Employee Spotlight

Employee Spotlight – Sam LaHood

Employee Spotlight – Sam LaHood

Without our team of incredible land developers, engineers, and surveyors, Austin Engineering would not be where we are today! So, as thanks to the men and women who have made Austin Engineering’s success possible, we continue to highlight some of our incredible employees. And for today’s Employee Spotlight, we’d like to give a big thank you to Sam LaHood, a civil engineer for Austin Engineering’s main office.

Sam’s Education & Career

Sam LaHood first started full-time with Austin Engineering in 2017. However, Sam’s prior academic pursuits did not involve civil engineering. He first began his education at Bradley University, studying construction management.

“I originally majored in civil engineering but after talking with my cousin, I quickly changed my major construction management because I heard that the engineer program at Bradly was extremely difficult. I went down that path for a few years, but I didn’t really like it.”

Not wishing to backtrack his previous education at Bradley, Sam took some time off school to work for his father’s construction company, LaHood Construction Inc. (LCI), as he reassessed his options. It was during this time that Sam met Devin Birch, as Devin was working alongside LCI to develop a local subdivision.

“Devin gave me some advice early on because I was trying to determine what the best next step was, me being interested in both architecture and engineering.”

After taking some additional courses through Illinois Central College and being accepted into Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s civil engineering program, Sam began interning at Austin Engineering. Sam was an intern in 2015-16, earned his Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering from SIUE in 2017, and became a part of Austin Engineering’s full-time team shortly after!

Sam’s Favorite Project

“Of the projects I’m most proud of, it would have to be the Cedar Lake Subdivision I helped design and create. Admittedly, I consider this project so rewarding because my wife and I just moved there. My dad owns a farm behind his house and I designed a residential development with seven lots for my brothers and I to build our personal homes, including my in-laws who now live next door as well. So, this project easily sticks out to me as the most rewarding work I’ve done, and I have a lot of gratitude to Austin Engineering for making it a possibility for me.”

What Was One of Your Biggest Challenges?

“Trail’s Edge Section 9 was one of the more challenging projects I’ve had to undertake. It was not challenging due to what was required of design and development, but the public aspect of the job, having to gain approvals and put plans for housing in front of the local neighbors. Because we were trying to have the land developed for high-end single and two-family rental properties, there was pushback from property owners in the community. We see pushback for land development approval all the time, but this was some of the worst. Those meetings with the community presented a greater challenge than any other aspect of that project. At the end of the day, we got the project approved, and we had every legal right to continue development. Still, it goes to show how the public-facing aspect of land development and civil engineering can sometimes be the worst part of the job.”

What Inspired Your Career Choice?

“I think what inspired me was my interest in land development. It seemed like every developer I knew had some sort of skill that was applied to land development, whether it be a framer who develops land to frame all the houses or a builder who then gets hired to build on the lots. I originally wanted a portfolio of prime real estate to manage myself and I wanted to be involved in multiple aspects of each development, but I have since settled into my role as a civil engineer.”

Getting to Know Sam

Early Life: Sam grew up in a big family. On his father’s side alone were eight siblings, each with their own families around the same age, all growing up together. As Sam became older, he got more involved in his father’s construction business, helping build foundations until he started working at AECI.

Present Day: Sam is happily married to his wonderful wife, Michelle, and enjoys raising and spending time with his three daughters: Miriam, Naomi and Maddie. As of August 2023, Sam and Michelle welcomed their first son, Jacob, into the world, with plans to continue growing their happy family.

Hobbies: When given the chance, Sam loves to go deep-sea fishing. During Sam’s childhood, his father would take his family to Florida every winter and they would always make it a point to go deep-sea fishing from a young age.

Fun Facts and Questions:

What’s your favorite vacation spot? – “I like going to Florida. Michelle’s family also has a cabin in Minnesota that we used to visit every year. I also enjoy going on cruises. I know Michelle and I want to start doing family vacations more often, but we recently built a new house and that was our excitement for this year.”

What’s something you still need to check off your bucket list? – “I want to catch a marlin! That’s the ultimate thing I want to do on my bucket list. In fact, my cousins and I have an ongoing competition to catch a marlin first. I have caught a few swordfish but no marlin as of yet.”

If you could choose a Superpower, what would it be and why? – “While not a power I’d choose for myself, I used to joke around that I was ‘Drywall Man!’ When we were renovating our house in East Peoria and the kids went to bed, I would do drywall and plastering during the night. By day, your average citizen; by night, Drywall Man!”

Thanks, Sam, for trusting Austin Engineering all those years ago and becoming an integral part of our team. Your incredible passion and skill have led to some truly exceptional development designs.