“I’m in charge of scheduling, cost control, logistics and personnel,” said JP. “Basically, day-to-day operations for the demolition of the old bridges and the construction of the new ones.”
The son of a healthcare administrator and a CAT scan technician, JP’s career in construction might seem unusual, until you hear about his grandfather.
“He was a homebuilder in Venice in the 1950s and 60s,” explained JP. “I took to marine construction. You have the water, the tides, so many variables that you don’t have to deal with on land.”
He has an affinity for building in the water, which is not surprising considering his history with the medium. By the time he was 12, JP had his diving certificate.
“I grew up in Venice,” he laughed. “Back then, other than the water there wasn’t anything to do. I surfed and fished and learned to dive. It’s amazing how much it has grown just since the 1990s.”
While JP was growing up in Venice, he occasionally visited Gasparilla Island with his family.
“It seems a bit busier now,” he said. “Though for the most part, we stuck to the beaches on the island. It’s the same in Venice. The season is longer, it starts earlier and tapers off slower. There are more people here for more of the year now.”
JP is the oldest of three siblings. He has a brother who also works as a Project Manager for Orion and a sister who is still in school.
He was a Boy Scout when he was younger, and after years of hard work earning merit badges and a project installing community grills at Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, he was awarded the rank of
Eagle Scout. Only 2% of all Boy Scouts reach that rank.
After graduating from high school, JP attended the University of Florida to study construction management.
“The school has a reputation for academic excellence as a public college, and it worked well with my Bright Futures scholarship,” he explained.
JP enjoyed his time in college, especially his classes in contract law and the technical classes he had to take for his major.
“On top of the management aspect, we had to learn all of the physical aspects of construction,” he said. From electrical to cement, physics and soil analysis, the project manager has to understand everything that happens on a job site.
JP was hired immediately after graduation by Misener Marine, a company that operated across Florida and in the Caribbean. For his first three years with the company, he was a project engineer.
His first job was working in the U.S. Virgin Islands, laying a foundation for the massive Hovensa oil refinery. Hovensa, now a storage terminal, was at the time one of the 10 largest refineries in the world.
“Working in the Virgin Islands had its own challenges, even beyond the standard marine construction challenges,” he said. “The logistics and the supply train are completely different.”
After he finished his work in the Virgin Islands, JP was sent to the Bahamas.
“The years I worked outside of the U.S. were interesting,” he said. “The islands are very secluded and you learn to live in a different culture. It was a great experience.”
During those years, Misener was acquired by another company. Founded in Texas in 1994, Orion Construction had expanded to encompass the entire Gulf Coast, the Atlantic seaboard and some areas in the Caribbean. In 2002 Orion bought Misener Marine Construction.
Orion brought JP back to the States and he has spent the last five years traveling around Florida building bridges.
He met his wife, Catherine, in 2001 when they were both at a University of Florida football game.
“I don’t really remember if the Gators won or not,” smiled JP. “I know that I did.”
The couple married in 2008. They live in Sarasota with their young daughter, Ava, and another child is on the way.
“We’re expecting a son in mid-June,” beamed JP.
The family recently spent some time on the island, joining the fun of the Tarpon Festival and exploring the artists at the show downtown. JP also had a personal stake in one of the three tournaments that happened that weekend.
“Orion Marine sponsored one of the boats in the Gasparilla Island Kids Classic,” said JP. “The kids on the team had a blast. They hooked a tarpon in the very last minutes of the tournament, but then it jumped them. They all had a great time, though.”
JP was especially touched by the salute that the tournament made to service members and veterans.
“I have a cousin and a brother-in-law who are serving now,” he said. “Both of my grandfathers fought in WWII. Respecting and supporting the members of our military is very important to me.”
The festival was not JP’s first experience with tarpon, not by a long shot.
“Tarpon is one of my favorite game fish,” he said. “When I was younger, our family made a trip to Key West once a year. We would fish and dive while we were down there. I’ve even caught a few tarpon in the Boca Grande area.”
So how did a man who worked across the Caribbean and all over Florida end up so close to home?
“It was just a perfect match of timing and experience,” JP explained. “I finished a project in St. Augustine in January, just in time to be free for this one. And the last three bridges I have built have been very similar in design to the two that we are building here.”
JP is pretty happy about being back in southwest Florida.
“It’s great to be near my family again,” he said.
So far, the construction of the temporary south bridge and the center bridge have gone pretty much according to plan and are right on schedule.
“It has been a pretty standard project,” said JP. “There hasn’t really been anything out of the ordinary. We’ve had some issue with the utilities that are being rerouted, but for the most part we have worked through that.”
He has gotten to know a few of the people he is working with on the project pretty well.
“GIBA has been a pleasure to work with, especially Jim Cooper and David Hayes,” he said. “I’ve also gotten to know Bonnie Pringle with GIWA.”
He has also gotten to know Chief Blosser at the Boca Grande Fire Department.
“I need to be able to let him know at a moment’s notice if there is going to be a shut down or if traffic is going to be slow going,” he explained. “That way if anyone needs help, they know if they can drive them off of the island or if they need to immediately call for a helicopter or find another form of transport.”
It may sound odd to the people who drove over the causeway every day, but JP and Orion have a goal.
“We want to disrupt people’s lives as little as possible,” he said. “We want to have as little impact on the area as possible. The bridges are old and in really poor shape, so they have to be replaced, but we want to keep showing our commitment to keeping this as easy and smooth as possible for the people of the island.”
To that end, JP announced at a GIBA meeting earlier this year that he would have an open door policy.
“If anyone has any questions, they can come and ask me,” he said.
If JP is not in the field supervising, he will be in his office. His is the one with the big orange and blue chair.
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