BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Busy. It’s the word that comes to mind when thinking of Jennifer Burdette Campbell, a work-at-home mom to three children who calls Boca Grande her home. She and her husband, Dan, own Campbell Mechanical, a building information and infrastructure company, and Jennifer can frequently be seen around The Island School and the Boca Grande Community Center.
In other words, wherever groups of children congregate on the island, she can usually be found.
Jennifer was born in Maryland, and her parents owned their own land surveying company. She has a younger brother, who also lives in Boca Grande with his wife and newborn baby girl, and a younger sister who lives in the U.S. Virgin Islands with her husband and their two dogs. Jennifer’s mother also lives on the island, just a mile down the road.
Jennifer’s family moved to Wellington, Florida when she was eight. She was also that age the first time she laid eyes on Boca Grande, when she came with her grandparents.
“I spent most of my non-school time growing up in Boca Grande,” she said. “My family would spend every free moment on the beach.”
After that initial Boca Grande visit, Jennifer said she spent many weekends and summers on the island beaching, fishing and reading. As a child she had dreams of becoming an attorney when she grew up, but eventually found out she’s more of a peacemaker than a debater.
“I want too much for everyone to be happy, so arguing is not second nature for me,” she said.
Jennifer attended Wellington High School, where she met her future husband (Dan). She then went on to William and Mary for a couple of years, and finished her degree in Geomatics (land surveying) at the University of Florida.
After high school she lost touch with Dan for a few years, but found him again at U of F when she transferred there. They were engaged four months after finding each other again, and married six months after that, in Boca Grande. As a matter of fact, they just had their 14-year anniversary last week.
“He was two grades younger than me in high school, and was friends with my sister,” Jennifer said. “We were friends, but I wouldn’t date him because he was a younger guy. He transferred to my high school when he was in tenth grade, and he likes to tell a story about how he was eating his lunch outside on a bench by himself and I walked up and asked him to join my friends and me. I don’t remember this, but I sure am glad I did it!”
Dan and Jennifer moved to Vero Beach to take jobs there after they graduated from University of Florida, and she went to work for her parents’ surveying company.
“I spent my summers during college working on my parent’s survey field crew,” Jennifer said. “Ten-hour days working along I-95 in the Florida summer heat can be excruciating, but I enjoyed being outside and got to spend my weekends in Boca Grande on the beach.”
Eight years ago Jennifer and Dan started their company, Campbell Mechanical. In a nutshell, their job is to coordinate the systems (electrical, sprinklers, HVAC and all things mechanical) in high-rise buildings. While Dan works many days from 7:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. the next day, Jennifer has a more flexible schedule from home, which accommodates the needs of their three children.
“He takes off for dinner and helps get kids to soccer practices when needed,” she said. “I have a more flexible schedule so that I can take care of the kids.”
Jennifer and Dan purchased a condominium at the Boca Grande Club in 2012, and after spending years of weekends and vacations on the island they finally had their own official home here. About a year later, more out of curiosity than anything, Jennifer placed a call to The Island School and spoke with Principal Jean Thompson.
“I just called to see if I could get a tour of the school,” she said. “I had always known about the school but didn’t really know much about it. I took Elizabeth and Bobby down for a tour with Jean, and she let them come back the next day to try out the school. To make a long story short, they really loved it. Dan and I spent the next week talking things over and decided to sell our house in Vero Beach and move to Boca Grande full time. Our business requires a lot of hours and we rarely have time to take a vacation. We decided that if we lived in Boca Grande we wouldn’t have to worry about taking vacations. We don’t take a lot of extended time off but try to take an hour here and there to go for a run or to do some fishing.”
The couple has Elizabeth, who is nine, Bobby, eight, and Christopher, five. All three will be going to The Island School this year.
“I am super excited to have all three in the same school for the first time,” Jennifer said. “All three of my kids are super active and it’s hard to keep up with them. Honestly, I have to keep them busy so they don’t argue with each other. Lately, we have been doing a lot of bike riding around the island. I finally have Christopher, the youngest, to the point where he can ride 10 miles at a time without complaining too much. The kids are all getting to the fun age where they can keep up with each other and Dan and me. They are all playing soccer out in Englewood right now, which means we will probably be at soccer five days a week or more again this fall. Last year, Dan and I coached Elizabeth and Bobby’s rec soccer team. We had so much fun with them.”
When Jennifer isn’t working or wrangling children, she loves to run on the bike path, a hobby she can enjoy all year round here in Florida. She also volunteers at the school, and plans to be a regular at lunch, recess and on field trips this year.
She is in a good place, with good people and family, and it shows in her attitude toward life.
“Boca Grande is very special to us,” she said. “We brought all of our kids back here and had them baptized at the Methodist church. We got married here. I have no idea what lies ahead of us, I just know we plan to continue to work hard, enjoy our kids, and Boca Grande.”