After a long and busy day of working through plans and blueprints, leading meetings, running numbers, fixing problems and meeting tight deadlines, Jeff Siddle goes home. And he relaxes.
The leaky faucet, which has been dripping for weeks, keeps on leaking as the new faucet from Lowe’s still sits in the box. One of the windows in the house also needs repair, a task Jeff puts off for another day. He half-heartedly watches the news, makes dinner and goes to bed around 10. He leads a laid back life at home—assuming he’s not handling work calls or answering e-mails – and often enjoys simply doing nothing, even if it means certain household chores go untouched for a while.
The light sleeper wakes up around 5:30 a.m. and it’s back to work. A lot of work. As the recently promoted Assistant Vice President of Planning and Development, Jeff oversees the construction of nearly $1 billion in Master Plan projects that are now underway, including the Consolidated Rental Car Facility, the 1.3 mile Automated People Mover and the main terminal expansion.
“I’ve always loved development,” Jeff said. “I tell my staff, ‘We are so blessed to have an opportunity to work on something like this.’” Jeff began working for the Aviation Authority in 1998 as a General Manager in the P&D department, though he has actually been involved with Tampa International Airport since 1990, when he moved from Illinois to Florida to work for a civil engineering firm. With that firm, he worked on projects such as the Tampa Executive Airport expansion, and he was a project manager for TPA’s westernmost runway reconstruction project. When former airport CEO Louis Miller decided to build an in-house engineering staff, Jeff was among first to be hired to the P&D Department.
Born in the small town of Belleville, Ill., Jeff was one of six children raised by entrepreneurial parents – his father the owner of a construction business, his mother the owner of a cafe specializing in desserts. Jeff played tight end for his high school football team and spent summers working for his father, mostly doing construction labor on road and parking lot projects. He didn’t care much for academics but always did well enough, and realized early on that he was good with numbers.
“Math was pretty much my gig,” Jeff said. “I was good at calculus. None of my siblings were wizards in school but we all wound up going to college.”
Jeff attended Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., on a football scholarship and then studied civil engineering at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, graduating in 1988. By that time, he already had begun working part-time on projects at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport doing engineering work for a consulting firm while in school, and he stayed on full-time until 1990, when he moved to Tampa.
Although most of his family and relatives still live in Illinois, Jeff still visits with them often and he has two grown children with whom he’s also very close. His daughter Kimmy is 25 and moved to Chicago after studying business management and marketing at Florida State University. His son Jeff is 28, lives in town and has his grandparents’ entrepreneurial spirit, owning and operating a fireworks business, a holiday tree business and a transmission parts company. Jeff helps his son with his businesses and often gets together with Jeff and his wife for dinners and other weekend gatherings.
Jeff doesn’t consider himself to be a great chef but he loves to cook. He has a sweet tooth and likes to make desserts, but also grills, cooks Italian, makes gluten-free foods for his daughter-in-law. He follows each recipe down to the exact ingredient and measurement, never substituting or improvising.
“I have to follow the rules,” he said. “It’s ingrained in you, as an engineer, that if you don’t get it right, people can get hurt. There’s no winging it.”
This is why he’s meticulous with details, precise with the numbers and willing to put in as much time and energy as it takes to make sure every airport project is done right. His work was critical to the successful completion of the master plan update and the capital improvement program, and he intends to see every plan, pipe and piece of pavement through to the end.
Until then, the leaky faucet at home can wait.