Life works out for engineer


            By DEREK MAUL

            Tribune correspondent

            Published: April 22, 2009


BRANDON- Twenty-four years ago, Chris Weddle married his longtime girlfriend, resigned his position with Indiana’s Amax Coal Co., now Cyprus Amax CC and headed for Tampa.


He didn’t have a job, just a destination.


“It was 1985, and we just packed up and moved,” he said. “We weren’t quite 30, and it was reckless, but it worked out.”


It was a decision he made with some years of wisdom.


Weddle went to work as a mine engineer right out of college. But new laws were changing the industry.


“In 1978, federal regulations said we had to put the land back after we stripped it,” he said. “I came up with the comprehensive plan, Amax liked it, and they put me in charge.  They made me superintendent of the whole operation at Evansville Ind..”


“Eventually, strip mining became impractical, and I supervised the shutdown process,” he said. “We cleaned the place up and completed land reclamation.  There’s a residential development there now.”


The couple moved from Tampa to Brandon in 1987.


The relocation to the Tampa area from Indiana exposed Weddle to a booming construction economy and a variety of opportunities in civil engineering.  In 1989, he recruited to supervise site development for Menengai Hills, then a Japanese resort in Guam.


“The work was fascinating fun,” he said. “Hard and fast.  We were responsible for all the infrastructure, including a dam, bridges and the golf course – 1,300 acres in all.  Almost a billion dollars spent in three years.”


He returned to Brandon in 1992 and helped launch Otero Engineering in Tampa.  Finally, in 2001, he partnered with John Scheller to start his own business.


“We do the design and permitting for land development sites,” he said.


“Our work addresses the infrastructure below the building, the site entrances, parking lots, sewers and storm drainage.  John is senior computer aided drafting designer, and his wife, Barbara, is office manager.  We’ve known each other since I moved to Florida.”


“When you have your own firm, you can nurture the relationships,” he said.


Weddle is especially proud of his involvement with Rosemary Beach, a 400-home planned township west of Panama City in Florida’s Panhandle.


“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said.  “It’s an unusual project, kind of ahead of its time with features such as pervious concrete roadways.


“I’ve gotten where I like to do these projects without tearing the land up.” Weddle said.  “We like to do ones where we get a chance to work with the land instead of against it.”


Weddle also has been involved with the Winthrop development off Bloomingdale Avenue in Riverview.


Planning, he said, is critical when facing the challenges of Florida’s flat topography and chaotic urban sprawl.


“If you could start over with Brandon, for example, why shouldn’t it have had a true town center?’ he said


“Sprawl is a bad thing,” he said.  “It’s haphazard, and it doesn’t work well for sustainable living.  You can’t go anywhere by bike or walking.  People shouldn’t have to get in their car to go to the grocery store.  The way we live is just a little bit silly.”


Florida fits well with Weddle’s love of outdoors.


“My whole family is into exercise, “ I like to fish and dive and mountain bike and kayak, and we belong to the Campo Y.  This community fits how we like to live.


“The older I get, the more I learn how to enjoy simpler things,” he said. “We’re about making a comfortable living, taking good care of our clients, not getting greedy and enjoying our work.  Before the economy turned, we could have had 30 to 40 people on board.  But we stayed small on purpose and controlled our environment.  We’re glad we did.”



Professional engineer, president, Aurora Civil Engineering, Inc.


Where: 610 E. Morgan Street, Brandon


Born: Terre Haute, Ind., 1955


Education: Terra Haute South Vigo High School, 1973


Higher Education:  Bachelor of science, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terra Haute, 1977


Married: Susan Smith, 1985


Moved to Brandon: 1987


Children: Travis, 19; Riley 15


Contact: (813) 643-9907


Notable Quote: “Engineers should never be bored. I’ve always had interesting work.”


Derek Maul can be reached at