Jittapong “J.T.” Malasri, a civil engineer with Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, says his father probably knew his son would go into the engineering field long before he himself did. And his father, Siripong Malasri, should know – he was the dean of the School of Engineering at Christian Brothers University before returning to the classroom to teach and chair various departments.
“Pretty much my career choices were civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or chemical engineering,” he said, adding that he chose “dirt and water compared to all the other hard stuff.”
J.T. Malasri ended up at the university as well, on the student side of the desks, gaining a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering with a minor in psychology before heading down Central Avenue for a Master of Science in civil engineering.
His first job in the field was as a land development engineer with Pickering Inc., where he had interned for just less than a year during school before going to work for the area’s utility company. He has been with MLGW since 2007 and, though his specialty is in hydrology specifically, his day-to-day work finds him overseeing the utility design of residential use developments in Shelby County.
“I work with designers and developers and contractors to design utilities for apartments and subdivisions, so I’ve ventured out of my comfort zone a little bit,” Malasri said.
He is the past chair of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s Young Professional Council, part of the transition team from the mayor’s election, an ad hoc council in which “Mayor Luttrell will bounce ideas back and forth to get a perspective on what younger people think.”
As a member of the Shelby County Sustainability Advisory Committee, he also works to further the practice of low-impact development.
Malasri is currently involved with the Urban Land Institute as the Young Leaders Chair, part of the management committee. The ULI is a facilitator for best land-use practices, and its members include developers, finance specialists, contractors, municipality representatives and engineers, among others associated with the real estate industry. As part of Young Leaders, he said, his role is “to promote what ULI is doing to younger people and getting younger people involved and engaged in the city.”
There were no more than seven young leaders when Malasri became involved, and the division now has 16 members. To see the next generation of real estate professionals grow into civic leaders, Malasri also created the Mentor Protege Program to align those with experience and wisdom to be shared with up-and-coming professionals.
“Henry Turley was gracious enough to be mentor for our group,” he said, and was part of several events, including a bike tour of the Main Street to Main Street Multi-Modal Connector Project, which will carry joggers, walkers and cyclists over the Harahan Bridge, across the Mississippi River and into Arkansas.
It’s not just the interstate travel that gets him excited but, as an engineer, the improvement of the streets and streetscapes of South Main.
Though his father is a teacher, Malasri doesn’t see such a path in his near future, but possibly something he’ll venture into when he’s older, closer to retirement age – when his years of experience might mean something to a younger generation. Until then, he’ll work to get his peer group, and younger, interested in joining the effort to better Memphis both ideologically and physically.
At 29 years old, Malasri sees now as the best time to get involved in a leadership role to help his community sustain the enthusiasm and growth he’s seen over the past few years. He gets frustrated when he hears Memphians complain, he said, and thinks they should instead work to make the city a better place.
“In the past few years, a lot of younger people are getting well along in their careers where they’re starting to become the decision-makers and are getting put in more prominent positions,” he said. “It’s really refreshing to be involved with people who are passionate about making Memphis a better place.
“Being involved and trying to take the lead in a lot of these things, I think people see your enthusiasm and see you’re passionate, and it gives them hope. And that’s what I’m hoping to do is to influence my friends and the future generations that Memphis and Shelby County can be a lot more than what it is right now.”