courses related to Cuba, seminar rooms for executive roundtables and policy forums, and other places to gather with family and friends.
“My wife and I are interested in shining a spotlight on the CasaCuba project [with] our alma mater because it helps make it an official center of the heritage of Cuba [for] public affairs, policy, business, and everything related to it in the US,” Viamontes says. “We’re excited about how we can contribute.”
Meanwhile, Viamontes spends Thanksgiving differently these days by volunteering with his family at the Salvation Army. “My wife and my girls, we did Thanksgiving meal preps that morning to help those that are going to come line up or sit down and have a meal that [they] couldn’t [otherwise],” he says.
Leave it to Viamontes to offer us food for thought.
“It’s a big lesson for my children,” Viamontes notes, “so they can appreciate what they have and appreciate the gift of giving. But something that we try to do as a family is find those opportunities to give back in Texas, and [to remind ourselves of] who we are and what we represent.”
Side Bar: What’s in a name?
For years Eliecer Viamontes asked people to call him “Eli” to avoid their discomfort when they couldn’t pronounce his full first name. Although he invites friends and colleagues to continue to call him “Eli,” in more formal settings the executive shares how he is taking back his name, especially to honor his father (the original Eliecer) who passed away when Viamontes was eleven years old.
CasaCuba at Florida International University is bringing together scholars, policymakers, business leaders, artists, students, and the community to build a Cuban cultural center and think tank that facilitates the discussion and study of Cuban affairs – history, policy, business – and the celebration of Cuban heritage. Learn more at CasaCuba.FIU.edu.