It’s awesome to learn something new...

Posted: May 1, 2018
Last modified: May 1, 2018

On a busy day, more than 300 truckloads of sand are scooped up at a sand mine in Clermont and carried off by big trucks for use at construction sites on the I-4 Ultimate project.

The trucking foreman there, Kim Whitesides, is responsible for maintaining safety and efficiency. She, along with her father and daughter, comprise three generations of the same family working in the I-4 Ultimate project. All three work for SGL – the joint construction venture of Skanska, Granite and Lane.

While she’s proud of that, it was more the idea of working outside and meeting new challenges that drew Whitesides to the job. Dealing with 70-plus trucks a day, many of which may make four or more trips each to the sand mine, means there’s a lot traffic rolling up and down the hilly dirt roads in what is called a borrow pit – a place from which sand is taken, or borrowed.

But Whitesides, who grew up in Polk County, said she enjoys the work. “I’m outdoors all day – that’s a plus. Everybody seems happy. And we’re part of a team that’s making a difference. You already can see the changes on the interstate.”

The sand from the mine, which is free of organic material and drains well, is used to help create long-term stability at the base of many structures on the project.

With an excavator and a front-end loader working among the sandy hillsides and big trucks lumbering in and out, the area can get busy. Though she’s just in her second year in the construction field, Whiteside is used to busy schedules and careful work. For 15 years, she worked as a certified medical assistant in doctor’s offices and at a surgical center.

When she was looking for a change, her father, Ralph Johnson, who has been in construction all his adult life, suggested the I-4 Ultimate project, where he was already working as an excavator operator on the interstate. Whitesides immediately took to the job. “It’s awesome to learn something new,” she said. “It’s energizing when you broaden your experience.”

When one of her own daughters was looking for work after high school, she recommended I-4 Ultimate, and now Cheyenne Whitesides is working in a sand mine in Apopka, using electronic scanners to help keep track of the comings and goings of the trucks.

With three generations of her family working on the same project at the same time, Kim Whitesides said, “It’s keeps things pretty interesting.”