25 Nov 2019 Employee Spotlight Honoree Announced
Shimp’s Sense of Humor, Wisdom and Lust for Life Leave Lasting Impression
Long-time Gate Precast trailblazer, confidant and friend Earl Shimp retires in July, leaving behind a lasting and immeasurable impact upon the Company and in the lives of his co-workers.
Earl’s accomplishments have been both numerous and varied over his 26-year tenure. He has mastered the general contracting side of the business, built an architectural plant from practically nothing, ran a structural plant and artfully led the operations side of the entire Gate Precast organization.
Along the way, he influenced many lives. One characteristic that has impressed Tom Newton, Gate’s Vice President of Operations, is Earl’s ability to discern all available options, no matter the situation, and quickly develop a workable solution that is a “win-win” for all parties. “He’d say the same thing in almost every conversation – ‘What can I do to help?’ Regardless of what time of day it was, he was always the first to volunteer to do more,” Newton says. “He is the consummate professional and an even better man. Every person he dealt with at Gate is a better person because of that interaction.”
Gary Vernon, an estimator in the Jacksonville office, says Earl can examine a situation and quickly find the best route to success. “If he is your friend, he is a true friend that you can trust with your life. If he is your boss, he is a fair boss that will not only help you but take the time to explain things. My wife and I consider Earl a dear friend. Gate is losing a cornerstone. Earl is truly the last of the finest.” Brian Griffis, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, has known Earl for 18 years, and has always appreciated his wisdom. “He has a vast knowledge about precast and would always take time to share stories and ideas to help you in any situation,” Griffis says. “He could write a dissertation that was written more eloquently than any English professor.”
Through it all, Earl has stressed safety and responsibility, an attitude that has evidently carried through to all of the Gate plants. The Company’s safety ratings significantly improved during his tenure. “This (Earl’s retirement) may not be the best situation for Gate Precast, but he certainly deserves it and has left our company in good shape,” says Dean Gwin, President & COO. “I know everyone would agree that they’ve learned an enormous amount from him.”
A Nose for Construction
Construction is in Earl’s DNA, as he comes from a very long line of men in the construction industry. At 16, he began working as an apprentice mason at his father’s brick masonry business. After graduating from Englewood High School in Jacksonville, he earned an Associate’s Degree in Civil Engineering and Bachelor’s Degree in Building Construction, then worked for two large construction companies, those being Daniel Construction (now Fluor) and Reynolds, Smith & Hills (RS&H).
Along the way, he achieved several significant milestones. At Daniel, he worked his way up from the lowest position to become the youngest project manager in company history. After approximately 12 years with Daniel Construction, he went to work for the construction management arm of RS&H before eventually starting his own architectural precast company, S&S Precast. Then, in 1993, the President of Gate Concrete Products at the time, Benny Cleghorn, offered him the project manager’s position for the Buckman Bridge expansion project. From there, Earl quickly advanced in the ranks from project manager to plant manager, then to various management positions in the Jacksonville office. He will retire as Senior Vice President of Operations for Gate Construction Materials Group.
Known as a man of integrity, Earl finds the best solution in every circumstance, and views situations from every possible perspective. A people person in every sense of the word, he cares more about others than the bottom line. After all, it was his idea to create the Employee Spotlight program in 2012 to honor Gate employees.
Earl is also a man who loves Mondays, according to his daughter, Brooke. “He says that if you hate Mondays just because they are Mondays, then you’re wasting 1/7 of your life. That’s a pretty good perspective, if you ask me.”
Of course, no one knows Earl as well as his family. He and his wife of 46 years, Cathie, are heavily involved in their church and several charitable organizations, through which they’ve mentored both individuals and couples. “His list of volunteer work is long and getting longer,” Cathie says, which she adds is a byproduct of his nature.
Most recently, Earl became lay director of a statewide renewal weekend for the Charismatic Episcopal Church in Florida. Elsewhere, he serves on the Board of Directors for Unity Christian Arts, a Christian-based dance company in Jacksonville, and Round Pen Ranch, an equine-focused therapy group. Upon Retirement, he also plans to volunteer at a local Women’s Crisis Center.
Earl has never been a “sit still” type of guy. In retirement, he’ll likely stay busy doing those things he loves to do, whether volunteering, coaching, traveling, hunting or fishing. As a younger man, he played fast pitch baseball until the age of 44, and still throws a few pitches occasionally to keep his arm in shape. He also plans to volunteer as a pitching coach to neighborhood youth baseball teams. Of course, travel is on the itinerary as well, as he and Cathie are already planning a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
His biggest passion as a hobby is turkey hunting. As such, he plans to take woodworking classes to learn the craft of making turkey calls. He also collects antique turkey calls, and first edition, signed hunting books.
Brooke describes her father as a loyal friend, mentor, good husband, and an even better parent. She paints a picture of a devoted family man. “One thing he has always done is taken me on ‘dad/daughter dates’ since I was a little girl. This has led to many good memories. As a kid, I would get dressed up in my prettiest dress and we would go to some fancy place for dinner.” She adds, “We still go to dinners together, but now it usually involves whiskey and wings.”
Perhaps his sense of humor will leave the most lasting impression at Gate. Earl is a consummate storyteller, and can always get a laugh. “One day, during turkey season, we were heading to a meeting,” Newton says. “I noticed both a Bible and a shotgun in the backseat. He simply said he wanted to be prepared, regardless how the meeting went.”
Brooke says her father embraces the belief that a wise person enjoys both the mundane and mountaintop moments. “He inspires me and others around him to live life in this way as well,” she adds. As Earl famously puts it, “Enjoy every sandwich.”