2017 Mountain States Top Young Professionals
Young leaders from a variety of disciplines apply their talents and share their knowledge to create a more integrated, tech-savvy industry
Winners of the 2017 ENR Mountain States Top Young Professionals contest are company principals and CEOs, architects, engineers, constructors, transportation gurus, professors and project managers, but also sustainability experts and technology whizzes. Some began their careers with larger companies and then had the courage to break away and start their own firms; others have been targeted and promoted by firm principals as promising leaders. All have worked hard to mentor colleagues and students on better design and construction practices.
As in past years, the annual contest was rigorous. Companies or individuals were allowed to nominate more than one person, and individuals could nominate themselves. Nominees must be working full-time in some aspect of the commercial construction industry in the Mountain States region, which includes Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Kansas and North and South Dakota. Other key selection criteria included achievement of or progress toward industry certifications, significant success in creating more efficient systems, designing new processes or managing landmark projects and significant volunteer work across the industry and within the community.
This year’s judges were: Robert Childers, director of virtual design and construction, Haselden Construction, Centennial, Colo.; Sandee Moore Gehrke, vice president, operations improvement, St. Luke’s Health System, Boise; Lucas Mallory, manager, special projects division, PCL Construction Services Inc., Denver; and Jered Minter, project architect, Bennett Wagner & Grody, Denver.
The following pages contain profiles of the winners, describing their successes and efforts to achieve excellence while maintaining quality and seeking to support their families and communities.
Congratulations to the winners.
26, Business Technology Analyst
Black & Veatch
Overland Park, Kan.
High-tech leader becomes a national advocate for women across the industry
Attebery is a champion for women in engineering and construction. She has delivered a TEDxYouth talk on implicit gender bias, contributes to Black & Veatch’s resource group for women in engineering and attended ENR’s Groundbreaking Women in Construction conference. Her nominator, Judith Veatch, says Attebery “embodies what it means to be a woman in an engineering company.”
A graduate of Missouri University of Science and Technology, Attebery is a chemical engineer by training. She joined B&V in 2012, working for three years in the company’s oil-and-gas unit before switching to her current position in the technology group. She has led B&V’s internal hackathon two years in a row, managed the company’s user-expert group for Bluebeam software and delivered a keynote at ENR FutureTech. Among various volunteer activities, Attebery gives a week of her vacation every year to a summer camp in Missouri and donates meals to the Heroic Leadership Institute, a program for local “gap-year” students.
32, Senior Process Engineer
Greenwood Village, Colo.
Engineering whiz readily shares her knowledge with colleagues
As an undergraduate, Auble tore through the prestigious and demanding Colorado School of Mines. She graduated first in the class of 2006, with degrees in chemical engineering and economics, and received the outstanding graduating senior award from both departments. Her work with AECOM, a global provider of engineering, consulting and project management services, has been no less impressive. She joined the company as an intern and quickly became an expert in refinery pressure safety valves.
Beyond her technical prowess, she’s also been active with the Construction Industry Institute. Through CII, she’s worked with the Next Generation Leaders Community of Practice, has presented before five annual CII conferences and has been elected a member of the CII executive leadership committee. Her efforts to share her CII knowledge within AECOM’s Denver-area office have earned praise. One colleague says that Auble “pours life and creativity” into developing and mentoring AECOM’s staff.
35, Vice President of Operations
Ops expert works his way up through the ranks to become a company leader
Balakas has worked his way to the executive ranks from the ground up. He started as an assistant carpenter and assistant superintendent while earning his bachelor’s degree in construction science and management from Clemson University in South Carolina and served as a project engineer, project manager and construction manager for Saunders before taking his current position in 2015.
Along the way, he’s been involved with projects such as the Ben H. Parker Student Center at the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University’s natatorium and the Volunteers of America (VOA) Early Childhood Education Center in Denver. Balakas was project executive for the facility; it was built without cost to VOA, whose Colorado branch recognized Saunders as its Outstanding Corporation for 2015.
Balakas is a LEED-accredited professional and also holds national stormwater inspector certification. He is active in the Associated General Contractors of America and the Downtown Denver Partnership and has been a member of both organizations’ leadership development groups.
37, Construction Executive
Project exec leads state’s key health care, hospitality projects
Since 2015, Bergholz has led Mortenson’s work in the health care market, which averages $80 million in annual revenue. The signature accomplishment in his 15 years with Mortenson has been construction of the $405-million, 831,000-sq-ft Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver.
Bergholz and his team are about to start the $200-million Highlands Ranch Hospital for UCHealth. His other major work includes the Cherry Creek North Redevelopment, renovation of The Ritz-Carlton Denver, the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and the Xcel regional headquarters building in Denver.
An honors graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in construction management, Bergholz is active in the American Society for Healthcare Engineering as well as the Colorado Association of Healthcare Engineers and Directors.
He’s also a sought-after speaker who has presented for the national Lean Construction Institute conference, the AGC BIM Forum and the Society for Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association.
His volunteer efforts focus on the National Jewish Hospital Foundation, Think Humanity Inc., which fosters health care and socioeconomic development in Africa, and numerous other causes.
36, Chief Operating Officer – Program Management
Experienced engineer creates successful new design firm
As a full-scholarship soccer player at the Colorado School of Mines, Bills learned to lead on the field. After a couple of jobs, he took those on-the-field lessons and joined two partners to form Consilium, an owner’s representative firm that eventually grew to 20 employees. NV5 acquired Consilium three years ago, and it’s been full speed ahead for Bills ever since.
His entire staff at Consilium moved with him to NV5, where Bills’ program management group now numbers more than 100. According to his nominator, Joni Fournier, a key to Bills’ success has been to keep a small-company feel even as NV5’s program management group has grown. He also involves himself in the budding careers of NV5’s interns, mentoring future engineering professionals.
Outside work, he’s active in the Urban Land Institute, the Erie, Colo.-based Economic Development Council and the Society for Marketing Professional Services. He also gives his time to youth soccer, baseball and basketball along with church events and the Special Olympics.
32, Senior Construction Engineer
Greenwood Village, Colo.
Australia native supports growing participation of women in engineering
Cooper is a trailblazer—in more ways than one. Not only does she enjoy hiking “fourteeners” (14,000-ft-tall mountain peaks), she’s also been the sole female construction leader on a remote project in western Australia where men on the jobsite outnumbered women 20-to-1. She’s dedicated to getting more women into engineering and construction and has urged girls as young as middle-school age to excel in math and science.
Her sense of humor is also noteworthy: After her boss snapped a photo of her snoozing on a flight—commenting wryly that the company disapproved of employees sleeping on the job—she retorted that the picture illustrated her work-life balance.
A native of Melbourne, she was hired as a structural engineer before AECOM quickly discovered her managerial talents. While in Australia in 2010, she received a Young Achiever Commendation from the National Association of Women in Construction. Now she’s a founding member of AECOM’s high-potential program while working in Denver to expand the company’s water-resource sector.
Adolfson & Peterson Construction
Rising construction leader supports many industry, community causes
Described as “a dedicated, result-driven leader,” Elizondo for years has helped to ensure the on-the-ground success of Adolfson & Peterson’s projects. A Six Sigma “green belt,” Elizondo holds a bachelor’s degree in real estate and construction management from the University of Denver and is investing 20 hours of his spare time each week to pursue an MBA from Denver’s Regis University.
Elizondo leads AP’s safety committee, was chosen as one of 12 members of the company’s National Emerging Leaders program, serves as interim board president of the Hispanic Contractors of Colorado and is a member of the Colorado Latino Leadership Advocacy and Research Organization.
He has long devoted himself to Denver Urban Scholars, a nonprofit that partners with high-poverty, high-performing schools. He also teaches English as a second language in the Adams, Colo., public schools, is an instructor for the Construction Industry Training Council of Colorado (CITC) and gives time to the Wayfaring Band, an organization that supports adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
38, Executive Vice President
MW Golden Constructors
Castle Rock, Colo.
Second-generation builder leads his family firm into more diverse work
Golden started helping out around his father’s firm when he was 10 years old. Today, he owns it, while his dad, Mike, retains the title of president. But make no mistake, it’s the younger Golden who’s in charge. Described as an effective mentor and problem-solver who avoids micromanaging, Golden has established himself as one of Colorado’s top young builders.
His numerous honors include a 2009 award as Project Manager of the Year from the American Subcontractors Association of Colorado and a President’s Award from the Associated Builders and Contractors Build Group.
MW Golden was the general contractor for Castle Rock’s Philip S. Miller Park Phase II project, which won a 2016 ENR Mountain States award for best landscape and urban development project. The firm also has won prizes for work ranging from the 321 Main Street redevelopment in Longmont, Colo., to the New World Millworks, a 100,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility in Castle Rock.
Golden is also co-founder and president of the Young Citizens of Philanthropy, an association of young professionals dedicated to community service in Colorado.
32, Vice President, Project Development
Sports construction guru leads company’s growth in that sector
To call Hodge “Mr. Sports Construction” would be incomplete, but a good start. Before joining Mortenson’s Denver office to lead local and regional business development, he worked in the company’s national projects group in Minneapolis, which ENR recently recognized as the nation’s top builder of athletic venues.
Sports projects that bear Hodge’s stamp include the NHL Buffalo Sabres’ HarborCenter arena, the multipurpose on-campus stadium currently under construction at Colorado State University, the University of Colorado’s recently completed, $177-million athletics complex, the $10-million rooftop section at Coors Field and the Pegula Ice Area at Penn State University.
Outside the sports world, Hodge has worked on Mortenson’s $118-million expansion of Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee, Wash., construction of the $120-million Group Health Medical Center in Bellevue, Wash., and the 3,400-acre Sterling Ranch development in northwest Douglas County, Colo. Colleagues describe Hodge as a “true seller-doer” who has contributed significantly to Mortenson’s Denver-area growth.
35, Chief Executive Officer
Kansas office builder triples the workforce growth of his family firm
Started by Mark Hutton in 1992, Hutton Construction has become one of Wichita’s premier builders of Class A office space. Hutton’s son, Ben, joined the company in 2006 and took over seven years ago. Since then, he has tripled the company’s workforce while constructing projects such as the 210,000-sq-ft expansion of the Koch Industries campus in Wichita, the 176,000-sq-ft Fort Riley Middle School in Fort Riley, Kan., and the 58,000-sq-ft Kearney Regional Medical Center in Kearney, Neb.
An early building information modeling adopter, Hutton is known as a tech-savvy executive who reads regularly and is respected for his ability to introduce new ideas for mentoring his staff.
At age 12, he helped his father as a laborer and learned the business in the field before earning a construction management degree from Kansas State University and an MBA from Friends University in Wichita. An AGC board member, Hutton serves numerous local business and community organizations and chaired last summer’s Global Leadership Summit in Wichita, which attracted more than 1,300 participants.
39, Vice President
Builder starts his own firm based on collaboration, creativity
Laszlo’s influence is visible throughout Colorado’s Front Range, from the old-world-style chapel at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch to the business school at the University of Colorado Denver, the renovation of the Ekeley Chemistry Labs at CU Boulder and the new arena, pavilions and exhibition halls at the Larimer County Fairgrounds in Loveland, Colo.
A 1999 CU Boulder graduate in civil engineering, he worked for GH Phipps Cos. for 15 years before co-founding Vertix Builders in 2014. The young firm has already grown to $50 million in annual revenue and especially values its collaborative culture, which stresses creativity within the firm and with its trade partners.
Laszlo is a LEED-accredited professional who serves as regional vice president of the Design-Build Institute of America, has lectured at the University of Colorado and speaks to AGC student chapters. He maintains a healthy work-life balance, regularly arriving home in time for dinner and coaching three of his four children on a flag football team.
36, Prequalification Manager
Denver native grew up in construction, mastered prequalification business
Leonardo, a Denver native and the prequalification manager for Haselden Construction, does more than just vet subcontractors. She actively works with them—especially minority-owned firms—to help them land on general contractors’ short-lists.
She started swinging a hammer at age 7 in her father’s residential building business, and her knowledge of construction has been instrumental in developing a computerized subcontractor compliance “dashboard” that integrates the needs of several Haselden departments.
As a member of the Hispanic Contractors of Colorado, Leonardo teaches classes in prequalification; she also leads a “Breakfast with Haselden” outreach event for minority subs that covers bidding, estimating and current projects.
She serves as group leader for Colorado Construction Career Days, which helps students explore the industry. She is also active in Denver Gives, which provides resources for local nonprofits, and There With Care, an organization that assists families with critically ill children. In addition, she leads Haselden’s Lean In Circle, which promotes opportunities for women.
37, Vice President, Colorado Operations
Experienced electrician supports apprenticeship programs
Over the past 17-plus years, Otterson has been involved with electrical installations at sites as diverse as Colorado Ocean Journey, the REI flagship store in Denver, History Colorado Center and the Westin Hotel in Avon, Colo.
As a CITC board member for eight years, he’s also worked closely with the organization’s apprenticeship program to develop skilled professionals. In addition, he’s active in the AGC Future Leaders Forum and helped develop AGC’s Hot Jobs/Cool Careers program, aimed at attracting young people to construction.
With qualifications ranging from being an Eagle Scout to a LEED AP, the native of Lisbon, S.D., joined Hunt Electric in 2015 and is responsible for preconstruction services, estimating and operations. Outside work, Otterson remains active with the Boy Scouts, which he credits with building character in young people.
39, Group Manager, Land Acquisition and Permitting
Right-of-way and land acquisition guru works closely with multiple agencies
A friend’s father introduced Pollack to surveying, and he liked its combination of math and critical thinking. Working his way through IntelleTec College in Grand Junction, Colo., as a cook at an Applebee’s, he earned an associate’s degree in architectural drafting and worked for the city of Grand Junction before being recruited to Stanley Consultants.
At the firm, he has turned land acquisition into a lucrative business, and the one-man department now boasts a staff of five. He’s taken on complex and occasionally contentious land acquisition proceedings, including one for an electric transmission right-of-way that involved no fewer than eight public agencies at the federal, state and local levels.
Outside the office, he’s a past president of the Denver chapter of the International Right of Way Association and a Watch Dog Dad, promoting safety at his daughters’ elementary school. With many cancer survivors in his family, he’s also active in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
38, North Dakota Construction Executive
North Dakota project exec earns kudos for her community service leadership
Slominski oversees more than $500 million worth of Mortenson’s work in North Dakota, including the state’s largest construction project, the $375-million Sanford Medical Center in Fargo. Other projects under her supervision include the $10-million renovation of Churchill Hall, a 200,000-sq-ft middle school in Dickinson, a $25-million critical access hospital for Southwest Healthcare Services in Bowman and a $14.6-million hockey facility for the West Fargo school district.
A North Dakota State University alumna, she earned a degree in construction engineering in 2004 and returned to campus in 2015 to accept the Horizon Award, given for exceptional service to the community. Slominski serves on the United Way of Cass-Clay board of trustees, the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber of Commerce board of directors, AGC of North Dakota board of directors, Red River Zoo board of directors and Xcel Energy of North Dakota advisory board.
33, Assistant Professor
University of Colorado
Engineering professor leads research into sustainable materials
Srubar joined the CU faculty in 2014 after earning his PhD in civil engineering from Stanford University. He’s already making a substantial impact in the field of sustainable materials, having published 28 papers to date and receiving a patent for environmentally friendly polymeric foams.
At the Boulder campus, he directs the Sustainable Infrastructure Materials Laboratory, where he’s researching the life cycle sustainability of construction materials, including resilient concrete mixtures and natural fiber composites. His work has garnered local and national attention. CU’s civil, environmental and architectural engineering department honored him as its 2016 Outstanding Young Researcher.
He’s also one of his department’s highest-rated teachers and a winner of a 2016 ASCE Excellence in Civil Engineering Education fellowship. His nominator, CU Prof. Matthew Hallowell, notes, “These achievements are exceptional for a new professor at this stage of his career.” Known as a passionate instructor and mentor, Srubar also serves as faculty adviser to CU’s student alliance of LGBT engineers.
39, Training Manager
Formerly with Haselden Construction
Training manager launched new education programs at the firm
Fluent in Spanish, Taylor taught school in Honduras and Peru before transitioning to human resources and training. Armed with a master’s degree in education from the University of Colorado Denver, she joined Haselden in 2014.
There she broadened the company’s educational offerings and worked with Colorado State University to obtain online college credits for many of Haselden’s internal courses—potentially saving bachelor’s-degree-bound employees more than $2,200 in CSU tuition.
Under her guidance, Haselden’s apprenticeship program for carpenters grew from two to 12 participants, and field staff now have new courses such as multi-level blueprint reading in addition to the usual safety training.
Haselden’s salaried employees can now take instruction in topics such as emotional intelligence, leadership development and software training.
Active throughout the business, Taylor, who recently moved out of the region, is a member of the Construction Industry Resource Training Network and once hosted the organization’s biennial meeting. In her off hours, she volunteered her time to the African Community Center in Denver, which helps refugees integrate into American society.
38, Project Manager/Associate
Academic achiever teaches engineering, college-prep skills
Growing up, Torrents was a wunderkind who has carried her young prowess into her professional career. A Langsdorf Fellow and valedictorian of her class in the School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Torrents won a National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship while earning her master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado.
Through her NSF fellowship, Torrents developed and taught a hands-on engineering curriculum to students in local public middle schools. She also taught a summer engineering course for Upward Bound, a college prep program for disadvantaged students.
She rose through the ranks at JVA Inc., where she now sits on the company’s board of directors. A licensed engineer in eight U.S. states and territories, Torrents has experience in high-seismic regions, post-tensioned and reinforced concrete, structural steel, conventional and engineered wood framing, masonry and light-gage steel construction.
Her recent projects include a new elementary school in Boulder, a major addition and renovation to Quigley Hall at Western State University in Gunnison, Colo., and a new office building in downtown Boulder.
28, Environmental Engineer
Arcadis U.S. Inc.
Engineer applies her training to develop clean-water solutions
A specialist in mine reclamation, Weidemann works with engineers and scientists to clean up mining sites and further the understanding of environmental impacts of natural resource extraction.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in 2010 from Michigan Tech University and has already put it to use developing novel strategies to address acidic mine lake water, tackling perpetual sources of radionuclides and metals discharging to surface water and helping to develop passive, sustainable engineering solutions for groundwater afflicted by mine wastes.
Although still a junior engineer, she frequently heads teams with more senior professionals in a variety of disciplines and is described as someone with a knack for translating innovative ideas into safe and cost-effective solutions.
Public service is also a passion; in 2012, she took five months off to volunteer for AmeriCorps, the Student Conservation Association and the U.S. Forest Service to improve hiking trails and assess abandoned mining areas in Idaho.
A lover of the outdoors, she has also “adopted” two campsites on the north shore of Lake Superior.
39, Business Development Manager
BD professional energizes her firm’s move into new market sectors
The words grit, passion and determination are all used to describe Witecki, whom Swinerton credits with helping to turn around the company’s all-time low volume in 2011 to a record high in 2016.
Responsible for sales and marketing strategy for Swinerton’s Colorado and Texas divisions, Witecki also gets kudos for energizing the company’s entry into the K-12 education market.
With Witecki creating inroads, Swinerton started with a small school office renovation and in 2013 parlayed the experience into an $18-million redo of a historic school building.
Then, in 2014, the company landed a design-build contract to build Denver’s East Quad Campus High School, a project that put Swinerton on the map with other big-time K-12 builders.
On the philanthropic front, Witecki is a leader of Swinerton’s corporate social responsibility program. It supports a variety of charities, including Community Food Share and the Fisher House, which provides military families housing close to loved ones in the hospital.
A graduate of the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in English, she’s currently pursuing her MBA at Regis University in Denver.