Blake Abplanalp, Senior Project Manager, Albemarle County
Where were you born (and raised, if different)?
I was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and I was raised just north of Wilmington, Delaware.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
I moved here 8 years ago. My wife, Megan, and I were tired of the pollution and traffic that you have to deal with living in the industrial northeast, and we wanted a better place to raise our two boys who are now 17 and 14. We made a great choice to come to Charlottesville.
What were you doing before you came to work for the County?
For six years I worked as a Project Manager for Nielsen Builders, Inc., a construction firm headquartered in Harrisonburg with an office here in Charlottesville. I managed construction projects that included the new emergency room at the Martha Jefferson Proffit Road location, the Old Trail Town Center and the new Luray High School in Page County.
Your job title is Senior Project Manager – what, in your own words, would you say you do?
I manage construction-related activities, most of which take place at County schools. I am involved in the selection process to hire a design team and manage the design work to make sure they design a project to our budget and time constraints. I then oversee the bidding process and manage the actual construction activities from project start-up to close-out. My job is to make sure the projects are completed on-time and within budget. There is a significant amount of coordination that is required with the school personnel and contractors. Effective communication with the various stakeholders is extremely important.
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
The best part of my job is actually seeing the positive impact that the facility improvements have on the students and staff at the schools. Seeing the “wows” when the students and staff return to a totally changed room or area is very rewarding, especially considering the effort that goes in to getting these projects completed. I get visual confirmation that the work of our project team makes a difference.
The most difficult part of my job is the short period of time we have to do some of these projects. Many of these school projects are done in the summer after school has ended for the year and we have only 7 or 8 weeks to perform all of the work. I could be managing projects in or at as many as a dozen schools this summer and they all have to proceed at a sometimes frantic pace. It can be pretty stressful, but there is quite the sense of accomplishment when you get them done.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
Improving the environment for students and teachers directly impacts many of the residents and families of Albemarle County. I also have one non-school project, the new addition and renovations of the Seminole Trail Volunteer Fire Department. This is the busiest fire station in Albemarle County and helping to improve this facility has the potential to save lives.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the County?
The renovations last summer at Murray High School / Enterprise Alternative Education Center. This school is really special and the staff, teachers and students are very deserving of the upgrades that we did. We had a very aggressive schedule that some people thought was impossible, but literally with some blood, sweat and almost tears, we got it done. It was a tremendous challenge and our team came through.
What is a little-known fact about you?
I’m sure I’ll get teased about this, but I was a nationally-ranked badminton player in the 10, 12 and 14 and under age groups. My 12 and under doubles partner and I won the Eastern Regionals beating a couple of brothers from Toronto, Canada in the finals.
I’m also a HUGE Liverpool Football Club soccer fan. One of the items on my bucket list is to attend a game at their home stadium Anfield and sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with the other 45,000 fans.