'The fix-it guy': From farm boy to community servant, Tom Weidenhamer is no stranger to hard work
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final installment of candidate profiles leading up to the March 11 city council elections. Read past profiles at thedestinlog.com. Early voting runs Saturday, March 1, to Saturday, March 8, at the Destin Community Center at 101 Stahlman Ave.
Tom Weidenhamer spent more than 25 years in the software business where he earned quite the reputation for turning around what ailed a company.
"I was the fix-it guy," the 70-year-old Ohio native told The Log. "When a place was in trouble, they would send me there."
Growing up on a 42-acre farm in the Midwest, Weidenhamer is no stranger to hard work, as it was common to rise with the chickens to tackle the days work — whether it was harvesting corn or other vegetables.
Weidenhamer said his family participated in what he called "truck farming" and would grow crops to sell to local grocery stores.
It was during his time in Wooster, Ohio, that Weidenhamer would first meet his future wife Nancy, who was a state champion roller skater.
The couple will celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary in April. The two met at a roller rink out in the country, where Nancy frequented. In addition to the roller staking rink, there was also the "infamous go kart racing track."
Weidenhamer, who was still in high school at the time, operated a small engine repair business, working on lawn mowers and go karts.
"Those engines required repairs on a frequent basis, and that's where she first saw me," he remembered. "Then one day I was out driving in the country and she waved to me."
He said it was all over after that.
Weidenhamer would spend 26 years in systems design, software development and project management, which took him from Wooster to Canton and Cleveland before spending time in the Motor City.
"We moved every 12-18 months," Weidenhamer said of his travels. "It was the places we didn't move that I liked best."
The majority of his time was spent with the Burroughs Corporation, which is now Unisys. The company sold computers similar to IBM, Weidenhamer said.
"I believe they had about 2k of memory," he said of the mid-60s computers. "They cost about $30,000 at the time."
"Those computers, we had to program them with machine language," he added. "If you wanted to add A to some register, it would be like 1026, which meant add A to register 26."
The Weidenhamers, who raised three girls and a boy, came to Destin in 1990 after searching for new business opportunities along the East Coast and in South Florida. The couple bought SOS Printing and have operated the Mountain Drive business ever since.
Weidenhamer is heavily involved in the community, having served on the Destin City Council from 2008 to 2012; serving on the city's code enforcement board; the board at Destin Water Users; and on the board at Catholic Charities, which is near and dear to his heart.
He and Nancy, along with many volunteers, were instrumental in securing the funding to build the city's first dog park.
"It's a people park where dogs are allowed," he said. "If you go there, people are standing around talking to each other; it's the most heavily used park in the city."
As a longtime businessman and former councilman, Weidenhamer is attuned to the issues facing Destinites.
He said most of the people he speaks with approach him about Norriego Point, the harbor and the inlet management plan. As a "champion" of Norriego Point stabilization, Weidenhamer said he would like to ensure that once the city moves forward with the project, it's done in a way that's aesthetically pleasing.
When he's not volunteering his time, Weidenhamer is a "voracious" reader of non-fiction books, whether it's philosophy or business.
Having come a long way since growing up as a Midwestern farm boy, Weidenhamer said his goal is to do everything he can to make Destin the best place it can be through his service and willingness to give back.
"This is where we want to be," he said.
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