Winners of the 2020 ENR Texas and Louisiana Top Young Professionals contest represent all corners of the construction industry—from engineers and project managers to architects and executives—and range in age from 30 to 39.
Several of this year’s honorees grew up in the construction industry, following in a parent’s footsteps. One winner was the first in her family to attend college. A few of this year’s honorees have spent their entire careers at the same company, joining as interns or right after college. Another winner began his career in the construction industry as a laborer and carpenter.
As in past years, this year’s competition was highly competitive; our judges reviewed nearly 80 entries before selecting the final list of 20.
This year’s judges included Kelly Daniel, Austin operations manager and senior project manager at Kleinfelder and a 2019 ENR National Top 20 Under 40 winner; Jing Johnson, president of Prism Renderings; Claire Obgartel, vice president of workforce development at ABC Bayou Chapter; and Silky Wong, lead civil/structural engineer - technical expertise and support at Dow and a 2019 ENR National Top 20 Under 40 winner.
To be eligible, nominees must be working full-time in some aspect of the commercial construction industry in the ENR Texas & Louisiana region, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. They also must be under age 40 at the time nominations were due.
Other key selection criteria included the achievement of or progress toward industry certifications, demonstrated success in creating more efficient systems, designing new processes or managing landmark projects and significant volunteer work across the industry and within the community.
Congratulations to this year’s Top Young Pros!
36, Senior Project Manager
Manhattan Construction Co.
Carter was inspired by his father’s building career and has spent his entire career with Manhattan Construction Co. He began as a project engineer after receiving a bachelor’s degree in construction science from Texas A&M University.
At 24, Carter coordinated the food services and equipment for the $800-million AT&T Stadium project in Arlington, Texas. He also took on a project management role for the $250-million George W. Bush Presidential Center project, which included the added intensity of building with security measures in place. As project manager, Carter led the $140-million phased renovations to Terminal E at DFW International Airport. Manhattan was the prime contractor on this four-company joint venture, and Carter mentored not only Manhattan’s young employees but also those from the other three firms as well. For three years, he helped train more than 20 individuals while managing more than $300 million worth of terminal redevelopment work at one of the nation’s busiest airports.
Carter volunteers for the Dallas chapter of the ACE Mentor Program, where he has joined industry peers in architecture and engineering to mentor teams of local high school students as they pursue careers in the AEC industry.
Megan L. Crutcher
Odyssey Engineering Group LLC
After graduating from Texas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, Crutcher moved home to Houston, where she has worked for 12 years in land development, focused on master-planned communities, drainage studies and floodplain analysis, low impact development and special districts.
Crutcher served as project manager for two Houston-area high-end master planned communities—Towne Lake and Willowcreek Ranch—and was involved in all aspects of engineering development, from initial phasing and proforma generation through platting, engineering design and plan approval, bidding, construction and acceptance. She managed up to 40 active projects in different stages of development. She has also played a vital role in promoting low-impact development techniques in the Houston area and is responsible for the design and management of the first Fort Bend County single-family residential development, which is solely reliant upon low impact development stormwater management.
Since starting Odyssey Engineering Group in 2016, Crutcher and her business partner have grown the firm to more than $4 million in gross revenue, making it one of the fastest growing civil engineering firms in the Houston region.
31, Senior Technical Consultant
Friedman is a senior technical consultant for environmental health, safety and sustainability software solutions. A graduate of the University of Georgia, he has led numerous oil and gas, chemical, food and beverage, and commercial manufacturing projects. He also has field experience as the regional environmental lead for Archer Daniels Midland’s Louisiana and Texas operations, where he managed air and water permitting programs, employee compliance training and agency reporting.
Friedman was the program technical lead for the Colonial Pipelines Enablon implementation, developing incident management, inspection management, compliance pipeline maintenance and spill reporting systems for enterprise-wide improvements in efficiency, safety and compliance. He is currently the technical lead on the global UTC Enablon implementation, guiding an enterprise-wide rollout of systems to track compliance, auditing, chemical management, waste management and other programs for thousands of users worldwide.
Since 2016, Friedman has volunteered with Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans, which engages young professionals and educates them on how to manage their contributions to community-based nonprofits focused on sustainable housing, human rights and early childhood support.
35, Senior Advisor
Cooper Project Advisors
A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Gossard launched her career as an intern at Manhattan Construction and was involved with more than $355 million in projects during her 13 years there. She has led onsite operations for some of the region’s most high-profile projects, including the Oklahoma State Capitol rehabilitation project, a $180-million historic renovation of the deteriorating interior of the 100-year-old building.
Gossard has completed 10 projects for the University of Oklahoma, including a 200,000-sq-ft medical research and treatment center, an art gallery renovation and expansion, upgrades to athletic facilities as well as renovations and new construction of several academic buildings.
As a volunteer with Rebuilding Together OKC, Gossard uses her construction expertise to bring volunteers and communities together to improve the homes and lives of low-income homeowners in the Oklahoma City metro area. She also volunteers with the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma on the task force overseeing construction of the STEM-focused Camp Trivera. Gossard has been named Associated General Contractors Project Manager of the Year and selected to OKC Biz’s Forty Under 40 list as well as Oklahoma Magazine’s 40 Under 40.
34, Transmission Dept. Manager
Burns & McDonnell
Whether restoring transmission lines damaged by Hurricane Harvey or developing new lines for the growing number of energy customers, Hirst works tirelessly to create innovative solutions. The power industry is rapidly changing as demand grows for a robust, reliable and resilient electrical grid, and Hirst plays a key role in meeting that demand while also serving as a mentor to his 17-person team, sharing his industry knowledge and providing guidance on key projects.
With a bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from Texas A&M University, Hirst’s work includes the designing, modeling and managing of transmission line projects. He trains the firm’s new engineers and designers, investing time to discover his team’s strengths and aspirations.
He has worked on nearly 150 projects, managing $12 million in engineering services since 2012 for such clients as Xcel Energy, CenterPoint Energy and Garland Power and Light. Outside of the office, Hirst enjoys volunteering for organizations like the United Way, Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army.
36, Senior Associate, Registered Interior Designer
Howell graduated summa cum laude from Oklahoma State University and was named a Wentz Research Scholar. She has served as design team leader for more than 250 projects in Oklahoma, around the country and overseas—including small renovations to headquarters for Fortune 500 companies—with combined revenue of $76 million. Notable projects include Hewlett Packard Enterprise Corporate Offices, the University of Oklahoma’s Bizzell Library and the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma Urban Camp and STEM Center—the first Girl Scouts camp of its kind in the world.
Howell volunteers for the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, Oklahoma State University’s Professional Advisory Board, Allied Arts and the United Way of Central Oklahoma. She is also a member of the Oklahoma Interior Design Coalition, a nonprofit legislative advocate for interior designers. She serves on the professional advisory board for Oklahoma State University’s College of Human Sciences’ department of design, housing and merchandising. She is a passionate volunteer, having designed new facilities for several nonprofits, including ReMerge, Oklahoma Kids Korral and Sunbeam Family Services.
30, Technical Designer
While attending the University of Arizona, Kim interned with WSM Architects and worked on 3D animations, image editing, construction documents and marketing. After earning his bachelor’s degree in architecture, he joined Rob Paulus Architects in Tucson and continued to develop his skills in 3D visualizations, client relations, photography and marketing. In 2014, Kim relocated to Houston to work for Gensler, focusing on retail and hospitality design.
Kim is co-founder and chairman for Gensler’s ByDesign program, a grassroots design initiative in Houston comprised of “next-gen” architects driven to create buzzworthy, conceptual ideas for Houston’s built environment. The team has received local, regional and national acclaim for its forward-thinking design ideas. In 2018, he participated in Gensler’s rigorous, year-long leadership program, gConnect, an internal professional development program that mentors future designers and architects.
Kim is passionate about mentoring the next generation of the AEC industry. He is an Eagle Scout and architecture merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts of America and is developing the master plan for the Scouts’ new Camp Strake in the Sam Houston National Forest, scheduled to open in 2020.
37, Senior Engineer
Geosyntec Consultants Inc.
Klenzendorf focuses on technical stormwater management, water resources design and regulatory compliance projects. With a PhD from the University of Texas, he develops and analyzes advanced hydrologic and hydraulic models that include stormwater control measures. His projects include evaluating the impact of decentralized green infrastructure features to mitigate flooding and improve water quality, assessing the cause and source of flooding following Hurricane Harvey for litigation support and developing unsteady river system models for dam operations. Klenzendorf also assists with hydrologic design for landfill expansions, erosion and sediment control design and inspections, construction and industrial stormwater discharge permitting and compliance, environmental sampling and development over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.
Klenzendorf has served as project manager on $2.5 million in projects his last three years at Geosyntec and is a lecturer/adjunct professor for an upper level hydraulic engineering design course at UT Austin.
Klenzendorf is currently coordinating litigation support related to two high-profile flooding cases following Hurricane Harvey. In both cases, the Geosyntec project team developed advanced 2D HEC-RAS models and other hydrologic and hydraulic models to determine the source and cause of the flooding during the storm.
36, Strategic Growth Leader
Moldaner was introduced to construction at just 14. He worked alongside his father at his residential contracting firm through high school and while attending Louisiana State University. After graduating with a degree in construction management, Moldaner returned to New Orleans and opened his own residential construction firm to support Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.
Moldaner joined Palmisano in 2013 and has helped build the company from the ground up, working with the CEO to develop, monitor and refine the company culture. Under his leadership, the preconstruction department’s revenue has grown to more than $120 million from $5 million.
Moldaner collaborates with industry leaders to enhance LSU’s construction management department, one of the largest CM programs in the country. He also represents Palmisano on the NextGen Council, a leadership initiative through New Orleans’ regional economic development entity, Greater New Orleans Inc. The council is comprised of 55 emerging business and community leaders who serve a two-year term on their way to becoming regional leaders. The group supports GNO Inc.’s aggressive agenda for improving the business environment and regional business conditions through policy, workforce, research and communication.
35, Senior Project Manager
Pach has a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas-Austin and an MBA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A licensed professional engineer, he served for 10 years as a civil engineering officer in the U.S. Air Force. He deployed three times, traveling to combat zones in Iraq and to the UAE, supporting efforts to rebuild war-torn regions. He was a member of a facilities engineer team in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the operations flight commander for the 380 CES in support of Operation New Dawn. More recently, Pach has taught civil engineering and construction management courses to more than 600 students at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
At Stanley, Pach’s focus is on Defense Dept. projects worldwide; he is managing 13 such projects valued at more than $7.5 million in design fees. These projects include new aircraft hangars and maintenance facilities at Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE, F-35 beddowns in Alaska and the U.K., F-15 facilities in Saudi Arabia as well as FEMA public assistance efforts in hurricane-ravaged areas in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
Pach is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer and also dedicates one weekend each month and two weeks each year to the Air Force Reserve.
36, Division Vice President and Director, Asset Management Group
Poche works in the aerospace, technology and nuclear sector at Jacobs. He has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Tulane University and experience in engineering, construction, operations and maintenance for industrial and commercial facilities worldwide, including large maintenance organizations at NASA facilities.
At NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, Poche led various change initiatives that resulted in reducing operations costs by more than 40% while improving system performance and availability. In addition to his work with NASA, Poche has implemented various asset management initiatives for other Defense Dept. and commercial clients to lower their facility operations cost and improve their capital planning process.
Poche is vice president of the St. Ann Men’s Club, which provides support services to the local church community. He is also co-chair of the Ashley Code Pay-It-Forward Memorial Golf Tournament, a fundraiser for families and children in the Metairie community facing debilitating illness as well as a board member of the Ashley Code Project, which raises funds for pediatric brain cancer research and treatment in the New Orleans area.
37, Operations Manager
Brasfield & Gorrie
Ray began his career as an intern at Brasfield & Gorrie before being hired as an estimator and rising through the project management ranks. His experience includes several prominent projects worth more than $100 million, with a combined value of nearly $750 million. Ray joined the team of the firm’s burgeoning Dallas office in 2018. A natural leader who excels in building trusting relationships with clients and team members, he has played a key role in establishing Brasfield & Gorrie’s reputation in this new market.
Ray earned a bachelor’s degree in construction science from Clemson University and a master’s degree in building science from Georgia Institute of Technology. He supports project teams by helping identify potential areas of concern and coordination, resolving conflicts in drawing and scope, and maintaining financial accountability. A few of his notable projects include 1075 Peachtree (Loews Atlanta Hotel), the Omni Louisville Hotel and Residences in Louisville, the GE Global Operations Center at The Banks in Cincinnati and Twelve Centennial Park in Atlanta.
Ray is committed to making a difference in the Dallas community; he volunteers for organizations such as Buckner Ministries, 2nd Saturday Dallas and Compassion International.
38, Chief Operating Officer
Rotolo Consultants Inc. (RCI)
Rotolo joined RCI in 2005 to develop the company’s entrée into aquatics and hardscape construction. A hands-on leader, he makes himself accessible to employees at all levels of the firm.
Under Rotolo’s leadership, his team has grown the revenue of the firm’s hardscape division to $13 million from $2.8 million.
In 2014, while division manager, he led the Golden Nugget Lake Charles project, the first project to combine all of the firm’s scopes on an extremely large platform and the largest project in RCI’s history at that time. At the conclusion of the project, Rotolo was promoted to vice president of construction operations.
Rotolo has also been an integral part of bringing RCI into the world of airport construction. RCI is currently on site at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, which is the largest current construction project in the firm’s hometown.
Rotolo leads the charge on many of the firm’s community service projects. Inspired by his mother to give back where he can, he works to ensure that RCI has a positive impact on the community.
Abelardo “Abe” A. Salinas III
36, Project Manager/Chief Innovation Officer
As LNV’s chief innovation officer, Salinas is responsible for critical components of the organization, including overhauling the company’s intranet and turning it into a collaborative cultural hub, launching a searchable knowledge library of more than 3,000 documents and developing frameworks for career path guidance.
After graduating with a civil engineering degree from Rice University, Salinas joined HDR in Dallas and gained experience in the design of health care facilities, commercial sites and roadways. He also worked at Freese and Nichols, where he developed strong technical experience in the modeling and design of rivers, channels, water quality features, urban stormwater systems, floodplain management and city criteria and policy manuals.
At LNV, Salinas is the technical lead for the firm’s stormwater discipline, including the planning and design for citywide master plans, rivers and streams, dams, roadways, green infrastructure and floodplain management.
He also serves as an elected director for the Edwards Aquifer Authority, District 3. The EAA is a political subdivision and regional water management agency that regulates the use of the Edwards Aquifer, a water source for more than 2 million people in South Texas.
39, Associate, Architect
Sargent grew up with a love for the arts and drawing and developed a knack for solving technical problems. The first in her family to graduate college, she earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Houston.
Sargent worked under two of the world’s renowned “starchitects,” Renzo Piano and Nicholas Grimshaw. She spent eight months interning at RPBW Architects in Paris, where she practiced under Piano and his global team.
With Grimshaw, she worked on projects for New York University and the London School of Economics as well on the Fulton Street Transit Center.
Sargent joined Gensler’s Houston office in 2010, where she works on civic and institutional projects for public and community groups. She is also an office leader for their firm-wide community service program and orchestrates a variety of ongoing office initiatives.
In 2015, Sargent helped design a rural hospital in West Africa with Engineering Ministries International. She participates in ongoing volunteer activities that connect her to refugees in the Houston community through the Alliance for Multicultural Services and her church, City of Refuge, in the Third Ward.
36, Field Services Southeast Regional Manager
Modjeski and Masters
Schoenecker’s interest in engineering began in high school while working with his father, a glazer who installed curtain wall and storefront. He continued working with him while studying civil and structural engineering at the University of Minnesota.
As fate would have it, he landed his first job at Larson Engineering designing that same type of curtain wall and storefront, along with other facades made of stone, aluminum and steel for medium- and large-size buildings.
Schoenecker joined the field services section of Modjeski and Masters in 2009 and moved to New Orleans. As a member of their management team, he currently oversees 12 civil engineers and structural and coatings technicians conducting routine and complex bridge inspections, construction engineering and inspection, emergency and collision response, and forensic and legal investigations.
A volunteer with Engineers Without Borders, Schoenecker helped design and install a rooftop rainwater collection system, two 96,000-liter water storage and sanitization tanks and composting latrines in rural Uganda.
He has also served on international projects in El Salvador and Guatemala, and as a volunteer bridge builder in Bolivia for Bridges to Prosperity.
37, Managing Partner
While attending high school, Snape drove 80 minutes each way to work at an engineering and land surveying firm, performing civil design calculations, traffic counts, land surveying, construction staking, construction inspections and drafting—unusual responsibilities for someone her age. She went on to earn a civil engineering degree from Tulane University and worked on large-scale infrastructure projects for a New Orleans consulting firm. In 2016, she became an owner and managing partner at Batture LLC, an engineering firm dedicated to creating social and environmental change. The firm’s revenue has tripled during her tenure and grown in size to 12 employees from three.
Snape participates in a number of green infrastructure and stormwater management projects across the city. She joined the board of Groundwork New Orleans to educate others on how to prevent flood events through stormwater best management practices. She is also treasurer of the Louisiana post of the Society of American Military Engineers and an active member of Engineers Without Borders and the American Society of Civil Engineers. In 2016, Snape was named Woman of the Year by New Orleans City Business and recognized as one of Tulane School of Science and Engineering’s Outstanding Young Alumni.
39, Project Manager II
Archer Western Construction
Suarez worked as a land surveyor to help pay his way through Oklahoma State University, and this role helped him to understand the connection between engineering and construction work, ultimately inspiring his career choice.
He joined Archer Western in 2003 and has progressed through the roles of project engineer, superintendent and project manager.
Suarez leads some of Archer Western’s most complex projects in North Texas, managing almost $200 million worth of completed and upcoming water infrastructure projects, including the CMAR Riverbend Water Reclamation Plant Expansion project, the Wilson Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant improvements project and the Garland Biosolids Rehabilitation and Odor Control Project for the city of Garland, which was named an ENR Texas & Louisiana 2019 Best Projects winner in the water/environment category.
Suarez is a leader who cares deeply for each of his employees and the quality of the projects he manages. He also coaches his daughter’s soccer team, helps with fundraising projects for his neighborhood schools and volunteers in the Dash for the Beads, an organized 5K and 10K race that helps provide funds to area schools and nonprofits through physical fitness, healthy eating and arts programming.
Joseph Williams Sr.
39, Senior Superintendent
CORE Construction Services LLC
Williams launched his construction career as a laborer and carpenter. His first construction management job was as a field engineer building multifamily housing along the East Coast from Florida to New Jersey.
Today Williams focuses on creating strong teams and developing leaders on the jobsite. He has been involved in building multiple schools in New Orleans and has completed more than $100 million in construction work.
Williams has a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology supervision and another in automated systems from Southeastern Louisiana University. He took the lead in the field for the Restore Louisiana (ReLa) Flood Program after the Baton Rouge flood of 2016.
In 2017, Williams committed to coach his field superintendent in mastering residential remodeling codes as well as helping develop an operations procedure for this program.
Williams is vice president of the baseball booster club at Salmen High School, a Title 1 school with limited funds, and is currently working with local businesses to help bring new light poles to the baseball field.
36, Project Manager
Archer Western Construction LLC
Zavala has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering technology from Texas Tech University. For the past three years, he has worked on the $1.1-billion TxDOT IH-35E Managed Lanes Design-Build-Maintain project. He served as the segment manager for Segments 1 and 1A, a six-mile stretch of highway that included six engineering staff and seven superintendents with 21 crews.
In 2019, Zavala was selected as the bridge project manager for the $892-million DART Silver Line Design-Build project. He has also worked on the $144-million LPV 109.2 Storm Risk Reduction project to repair damage to the New Orleans levee system caused by Hurricane Katrina.
In 2018, Zavala was selected for the Walsh Group Leadership Initiative, which is a program that prepares the next generation of managers for significant leadership roles. Within this program, he serves as committee chair for the task force to study labor work force shortages.
Zavala serves on the advisory board at Tarrant County Community College, where he is helping build a non-traditional pipeline of workers for the construction industry. He also volunteers at least 100 hours per year to review site plans and conceptual drawings for the Farmers Branch, Texas, planning and zoning board.