Mike Willhite has spent his life working on the land and sea. Born and raised in San Luis Obispo County, California, he is profoundly connected to the ocean and the California landscape.
“When I need to recharge and re-center myself I walk along the beaches,” says Mike. “I could not live away from the sea.”
As founder and owner of Willhite Grading & Excavation, Mike’s career began at an early age working at his dad’s roofing business. The one thing that Mike will tell you he learned while on those roofs was that he didn’t want to be a roofer.
“I wanted to be on the ground working in the machines.” And he got his chance in high school when a local family asked him work on their farm. He learned the fundamentals of machine operations and how to maneuver in various landscapes, but the culture and working environment the family created taught him much more.
“I saw the love and support they gave each other and it inspired me.” He added that it was through their example that his passions took root. “I owe this family so much because it was then and there my decision was made to pursue a career in earth work.”
After high school, Mike moved to Alaska for a two-year assignment with the United States Coast Guard. Mike endured rough seas, backbreaking work and life threatening conditions during his time in Kodiak. As a result, he became stronger, smarter and determined to return to California to forge his own path.
After working for various utility and contracting companies in California, Mike opened his own grading and excavation business. He admits it’s not easy and there are a lot of “painful” days, but it’s worth it.
“I have one driving force: my three-year-old son.” Mike continues, “I hope and pray Hunter wants this business someday, and he builds upon what I have done and takes it to the next level.”
While Mike continues to expand his company, his focus is also on building his legacy “to have my last name remembered for something” is what it’s all about.
Watch how Mike is preparing Hunter Willhite to one day take over the iron.