A recipient of the American Institute of Architects’ Henry Adams Medal. The youngest Black woman to be certified as a General Engineering Contractor by the state of California. A researcher who spent two months in the Antarctic collecting specimens for biological experiments. An engineering student who was struck by a drunk driver and was unconscious for 24 hours and who now designs safer roadways as a traffic engineer. A nationally recognized researcher in the field of construction safety.

That is just a sampling of the impressive, and inspiring, talent represented in the 2021 class of ENR Southeast’s Top Young Professionals. Indeed, the career paths—and life journeys—that are included in the following pages provide some meaningful measure of reassurance that the future of the Southeast’s construction industry is in good hands.

At the same time, though all honorees work within the region, the reach of their contributions to the construction industry stretches beyond the Southeast states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee. Indeed, this group of talented up-and-comers is sure to help generate construction achievements that will extend far beyond these borders.

This year, ENR Southeast enlisted the services of four outstanding industry professionals as judges for the competition. Returning veteran judges included Brent Darnell, owner and president of Brent Darnell International of Atlanta, as well as Cheryl Maze, principal with Orlando-based TLC Engineering Solutions. Additionally, Kevin J. Kelly, president of Sauer Inc., and Rachel Klinger, principal engineer with Geosyntec Consultants—both of whom were recognized as members of ENR Southeast’s 2020 class of Top Young Professionals—joined in to help determine this year’s honorees. (It should be noted that judges recused themselves from voting if a candidate presented a conflict of interest.)

ENR Southeast invites readers to peruse the profiles of this year’s Top Young Professionals and review the honorees’ accomplishments.

Related Link
ENR Southeast's 2020 Top Young Professionals


Alex AlbertAlex Albert
Construction industry researcher eyes improvements in site safety
34, Associate Professor
North Carolina State University


A nationally recognized researcher in the field of construction safety, Albert not only works as an associate professor of construction engineering within North Carolina State University’s department of civil, construction and environmental engineering, he also leads the North Carolina Construction Safety Laboratory. It focuses on evidence-based research related to the industry’s safety challenges. One of Albert’s recent field investigations revealed insights in construction site safety hazards, notably that up to 40% of such hazards remain unrecognized by workers. During this research effort, Albert used eye-tracking technology to examine workers’ visual search patterns when they participate in hazard recognition efforts. In turn, Albert has developed several award-winning interventions that promote hazard recognition levels, some of which have been recognized as industry best practices by various groups, including CII and the Job-Site Safety Institute.

Riley BirminghamRiley Birmingham
Railway engineer recognized as a top designer in her field

38, Rail Section Lead
HDR Engineering

Leading HDR’s rail section for the South Atlantic region of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, Birmingham’s work involves clients such as the North Carolina Dept. of Transportation’s rail section, CSX, Norfolk Southern, the North Carolina Railroad Co. (NCRR) and Palmetto Railways. A civil engineering graduate of North Carolina State University, Birmingham began her career as a roadway engineer but transitioned quickly into freight rail design and, nearly three years ago, was named to her current position with HDR. Today, she is serving as railway design manager for the NCDOT’s $440-million Interstate 440 widening project, which includes bridge construction of a six-lane highway with collector-distributor roads over the NCRR corridor and requires the temporary and permanent relocations of CSX and Norfolk Southern track lines.

Lauren CatoeLauren Catoe
Attorney guides firm’s legal issues on major sports venue projects

38, Assistant General Counsel

During Catoe’s 10-plus years in private legal practice—including in the Tampa office of national law firm Carlton Fields, where she was a shareholder—she served as outside counsel for AECOM Hunt in connection with multiple projects located across the U.S. After learning the company’s business operations while providing its executives with legal advice, Catoe was hired by the firm in 2018 as its assistant general counsel.

Working from AECOM Hunt’s Tampa offices, Catoe serves as the firm’s primary legal point of contact for its West division, which includes offices in Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Currently, Catoe’s legal oversight for that division includes such projects as the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park and the Terminal 3 Modernization at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Catoe currently serves as associate editor of the quarterly law journal of the American Bar Association’s Forum on Construction Law.


“[Lauren Catoe] is a tireless and reliable partner to her clients and colleagues and brings an uncommon blend of high EQ and IQ to all of her endeavors.” – LUIS PRATS, Carlton Fields


Wheeler CrookWheeler Crook
Water engineer communicates need for better infrastructure stewardship

39, Vice President of Engineering
Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood
Montgomery, Ala.

Within just three years of joining Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood (GMC), Crook joined the firm’s water resources and treatment division, where he has been responsible for engineering analysis, engineering-process design, bidding specifications and construction engineering for water and wastewater treatment projects throughout the Southeast. Additionally, in his role as vice president of engineering, Crook oversees the firm’s business development efforts and the design of all civil and municipal projects across central and south Alabama. Noted within the firm for his ability to connect with people, Crook also focuses on mentoring and otherwise working to develop up-and-coming talent. He is also actively involved in several organizations, most prominently Alabama’s Water Environment Association (AWEA), where he has been part of the group’s leadership team, including serving as president in 2017. He also served as co-chair for the 2019 Alabama/Mississippi Joint Annual Conference.

Ryan EckenrodeRyan Eckenrode
Engineer advocates for traffic safety

38, Project Manager, Senior Traffic Engineer
Greenville, S.C.

Knowing he wanted to be a traffic engineer from early on, Eckenrode, at age 20, joined the Institute of Transportation Engineers. Then, during his last semester of graduate school at Clemson University—where he would obtain his master’s in civil engineering—Eckenrode was broadsided by a drunk driver. The incident left him unconscious for 24 hours and also caused him to finish his final semester—and even interview for his first job—while wearing a neck brace. It also steered Eckenrode to become an advocate for transportation safety.

Currently leading AECOM’s traffic engineering group for South Carolina, Eckenrode served as 2017 president of the South Carolina Section Institute of Transportation Engineers.

He continues to work on efforts to improve safety for road users. To date, Eckenrode has visited more than 1,000 intersections, conducted 10 road safety audits, conducted more than 100 traffic studies and provided numerous recommendations for crash reduction.

Tahir EdwardsTahir Edwards
Architect leads stakeholders, teams through delivery process

37, Design and Construction Integration Manager
The Weitz Co.
West Palm Beach, Fla.

Since his arrival at The Weitz Co., Edwards, a licensed architect, has proven his ability to successfully lead customers and project teams through the design, development and delivery of industrial, commercial and institutional facilities. He produces designs for complex architecture and engineering projects that are responsive to clients’ programs, budgets and schedules.

His first such effort involved the completion and closeout of a $245-million student-housing development at Texas A&M University. Though Edwards is based out of Weitz’s West Palm Beach, Fla., location, he currently serves as design and construction integration manager for the Kansas City International Airport’s new 39-gate terminal and 6,300-space parking garage. His role on the project includes collaborating with the Transportation Security Administration on the design of baggage-handling systems and security checkpoints as well as handling design questions from the owner, subcontractors and other government agencies.

 Additionally, he has served as a lead mentor in the ACE Mentor Program of Northeast Florida and is involved with Weitz’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.


“Tahir Edwards brings a presence and a positive energy to every challenge we’ve thrown at him. He has been instrumental in the success of our largest and most complex design-build work.” – KARMYN BABCOCK, Vice President, Orascom Construction


Erika GraceErika Grace
Environmental sciences expert conducted studies in the Antarctic
39, Project Manager
Greenville, S.C.

With a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a master’s degree in environmental toxicology—both from Clemson University—Grace joined AECOM’s Greenville, S.C., office after having served as a research technician at Clemson studying the life stages of marine invertebrates. Notably, Grace has spent two months living and working at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as part of a National Science Foundation-funded effort involving various oxygen/temperature-related experiments. Grace is currently an AECOM-certified project manager and supervisor of a team of eight professional scientists and is an integral part of the firm’s environment impact assessment and permitting team. As project coordinator on National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) projects, she manages AECOM’s team of technical resource specialists at all levels and oversees the day-to-day schedule, records management, client communication and GIS/field work components.

Keaton GreenKeaton Green
Leader helped family-owned construction firm grow

34, Vice President
Frampton Construction
Ladson, S.C.

A 2008 graduate of Clemson University, Green spent the first five years of his career working for Holder Construction in Atlanta. In 2013, he joined Frampton Construction in Ladson, S.C., as a project manager and was shortly thereafter named a director with the company. It was from that role that Green moved to the firm’s Charlotte office, where he led the growth of that division along with the company’s overall project management operations. After moving back to Frampton’s Charleston-area office in 2017, Keaton now serves as vice president, focusing on client relationships and company and operational development. He also oversees many of the company’s standard processes and procedures and leads internal training initiatives. Keaton recently spoke about “Modern Change Management” at Procore’s 2019 national Groundbreak Conference.

Aaron JohnsonAaron Johnson
Leading efforts to limit virus spread in health care systems

37, Principal and Health Care Managing Principal
TLC Engineering Solutions

Less than 14 years after graduating from Kansas State University with  a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in architectural engineering, Johnson is leading multiple teams helping health care systems deal with the COVID-19 pandemic by seeking to minimize the potential for virus spread. As managing principal and senior mechanical engineer in TLC Engineering Solutions’ national health care engineering group, Johnson has been involved in efforts by health care providers to mitigate indoor air-quality concerns for more than 600 patient beds. At the same time, Johnson consults with numerous other health care systems about managing both their immediate needs as well as planning for longer-range measures. His efforts on this front sprang from his ongoing service on the ASHRAE Standing Standards Project Committee, which focuses on ventilation at health care facilities.


“Aaron Johnson has been an invaluable resource to our health care system clients, especially during this COVID pandemic event … and is a phenomenal partner and engineer.” – MICHAEL P. SHEERIN, CEO, TLC Engineering Solutions


Ryan JohnsonRyan Johnson
Early technology adopter transforms firm’s design processes

39, Computational Design Specialist
Clark Nexsen

With extensive experience in computer technology and coding, Johnson—who was appointed as Clark Nexsen’s first computational design specialist in 2020—has used his skills to transform design processes and, in turn, the built environment. Johnson started at the firm 15 years ago as a design intern and became the first person at the firm to produce renderings in Revit. Instrumental in the firm’s adoption of building information modeling, Johnson has steadily progressed within the company and in 2015 founded the architectural firm’s tech studio as a vehicle for technology innovation focusing on design and workflow. Johnson currently chairs the American Institute of Architects’ Technology in Architecture Practice national knowledge community. In 2020, Johnson was appointed to the AIA’s COVID-19 business task force, which has created resources for architects focused on resilience and strategies for business continuity.

Jeff JonesJeff Jones
Delivers stellar customer satisfaction in health care field

38, Superintendent
Robins & Morton
Huntsville, Ala.

With a focus on building relationships, Jones has been a high performer, spanning back to his days at Auburn University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in building science. Upon graduation, he launched into a career with Robins & Morton, where he developed strong client and trade contractor relationships. On his completed projects that have received the results of customer surveys, three earned a 100% customer satisfaction rating and the rest scoring well above 90%. Currently, Jones is managing construction of Huntsville Hospital’s $250-million Orthopedic and Spine Tower in Huntsville, Ala.—the largest project on the health system’s campus in four decades. In his six years as a superintendent, his responsibilities have grown from managing projects valued at around $40 million to those roughly $250 million in size. Jones has served as a mentor for the contractor’s Rocky McMichen Field Leadership Program—a 15-month course focused on career progression for craft-level employees who wish to move into management.


“I cannot name a more qualified or deserving person to be considered a Top Young Professional. Jeff Jones leaves the construction industry better than he found it each day.” – M. CHANNING MCLEOD, TVS Design


Bradley LockwoodBradley Lockwood
Architect has boosted firm’s higher-education market portfolio

36, Vice President
Moseley Architects

In 2008, as a graduate from one of the country’s top architectural programs at Virginia Tech, Lockwood was honored with the American Institute of Architects’ Henry Adams Medal for excellence in architecture. Lockwood has continued his penchant for learning and the sharing of knowledge ever since by developing numerous industry mentor relationships throughout his career. At Raleigh-based Moseley Architects, Lockwood was an associate and project manager of the firm’s two largest university clients, James Madison University and Old Dominion University, based out of Moseley's Virginia Beach office.

Lockwood temporarily left Moseley to serve as director of higher education for MOA Architecture in Colorado but returned to Moseley Architects in 2018 as a managing principal in Raleigh.

It was shortly after his return to Moseley that he reestablished the firm’s higher education studio in Raleigh, helping it grow quickly. Lockwood also was involved in the $42-million rebuilding of UNC-Wilmington’s Dobo Hall. Destroyed by Hurricane Florence in 2018, the rebuilding project is the state’s largest emergency project to date. He was also involved with the first two design-build procurements initiated through North Carolina’s State Construction Office.

Emily MathisEmily Mathis
Leads estimating, proposal development efforts

33, Senior Manager, Preconstruction Services
Birmingham, Ala.

Mathis started out at Gray as the receptionist in its Southeast regional office. Ten years later, as senior manager of pre-construction services, she leads the firm’s estimating and proposal development efforts for the region, averaging nearly $1 billion in opportunities annually. Mathis graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, where she gained the confidence needed to navigate her professional environment in the male-dominant construction industry. She is noted by her firm for her ability to lead large and complex teams, using her cross-discipline knowledge to engage with division specialists and align them on a common strategy.

Blake RiedlingBlake Riedling
Helped implement slip-form construction method on tower

39, Operations Manager
Brasfield & Gorrie

Riedling has steadily risen through the ranks during his 14 years with Brasfield & Gorrie, earning a promotion to operations manager in January 2020. The son of a general contractor, Riedling earned a bachelor’s degree in building construction and a master’s degree in real estate development from Auburn University. His talents were identified early by Brasfield & Gorrie executives, who selected him to join the firm’s two-year-long leadership program. During his career with the contractor, he has helped manage nearly $1 billion worth of projects in Atlanta. Recently, he helped successfully implement a slip-form construction method to erect the ThyssenKrupp Elevator Test Tower and Innovation and Qualification Center project.

The method, rarely used in the U.S., required the team to complete eight weeks of continuous placements from a moving formwork platform using nine different concrete mixes. Other recent work includes the $97-million 725 Ponce Office Building project, which is one of the largest structures ever built with CarbonCure concrete.


“There is no doubt that Blake Riedling approaches [construction projects] with a relentless passion and commitment to quality.” – JIM IRWIN, President, New City Properties


Stacy RookerStacy Rooker
Leads preconstruction for military, student-housing work

38, Director of Preconstruction
Cary, N.C.

A member of the Corvias preconstruction group for six years, Rooker manages a team of estimators and is responsible for preconstruction services for several hundred million dollars in new military and student-housing projects annually.

Rooker was one of only five women to graduate in 2004 from East Carolina University’s construction management program, which had more than 500 students enrolled at the time. She was an active member of the East Carolina Construction Association and the student chapters of Associated Builders and Contractors, the Associated General Contractors and the National Association of Home Builders.

After graduation, Rooker was hired by Corvias, starting as a field superintendent and was promoted several times into project management. As construction services manager, she traveled to military projects throughout the country.

Joey SmithJoey Smith
Diverse industry experience led to position as company director

37, Project Director
Frampton Construction

Smith joined Frampton Construction as director in 2019, the latest step in a 17-year career of diverse industry experience that includes estimating, engineering, preconstruction, business development, project management and operations management. Prior to joining Frampton, he served as assistant vice president at Walbridge Construction, where he led business development, estimating and engineering for the Southeast region. While there, he took part in the Walbridge Leader’s Edge Development Program and the Walbridge mentorship program, mentoring several employees in the early part of their careers. Through his involvement with 4C (Charlotte Commercial Construction Coalition), he helped shape safety policies related to COVID-19 that were widely adopted by area subcontractors and other industry professionals. He was also part of 4C’s initiative to collect and donate 100,000 face masks to help keep trade partners safe and healthy on local jobsites.


“Joey Smith is a true servant leader who helps others because it is the right thing to do.” – EMILY RATLIFF, Claire’s Army


Tyler StephensTyler Stephens
Performance in various positions leads to leadership role

36, Vice President of Operations
Caddell Construction
Montgomery, Ala.

Since graduating from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in building science 14 years ago, Stephens has worked his way from entry-level assistant project engineer at Caddell Construction to vice president of operations. Two successful projects in Georgia paved the way for a promotion to project manager. He then led his teams on two more successful projects in North Carolina, receiving “exceptional” and “very good” performance feedback from clients. Over his career, Stephens has worked directly on two dozen projects with an approximate value of more than $1.5 billion. In his current role, he is tasked with executive oversight of projects and management staff within Caddell’s governmental business unit; continued development and retention of personnel; and executive-level planning and budgeting. During his time as a construction executive, Stephens spearheaded the company’s adoption of new project management software. He was tasked with total implementation throughout the operations department. In 2020, Stephens was a leader in Caddell’s COVID-19 response efforts in concert with the entire executive team and corporate safety director.

Charles StuartCharles Stuart
Leadership of safety initiatives produces positive results

38, Vice President of Construction Management
Hood Construction
Columbia, S.C.

A top performer at Hood Construction, Stuart manages 10 to 12 projects annually. Stuart has spent the last nine of his 15 years in the industry serving in his current role as vice president of construction management. During that time, Stuart has worked as internal manager of Hood’s safety initiatives and helped the firm achieve 2 million person-hours without a lost-time incident. An active member of the Columbia Contractors Association, he currently serves as its president. In addition, he is a state board member of the Coastal Conservation Association and an advisory board member of Clemson University’s department of construction science and management. As a graduate of the 2019 Columbia Chamber of Commerce leadership class, he helped complete a beautification and branding project for the Babcock Center, which is an organization that supports individuals with lifelong disabilities through vocational training, affordable housing, dependable transportation and access to public services and establishments.


“[Charles Stuart] uses effective communication to build a strong team, keeping in mind the priorities of the design and construction team, along with the goals of the owner.” – ROBBY AULL, Senior Vice President, Stevens & Wilkinson


Jennifer ToddJennifer Todd
Entrepreneur starts two successful companies

38, Founder and President
LMS General Contractors
Pompano Beach, Fla.

During her nearly 15 years in the construction industry, Todd has completed work in 13 states and managed the removal of more than 5 million sq ft of hazardous materials. Todd, who was the youngest Black woman to be licensed as a General Engineering Contractor by the state of California, currently serves as president of the second construction company she’s founded to date, LMS General Contractors. Prior to that, following the 2011 tornado disaster in Birmingham, Ala., Todd had founded Logic Management Solutions, a disaster recovery consulting firm. Following the 2020 pandemic, Todd added COVID-19 disinfection services to LMS General Contractors’ portfolio of services, earning two five-year federal contracts. 

Meredith Van DuynMeredith Van Duyn
Leads a range of key project and oversight efforts

39, Transportation Group Leader

A member RS&H’s transportation infrastructure practice with 16 years of industry experience, Van Duyn is responsible for company efforts ranging from the initiation of scope of services through all aspects of project development and project management. She recently served as the firm’s quality manager for the Georgia Dept. of Transportation’s Interstate-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes project; the program manager for the North Carolina DOT’s 2017 INFRA grant award projects; and project manager for numerous NCDOT projects with combined estimated construction costs in excess of $1 billion. At RS&H, she is the Raleigh office champion for Ignite Women’s Leadership Network, whose mission is to empower women through an inclusive culture to advance the success of the firm and its communities. Van Duyn is an active member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and American Council of Engineering Companies North Carolina.