The Many Hats of the Longest Tenure at Parkhill
Written By: Nicole McBride
Date: September 28, 2022
In 1977, Parkhill had two offices – one in Lubbock and one in El Paso – and about forty employees total, a fraction of what the firm has grown to today. As a newlywed and Texas Tech University engineering student, Larry Valdez was one of those forty employees. He was hired by the firm president at the time, Bennett Reaves, and began his first day at work as a draftsman. Forty-five years later, Larry is the longest-tenured employee in Parkhill’s history.
When asked what his first day was like under Draftsman Supervisor George Hensley, Larry said through his tidy mustache and a smile, “It was eye-opening.”
“At my first day on the job, I parked in George’s parking space unknowingly. I got there early to make a good impression, but I parked in George’s spot, so I probably never lived that down.”
Larry spent his first couple of weeks practicing hand lettering for civil drawings. The 1970s was a time before cell phones and computers. Everything had to be drawn and hand-lettered from a drafting table.
“We wanted to have a little flair to it, to look like it’s hand-lettered but to be very consistent,” Larry said. “It still had a style, so I worked with a couple senior draftsmen, and they showed me the Parkhill style, and I tried to emulate that style. The good old days.”
His attention to detail, willingness to listen, and openness to learn led him to be a skilled engineer and genuine leader. He earned his engineering license in 1988 and has since worn many hats. Larry has had roles as a civil engineer, designer, inspector, project manager, mentor, and trusted advisor at Parkhill and in communities across Texas.
“A lot has changed over the years but not Larry’s professionalism, integrity, or love of sharing his knowledge with his younger coworkers,” said Engineering Technologist Joey Vasquez. Joey also started as a draftsman at Parkhill and has known Larry for 43 years, witnessing many changes within the firm together.
“I was joking with Joey the other day that I passed some younger employees in the hall,” Larry said. “They had button-up shirts on, but they were untucked. They were walking through the hall, and I just said ‘Bennett Reaves would be rolling in his grave.’”
Enduring relationships have always been important to Larry and to him ranks highly on the list of Parkhill’s collective values. Larry said over the last few months leading up to retirement that he has thought a lot about the people he has worked with, several whom have come and gone with a different job or with retirement, those that have passed away, and a few he still keeps in touch with. Long-lasting relationships are no doubt one of the reasons clients and fellow employees him.
Larry said he lives by the rule that if you treat people well and fairly, they will treat you the same way. He said his goal was to walk away from each project with everybody smiling.
“Larry was always an example of how to serve clients and serve them well,” said Director of Aviation Mark Haberer.
Larry said he could not choose a favorite project from over the years, but he will always remember the people he worked with, including eight consecutive airport managers in Big Spring. Parkhill began serving the airport in 1977 after the Air Force Base in Big Spring closed.
“Designing an asphalt pavement is designing an asphalt pavement whether you’re in Big Spring or Pecos or San Angelo,” he said. “A lot of those run together. I remember more the people that I worked with at those places.”
He is hopeful of staying in contact with those he works with at Parkhill currently, too. He will work part-time for a few months to see projects to the finish line, assist in the transitions with clients, and preserve relationships. After raising their family in Lubbock and putting down roots, he and his wife plan to stay and remain active in the community.
“I’m a homebody,” he said. “I like to stay put.”
However, Larry did win a trip to Las Vegas through a radio promotion, and has a few other aspirations to travel, including a returning trip to London, taking his wife to Greece, and spending time site-seeing in Iceland. He also has friends in Albuquerque and family in Washington D.C., New York, and California.
What Larry said he has most looked forward to about retirement is simply not having a schedule. He wants to “get back to tinkering around and doing some stuff I enjoy doing.” He has quite a collection of vintage Matchbox cars and wants to treasure hunt at antique malls and attend some toy shows on the East Coast.
As he approaches retirement, Larry said choosing a singular piece of advice for anybody new at Parkhill would be difficult for him. He mentioned saving as much money as possible and finding motivation in a career. But, the most hard-hitting advice Larry said in his soft-spoken way was:
“Try and be happy. Work is important, and you want to do your best at work, but it’s not everything... If you’re not happy, change things. It’s all well within your power.”
Many attended including clients and people Larry has worked with at Parkhill, including Butch Davis (left).
Joey Vasquez (right) has known Larry for 43 years and also started his career at Parkhill as a draftsman.