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David Otterness, 37

Project Executive, Willis Smith Construction

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  • | 12:50 p.m. October 13, 2017
  • Class of 2017
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David Otterness is a throwback.

The construction executive, who says his happy place is the back porch bar at his house, and John Candy would play him in a movie about his life, has worked at one company since college.

That’s 15 years with the same firm, working his way up from entry-level projects to shareholder. Projects he has worked on include the Sarasota Opera House and Sarasota Memorial Hospital outpatient facilities.

In an era of jumping from company to company in construction, especially since the recession, Otterness has been a mark of consistency for Willis Smith, one of the region’s consistently strong construction firms. The company had $85.4 million in revenue in 2016, and will likely surpass $100 million in sales this year.

Otterness was promoted to a project executive role in 2013, where he’s now responsible for the overall cost, schedule and budget evaluation for a project, in addition to construction coordination.

The son of a construction executive, Otterness says his biggest lesson learned in leadership is also something of a throwback: the ability to listen. “You have to take the time to listen,” he says. “Don’t come to conclusions right away. Take the time to analyze all sides first, and learn the facts.”

Outside work and family, Otterness has a passion for the Easter Seals, where he’s on the organization’s board in Sarasota. He volunteered with a developmentally disabled child for a decade growing up, a boy who lived across the street. Otterness was the boy’s buddy in baseball games. “Being around these kids is really special,” he says. “When you have had a bad day at work, and come in there and get a hug or a high-five from one of them, it really puts everything in perspective.”

— Mark Gordon

Survey says

Name: David Otterness

Age: 37

City of residence: Bradenton

Employer: Willis Smith Construction

Title: Project Executive

Birthplace: Naples

Years on the Gulf Coast: 37

Marital status/children: Married, two girls

Alma mater/degree: University of Florida, Bachelor of Building Construction

Best place to network: Golf course, sporting events

Messy desk or clean workspace: Clean

Eat lunch out or at your desk: Eat lunch out

Best business lesson ever learned: Don’t take business disagreements personally

Weirdest job you’ve ever had: Tires and Trim dresser at a car wash

A website that makes your job easier: Google

App you use the most: Remote desktop app for iPhone

One thing you do everyday: Pray, give thanks for what has been provided to me

Community group you’re most involved with: Easter Seals of Southwest Florida

Favorite off-hours activity: Golf, spearfishing when I can

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: My father and grandfather

What you would be doing if you could pick another career: Selling payment and performance bonds

Top item on your bucket list: Retire as soon as possible

Your happy place is: Back porch bar at house

Your biggest fear: Raising teenage daughters down the road

Skill you’d like to learn: Reading people's minds

Who would play you in a movie about your life: John Candy

Describe yourself in three words: Cautious, optimistic and listener


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