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Seattle City (spot)Light: Pepe O’Baya

For nearly five years, Pepe O’Baya has worked at City Light as a Senior Capital Projects Work Coordinator. “I take a project from conception, set the budget, take it to a designer or architect who draws up the plans and writes the specs and then send it out for public bid,” Pepe explained. “From there, I manage the project to ensure it meets its intent.”

A Northwest native, Pepe was born and raised in Tacoma, but now lives in Sumner. He has three children (Ricky, Jordan and Chloe) and has been married to his wife Debbie for 24 years. “We love to cook; actually, I love to cook,” Pepe shared. “Mexican food is my specialty, particularly fajitas and homemade rice and beans. When someone takes a bite of my food, I want them to feel like it’s the best dish they’ve ever had; that it has that ‘wow’ sensation. I’ll buy funky kitchen gadgets and try different cooking techniques.”

In this week’s (spot)Light, Pepe talks about his life in construction and missionary work.

Pepe (second from the right) with his family during a ski trip to Utah

“I was an ordained youth pastor and am still pretty active in our church. I like to do a lot of missionary work. My family and I will go on a mission trip every year. Our last trip was Nicaragua. We assemble a team and work on a program that has plays, drama and dance and will travel to underserved countries to deliver the message. Essentially, we do an anti-drug and alcohol assembly for different schools. The theme is ‘Write your Future,’ which encourages kids to do the best they can in school and to stay away from harmful substances. We also work with the teachers.”

“I grew up in a family contracting business. My father was a general contractor. My mother was a roofing contractor at one point. My brother was also a general contractor as was my uncle and sister. As long as I can remember, I’ve always been involved in construction. It’s kind of weird since it’s the only thing I really know. One day I was out in the field installing a sanitary sewer main. I was 22-feet deep when the trench caved in on me. I got hit with a steel sheet which crushed my back and my spine. After that, Labor & Industries sent me through re-training and, because of my background, sent me to the University of Washington to become a project manager and a construction manager. I took the lemons that were handed to me and made lemonade out of it—I graduated with a 3.8 GPA!”

“It’s interesting. I get used in a lot of different roles, from capital improvement projects to maintenance. Right now, I’m working on a homeless encampment project. The utility offered some of its real estate to the City’s Finance and Administrative Services department, so we’re prepping the site. I’ve also got a few security upgrade projects for our substations. I’m also doing a project at Boundary where we’re upgrading safety features on a storefront in the museum. I really enjoy working with my group. It feels like a family.”