top of page

Chris Biellier

Rock-Solid Values

By Barry Engelhardt

“It was a town where everyone knew what was going on.”

Chris Biellier’s life story is a testament to adaptability. From a spontaneous change of majors in college to a swift transition from geology to environmental consulting, his ability to embrace and respond to life’s twists and turns has consistently worked in his favor. As a 1983 graduate of Vandalia High School, Chris’s journey is marked by seizing numerous opportunities.

Chris grew up and attended school in Vandalia as the youngest of three children. He fondly recalls his mother, who was well-known for playing Mrs. Claus in the Vandalia Holiday Parade for decades. Chris ran track and played basketball and baseball but preferred deer hunting with his family and golfed throughout high school. While he left Vandalia to attend college and never returned, his nostalgia is evident as he reminisces about his childhood.

“Back in those days, we rode in the back of pickup trucks and on unfolded chairs. We could leave our doors unlocked in our vehicles. We could walk out the door at night and walk across town without worrying about anything bad happening,” Chris says.

He adds, “It was a town where everyone knew what was going on. You weren’t judged by it. It was just a typical historical, country-valued town.”

Chris attended Monmouth College, initially majoring in computer science. However, he quickly realized that a desk job wasn’t for him. Intrigued by a geology course he was taking, he decided to pursue geology and eventually graduated with a degree in the field.

“I’ve been a licensed professional geologist in Illinois for probably twenty-five years, even though I rarely practice it,” Chris says. “When I graduated, the oil crisis hit in the late eighties. Suddenly, there were many unemployed geologists, and the oil and coal industries didn’t have jobs for us.”

With the geology field saturated and job opportunities scarce, Chris turned to the burgeoning environmental industry. After college, he accepted a position with an environmental engineering company in St. Louis, Missouri, working at a Department of Energy site performing, among other things, investigation of low-level radiation and contamination. Chris worked at the same site for a little over a year and, according to daily measurements, was approaching a lifetime’s dosage of radiation exposure. To protect his health, he was no longer permitted to work at that facility.

Chris stayed in St. Louis for another year before accepting a position as an environmental consultant, working as a staff geologist and conducting investigative work in the Quad Cities. He worked on contaminated sites and performed geological and environmental investigations, responding to everything from hazardous material clean-ups to derailments and overturned tractor-trailers and meth lab clean-ups under the Department of Justice oversight.

At one point, Chris says, he “had up to three hundred part-time employees in my five-state region, and they were all off-duty police officers, firemen, EMS, and sheriff’s deputies. We did big drug bust clean-ups. It was probably the hardest and dirtiest job I’ve ever done. I was the regional director but had to go out on these nasty sites. But I got to work in collaboration with varied professional local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

Chris has spent thirty-seven years in environmental consulting and has worked for Seneca Companies for the last twenty years. He started an environmental waste division focusing on industrial clean-up and spill response. Although the company is based in Des Moines, Iowa, he works from his home office in Prophetstown, Illinois, when he’s not on the road.

Reflecting on his life, Chris suggests that while he hasn’t lived in Vandalia for nearly four decades, the lessons he learned growing up in deer camp have been invaluable in raising his three successful children. It’s not the lessons from living in multiple cities but those passed down from his grandfather to his father and then to him that he leaned on. He focused on work ethic, politeness, and respect.

“During annual family deer camp, It wasn’t about harvesting an animal but about the camaraderie, the campfire, and telling stories,” says Chris. “There was always a variety of ages. It was grandfathers and older gentlemen, down to the dads, and then to the boys who weren’t old enough to hold a gun yet.”

“My dad instilled all these lessons in me, and then I had my boys go to deer camp and trout fishing trips. They reached an age where they wanted to be on their own, too. As a father, the happiest time in your life is when your children no longer ask for your advice. The hardest time is when they no longer need your advice.”

bottom of page