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UESI Member in Focus: Chris Zavatsky

Friday, September 22, 2017

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Chris Zavatsky, P.E., M.ASCE

Christopher Adam Zavatsky, P.E., M.ASCE is the lead civil engineer for Tetra Tech in Miami, Florida where he works with municipal and county clients on utility improvements, structure hardening, and floodplain-related projects.  He guides a team of young engineers and subconsultants responsible for delivering master plans, preliminary designs, hydraulic modeling, infrastructure evaluation, technical opinions, cost estimating, project coordination, design drawings, permits, bidding assistance, construction administration, project closeout, and overall client satisfaction.

Mr. Zavatsky is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Florida with ten (10) years of professional practice in water resources, land development, and environmental engineering in both the public and private sectors.

He has been active in ASCE since 2005 including one year as President (2013 - 2014) of the Miami-Dade Branch and recently completed a 2-year term as Chair of the first local chapter of UESI.  Mr. Zavatsky now chairs the Technical Activities Committee for the ASCE Florida Section, oversees the Miami-Dade Branch's governing documents, and assists the Florida-based local chapters of the ASCE Technical Institutes.

Chris Zavatsky Family Portrait

Mr. Zavatsky is husband to his wife, Leticia, and proud father to Matthew Dominic (7), Sarah Grace (5), and Lucas Augustin (3).  As a family, they enjoy kids' movie night on Fridays and vacation road trips.

Where were you born and where was most of your upbringing?

I was born in Houston, Texas and moved to Fort Knox, Kentucky via the military at age 9.  In high school, I was a foreign exchange student through the American Field Service (AFS) and lived in Quito, Ecuador.  This experience led me to my next endeavor at age 18 where I entered college studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.

What were some of the motivating factors for you to go into civil engineering and who were some influential people in your career path?

I grew interests in architecture and engineering as a child. I was often doodling, imagining structures, shapes, forces, and playing outside. As a youngster, I was drawn to Legos like many others. My Dad kept an active role in my adolescence by participating with me in Boy Scouts and sharing books with me such as "The Way Things Work".

In middle school, I thought my career path would take me into accounting following my Mom's career; while I enjoyed math and managing my earnings from mowing the neighborhood lawns, the job taught me about mechanics and money, but it was only a piece of my career desire.

In my freshman year at Meade County High School in Brandenburg, Kentucky, I saw students working with something called Computer Aided Graphics. This lit up my imagination. I met with Mike Harreld, the class instructor, who informed me that I would have to first take hand drafting. Attention to line quality, perspective, and design elements put me on a path toward architecture, but this too was only a piece of my career desire.

I chose to study architectural engineering which seemed to include all of my interests. It wasn't until 2 years into college studies, while working as a research assistant on an environmental engineering project, that I realized I wanted to also play in the dirt.  Civil Engineering was calling me. I added one more year of college loans, because I knew the industry could offer me a great future.  While in college, I met Jose Acosta who was active in the American Society of Civil Engineers and took great interest in helping engineering students grow and develop. I stayed close to his path watching and learning as he mentored me.

What are some important lessons you learned in your career path that you abide by still today?

Clarity in technical writing. With much thanks to my college English professors, Rick Kemp and Andrew Green, and my supervisor, Ken Caban, I learned how to write a story about my work in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

No project is a simple project. Each project has a present and future community relying on you to watch out for their best interests.

In working with colleagues, we must be patient and understand that everyone grows differently, even me.

Pray for wisdom and compassion so as to be able to respond to the stresses and shocks buried deep in the fabric of the world around us.

What do you enjoy most about civil engineering?

What is not civil engineering?  Civil engineering is the universe and all its life and resources.  Engineers are the makers of tomorrow.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you see on the horizon in civil engineering and globally?

Education. Faith. Government. Engineers must build and maintain communities that support civil engineering as a top priority. Anything less will result in the degradation of our communities, from infrastructure to human arts.

Chris Zavatsky Visioning Workshop Visioning Workshop for the Resilient Utility Coalition at PortMiami

What are some of the challenges you face and rewards gained from serving as Chair of the Miami-Dade Chapter?

In our case, starting the Chapter was relatively simple, and October 1 will be our second anniversary. Our officers have been active in our community, lending support and organizing joint activities with other professional organizations such as the Resilient Utility Coalition.  It is rewarding to me to see utility industry professionals that are not engineers joining in UESI's efforts for our local community.  Our growth has lead us to developing our officer positions and forming special task committees.

Establishing Chapter bylaws has served us well in getting to this point, but herein lies some challenges.  As a group of Officers and in collaboration with UESI, your Section, and your Branch, you have to chart your territory and define your purpose.  UESI Director John Segna and the ASCE Miami-Dade Branch Board of Directors were of great help to us in completing this governing document.  I recommend Chairs of other local Chapters review a copy of our bylaws if you are looking for a starting point.

Annual - ASCE Miami-Dade Branch celebrates at the 2017 Awards and Installation Banquet Annual - ASCE Miami-Dade Branch celebrates at the 2017 Awards and Installation Banquet held at the Rusty Pelican on Key Biscayne, Florida - August 24, 2017. Top Row, from left to right: Jennifer Borges, Leonard Barrera, Evelyn Rodriguez, Erik Alcantara, Rey Villa, Hasan Rizvi, Jael Zambrano, Nelson Perez-Jacome, Steve Lubinski, Chris Zavatsky, Maria Porrata, Javier Manso, Yulet Miguel, Amirmasound Hamedi. Bottom row, from left to right: Charlie Duverge, Miguel Lockward, Patrick Kaimrajh, Carlos Tijerino.

Please share important things those who are thinking of establishing their own local chapter should consider?

Take courage. It's not that hard. If you live and work in an area filled with industry professionals that have an interest in discussing their work, then you might have the right ingredients.  Having a local Institute Chapter brings ASCE members and non-members together to serve the local community.  Organize technical meetings with continuing education, relax together at a social event, or plan a site visit to one of your local "modern marvels."

If you ever get stuck, think of a local Institute Chapter like fire.  You need 3 components: fuel, a spark, and oxygen. Your industry provides the fuel. You and your colleagues provide the spark. Your team's dreams and ideas for an improved industry is the oxygen.

Can you tell us about your current work and projects at Tetra Tech?

I serve as the technical lead and project manager on several master planning and design projects for water utilities in South Florida. The work is really exciting and I am blessed to be with such a remarkable team of professionals.

Chris Zavatsky 2017 Planning Committee Fun with the 2017 Planning Committee at the ASCE Tri-County Workshop at Long Key Nature Center in Davie, Florida - June 29, 2017. Pictured left to right: Paola Davalos, Julie Parham, Brent Whitfield, Patrick Kaimrajh, Rafael Jimenez, Ricardo Vieira, Chris Zavatsky, Hasan Rizvi, Jose Lopez, Jose Acosta.

And your personal goals and plans for the next year?

In the months ahead, I will be studying to become a Certified Floodplain Manager which will aid in some of my project efforts at Tetra Tech.

Through my church, I am serving as Assistant Cubmaster to my son's Cub Scout Pack.  We are planning a few camping trips, one of which at Kennedy Space Center where we will camp beneath a rockets ship.

Through the ASCE Florida Section, I am serving a Chair of the Technical Activities Committee. Aside from pulling together technical articles and abstracts from engineers, I will be aiding the Section and its 13 Branches to develop and grow our local Institute Chapters state-wide.

For the ASCE Miami-Dade Branch, I will assist the Board of Directors, Committees, and local Institute chapters where needed and I will continue serving as Chair of the Governing Documents Committee where I update our Operating Manual to support the functions and strategic plans of the Branch.

Contact Chris