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Engineer in step with changing Las Vegas landscape

Updated March 31, 2017 - 4:09 pm

Dan Campbell views engineering and ballroom dancing the same way. Both require a sharp mind and thinking one step ahead.

Campbell has been ballroom dancing with his wife, Pam, only for a short time, but he has spent 30 years as an engineer in Southern Nevada.

“You have to keep your wits about you,” Campbell said. “If I lose my concentration, it all goes to crap.”

Campbell founded structural-engineering firm Las Vegas Engineers. His firm designed some of the area’s well-known landmarks, including the Mount Charleston Lodge and the Statue of Liberty outside of New York-New York.

Tired of Spokane, Washington’s snowy winters, Campbell moved to Henderson in 1987. Phoenix and San Diego also were options, but after meeting with engineer Dan Cashton for lunch one day, he was convinced Southern Nevada was the place for him.

“I said (to him), ‘Well, how will I know?’ He said, ‘I’ll tell you how you’re going to know. I’m going to give you a bunch of work today. And you take it back and work on it in Spokane until you decide this is where you want to be.’”

One of the first projects Cashton gave Campbell was the Mount Charleston Lodge.

Campbell already had engineering experience in the Northwest, designing high schools in Washington and Idaho. When he got to Henderson, he had to start fresh.

“It’s hard work,” Campbell said. “You beat the pavement. You do the hard work of just making appointments with people, introducing yourself, start with people that you know will work with engineering services.

“In the end, it’s more about the association of you with the people, the way you communicate with people, rather than your technical expertise. If you don’t have that, you have nothing.”

Campbell has seen Southern Nevada change over the years.

“We’ve lived in Green Valley most of the time,” Campbell said. “(Henderson) is a pretty dynamic city. (Green Valley) was once a small development on the other side of Sunset (Road), but you had to go a ways to get there.”

One engineering trend that he’s seen is an increase in using concrete rather than steel, specifically post-tension and precast concrete.

Precast concrete is manufactured concrete. Rather than using a traditional cement truck, this method creates the concrete in a more controlled environment. Campbell expects the trend to continue.

Campbell said it’s a quicker way to get more projects done, and it can pay off financially.

“The faster you can build (something), the faster you can occupy it and the faster you can make loan payments,” Campbell said. “However you can design and develop systems that can move quicker is a good thing.”

Mike McInerney, owner of American Dream Homes, has worked with Campbell since the late ’90s. McInerney said he’s always impressed with how Campbell sees projects through.

“I like working with Dan because he’s able to go into a building, look at it, see what the bones are and come up with easier ways to redo houses instead of getting too crazy,” McInerney said.

Campbell’s firm has built houses, schools and even the former MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park that closed in 2002.

Campbell hasn’t tired of his work, even after three decades.

“My kids used to think I was so boring,” he said. “But then I tell myself, ‘What could be more fun? I solve puzzles for a living.’”

Ocassionally, including this spring, he’ll take a trip to Surprise, Arizona, to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers in spring training.

For now, the focus is on the dancefloor. Campbell and his wife got into ballroom dancing because their middle daughter was getting married, and they were having a big dance at the wedding. They took lessons just to get by.

“We took them and figured we’ll just learn not how to embarrass ourselves,” he said. “But we liked it so much that we kept it up. It’s fun.”

Showing off his skills on the dancefloor has also benefitted Campbell as far as his physical health, regarding his balance and posture.

It’s also a more exciting way to keep himself going as he gets older.

“It’s kind of like yoga,” Campbell said, “but a lot more fun.”.

To reach Henderson reporter Danny Webster, call 702-477-3834 or email dwebster@viewnews.com. Follow him on Twitter, @DannyWebster21.

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