By Shelia Watson
Chris Campeau has gone through a lot of training to do what he does. The road hasn’t been easy: a rigorous certification program through several state organizations, a long apprenticeship, periodic testing, eating.
“Lots of eating,” he said. “An incredible amount of eating.”
That’s what it takes to be a certified barbecue judge, which is something he does as often as he can.
Of course, that’s his hobby. His day job – project manager and team leader of landscape architecture at Seamon Whiteside & Associates – has taken quite a bit of education, training and certifications as well. And that road, he said, has been almost as much fun as tasting barbecue.
Campeau was born in Bermuda, the youngest of seven children in a military family. The family later moved to Thailand, where Campeau attended kindergarten and first grade at the International School of Bangkok with the other military families. His father retired and moved the family to Hamilton, Miss., an area in the northeast part of the state that had seen better days.
“The town next to us isn’t even there anymore,” said Campeau. “It was so small and the economy was so bad that even the Walmart closed down.”
At Mississippi State University, he began a degree in aerospace engineering, but discovered a love of the outdoors and transferred his energies to a bachelor of landscape architecture. Fresh out of college, he decided he wanted to move to “a place that’s historic and is close to the beach and close to the mountains.”
That would be Summerville, where, conveniently, one of his brothers lived.
In his 16 years at Seamon Whitesides, Campeau has worked on a wide range of projects, including the I’On community, Charleston Place and Mount Pleasant Town Centre.
One of the most challenging projects was the Family Circle Tennis Facility on Daniel Island.
“It was challenging in terms of the schedule,” he said. “It was such a tight time frame and it was a high profile project anyway. We had just started working on it while the tournament was still going on in Hilton Head, so we had less than a year to finish.”
Which they did, of course – on time.
Campeau recently achieved a graduate certificate from Penn State University in community and economic development. It may have been his early years abroad or it may have been the years growing up in an area that had seen better days – but something propelled him to expand on his expertise in landscaping.
“I’ve designed where people live since 1992, but now I am really interested in how they live and finding opportunities for people, bringing jobs into regions and communities, influencing where schools go and how they’re built,” he said. “Helping people reach potential through economics seems to be a natural progression of what I’ve been doing. Based on what we as a firm do and the skills I have, it’s a logical, complementary pairing.”
He also was driven to help found the Summerville Miracle League, an organization that built a special baseball field that allows children with special needs to play baseball.
“Every Saturday during the season we have 50 to 60 kids come to the field so they can play baseball,” he said. “It’s a buddy system: If they can’t bat, we’ll bat for them. We’ll run around the bases with them. The point is every kid hits, scores and runs the bases.”
The league is located in the heart of downtown Summerville, where Campeau said the community support has been “tremendous.”
Now in its second year, the league is supported through donations and grants – and, Campeau said, “lots of people with big hearts.”
“There’s this one kid who turned eight or nine, and instead of wanting presents, he asked that money go to league,” he said. “He was responsible for a $300 donation.”
Campeau also helps raise money every spring with – what else? – a barbecue competition that attracts cook teams from South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.
“Last year we raised $30,000 through this event,” he said. “It’s becoming a date on the calendar for the community. People just seem to rally around it.”
And why wouldn’t they, with a certified judge at hand?
Family: married, 3 children
Education: bachelor of landscape architecture from Mississippi State University; graduate certificate from Penn State University in community and economic development
Favorite Flower: the day lily (he and his sons planted 100 of them in their yard when his daughter – named Lily – was born)
Favorite Restaurant: Moose’s BBQ in Moncks Corner