A chance meeting at a Panhandle airport in 2004 changed the direction of Ben Williams’ life.
Williams has been a construction manager for the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority since December of last year, and is now supervising the Main Terminal Modernization project at Tampa International Airport.
He’s also a husband whose first child, a daughter, is due in September.
Probably none of that would have happened if, eight years ago, he hadn’t run into a high school classmate while waiting for a plane at the Pensacola airport.
He had been visiting family in Fort Walton Beach and went to the airport to head back to his home in Orlando. A girl name Alison that he vaguely knew from high school was also there, catching a plane back home to Tampa. They both had some time to kill and started chatting.
“We had classes together, but we had never talked or anything in high school,” Williams said. “If we had dated back then she probably wouldn’t have liked me.”
But five years or so after high school, Alison liked Williams just fine. After a long-distance courtship, he moved to Tampa to be closer to her. They married four years ago.
“I’m a firm believer everything happens for a reason,” he said.
Williams, who earned an engineering degree from Auburn University, came to work at TPA about half-way through the design of the first phase of the main terminal renovation project. His challenge was to get much of the construction completed, and all signs of ongoing construction removed before the Republican National Convention later this month.
“It was a huge push,” Williams said. “The restrooms were one of the biggest challenges. We couldn’t have the convention coming here when half of the restrooms were closed.”
All the work is on schedule, though, and 10 restrooms will be completed by the time visitors arrive for the convention. That first phase also includes a new USO center, as well as video walls and four Visitor Information Centers at baggage claim.
Phase two will include new glass facades for the terminal elevators as well as new flooring on the ticketing level.
“We’re taking things that have been in place for 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years and bring them up to date,” Williams said. “They may have been modern at the time but they’re dated now. When we’re done, the terminal will be transformed.”
Working at Tampa International Airport has been even better than he anticipated, Williams said.
“The people who work here are just so nice. They genuinely care about the well-being of others,” Williams said. “The supervisors care about their employees and try to make sure they’re happy in their jobs. You can’t beat that.”