Reggie Tisdale is not merely a principal at Carnahan, Proctor & Cross. He is a grandfather, which gives him the universal right to impart unsolicited information to his grandchildren about how things were when he was their age. And much has changed in Central Florida since the time Tisdale – one of the longest tenured civil engineers in Greater Orlando – was a child playing on his parents' small farm in Winter Garden. In fact, he's helped bring it about.
"We raised a few oranges and had a few cows," Tisdale told GrowthSpotter, noting an idyllic adolescence.
Tisdale played sports, learned to drive amid the groves on his dad's old Willys MB Jeep from World War II, and met Marsha – his wife of 58 years – when he was a junior at Lakeview High. His father, he opines, likely figured Reggie would opt for farm life, as well, but he didn't. Mostly.
"Right out of high school, I went to work on a survey crew with Orange County; I knew nothing about surveying," he chuckles. "I got the job because my father-in-law knew one of the County Commissioners."
At the time he was working and going to school, and so two years' experience helped direct him away from agriculture, toward the life of an engineer.
"When I made the decision, it was based on two things," Tisdale explains. "I have always been mathematically oriented and I like to see things being built." Things like the original East-West Expressway, for which Tisdale did the very first alignment. He also led the design and permitting of the Poinciana Parkway in Osceola and Polk counties.
He attended Orlando Junior College before finishing up at the University of Florida and beginning his engineering career in earnest – working in Tallahasee and Orlando as they developed from rural to suburban, or suburban to urban.
"I've done a lot of work in Poinciana since they began Solivita," he humbly notes. In fact, Tisdale led nearly every aspect of permitting for the 4,300-acre active adult community over a 15-year period.
Even so, his father's assumption did come full circle. Reggie – who'd grown up with his dad's hornless, white-faced Herefords – came to realize that cattle was, to some extent, in his blood.
"When my Dad passed away in the early '80s, Momma was going to sell them – but I didn't want her to, so we purchased a farm in Sorrento, moved the cows out there, and built the house."
It was where his "second career" began – one that has carried him through decades. Tisdale only sold the cattle a few years ago. Now, he says, they raise hay. Though it was business, not sentimentality, that kept him farming, he cheerfully admits that having the cows around had other benefits.
"When I'm around the office and somebody argues with me for 30 minutes about something I want to do – I have no choice. But I could go home and talk to my bull and he would never talk back to me."
There isn't much spare time when you have two jobs, but in his, Tisdale is a proud University of Florida Gator, as is his family. He's traveled to the Swamp regularly for games since graduating in 1965. Off-shore fishing for dolphin, wahoo and tuna – whether out of Fort Pierce or the Bahamas – is another favorite pastime.
And of course, there are his grandchildren, two of whom attend Lake Highland Prep. It’s a campus with which Tisdale is familiar; it used to be Orlando Junior College.
"And I remind them," he says, ever grandfatherly, "that I went to college in the same buildings where they are studying in high school and middle school today."