ENR Southwest’s 2022 class of Top Young Professionals includes architects, engineers, project managers and executives at national and regional firms across Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.
Once again, competition was fierce, with top-notch nominees participating from across the AEC community in the Southwest. Companies could nominate multiple people and individuals could also nominate themselves.
To be eligible, nominees must be working full time in some aspect of the commercial construction industry in the Southwest region, and entrants must be under age 40 as of Jan. 1, 2022.
Among the key selection criteria are an individual’s professional achievements, such as acquiring or progressing toward industry certifications, success in creating more efficient systems, designing new processes or managing landmark projects, seeking innovative approaches to their work, both within and away from the office, as well as a steadfast dedication to giving back through volunteer work across the industry and within their own communities.
This year’s judges included Ozzy Bravo, senior associate, Terracon Consultants Inc.; Colleen Cunningham, interior design director, Gensler; Ben Mlinar, project executive, Rosendin; and Milos Vasiljevic, program manager, HDR.
Winners from each of ENR’s 10 regional editions are automatically sent forward for consideration in ENR’s National Top 20 Under 40, which represents all parts of the construction industry from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Two winners from ENR Southwest were also named to the 2022 national class: Alandren Etlantus, senior vice president, Bohannan Huston Inc., and Chris Fletcher, project director, McCarthy Building Cos.
The following pages contain profiles of ENR Southwest’s Top Young Professionals, highlighting their goals, successes and the impacts they have had on their companies and communities. Congratulations to this year’s winners.
33, Project Director
Okland Construction Co.
Betancourt has spent her entire 11-year career with Okland Construction. She was recently promoted to project director and is the only woman to serve in that position throughout the 800-employee company.
After graduating from Arizona State University, Betancourt worked her way through many different departments at Okland. As a result, she has become involved in Okland’s recruiting team and promotes the many opportunities that construction has to offer.
Betancourt also created the first women’s group at Okland to support a variety of programs for women, both inside and outside the firm. She is the fundraising chair for the local ACE Mentor board, which raises $90,000 a year in scholarships for students interested in careers in construction, architecture and engineering. She served for five years as chair for the East Valley Institute of Technology Construction Board, helping students find careers in the industry.
36, Vice President, Preconstruction (Renewable Energy)
McCarthy Building Cos.
Mechanical engineer Bhakta joined McCarthy’s renewable energy team in 2014 as a preconstruction manager and has been instrumental in more than quadrupling the renewable group’s solar footprint in the last year and a half. Under his leadership, the team has implemented best-value solutions for more than 5 GW of utility-scale solar and energy storage projects.
Bhakta has supported preconstruction work on more than $1.5 billion worth of projects across the U.S., including what at one time was the world’s largest energy storage project and the largest solar installation devoted to a single client. Since transitioning into his current role a year ago, Bhakta’s team has doubled in size and continues to grow.
Bhakta also co-leads the Bhakta Open, a family-oriented golf tournament that raises money to transform slums in India into more vibrant communities.
37, MEP Lead
After graduating from the University of Nebraska, Claussen launched his career as a mechanical and plumbing subcontractor in Nevada and Arizona. His experience includes hospitality, health care, semiconductor, advanced tech, higher education and government work. At DPR, Claussen oversees HVAC, mechanical piping, plumbing and specialty gases and provides accurate cost projections during early design stages.
Some of his key projects include the Maricopa County Superior Court Tower, the University of Arizona Health Sciences Education Building and Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building, Banner Estrella Medical Center Expansion, Banner University Medical Center Phoenix and projects for the Mayo Clinic.
Claussen lost a close friend to cancer when he was young and that has had a profound effect on his life. He has twice co-hosted the Banner Children’s Charity golf tournament committee, with proceeds going to help cancer patients and their families within the Banner Children’s network through their child life specialist and in-hospital education program.
39, Senior Vice President
Bohannan Huston Inc.
Etlantus is a licensed professional hydrology engineer and certified floodplain manager who leads water resources analysis, planning and design for public and private projects in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. A graduate of the University of New Mexico, she enjoys finding creative solutions to water resource challenges. She is a leader in Bohannan Huston’s geographic information systems initiative and develops GIS and leveraging tools to streamline the firm’s approach to projects.
Etlantus also is charged with maintaining Bohannan Huston’s position as one of the largest water resources providers in the state. She is a knowledge expert in drainage specific to the arid Southwest and has presented her work at national and regional conferences. She is passionate about working with people and pursuing innovation on projects, which is apparent in her work to recruit, train and mentor young engineers and interns.
39, Project Director
McCarthy Building Cos.
Born in South Korea, Fletcher moved to the U.S. to attend Northern Arizona University. His 16-year career with McCarthy began as a project engineer at the Sandia Resort and Conference Center project in Albuquerque. In 2017, he relocated permanently to Las Vegas to collaborate on a multiphase renovation of The Palms Resort & Casino.
Following completion of The Palms, he transferred to the in-progress Allegiant Stadium to oversee design and procurement of the interior build-out, which he managed through the project’s completion in 2020. He is currently overseeing preconstruction on the Arrow Canyon solar project.
Fletcher has facilitated training for hundreds of project engineers and superintendents and helps to lead nearly a dozen regional initiatives focused on employee engagement, career path development, operational excellence and safety.
He helps coach UNLV construction management students for the annual Associated Schools of Construction competition in Reno, supports Northern Arizona University’s construction seminars and career fairs and co-chairs the school’s construction advisory board.
37, Project Manager
WSP USA Inc.
Fly’s engineering career began as a roadway designer working on multiphase residential communities and commercial parcel development. Since joining WSP, she has transitioned through the roles of designer, lead engineer and manager for transportation projects ranging in complexity from urban freeways to local arterial streets. Her diverse skill set enables her to work on the full spectrum of infrastructure improvements, from conception to design and construction.
Some of her key projects include the SR 101L Pima Freeway Widening Design-Build, Phoenix; SR 202L South Mountain Freeway P3, Phoenix; ADOT I-10, Broadway Curve P3, Maricopa County; and U.S. 60 and Bell Road Traffic Interchange Design-Build, Surprise, Ariz.
An Arizona State University graduate, Fly oversees five engineers in the firm’s Tempe office. Fly serves on the board of the Arizona Chapter for the American Society of Highway Engineers and chairs its communications committee.
38, Safety Manager
The PENTA Building Group
Upon entering construction as a drywall framer in 2005, one of the greatest assets Gamez brought to the team was being bilingual and serving as a translator for workers on his jobsites. He was recognized by a jobsite safety manager for his proficient people skills and spent the next few years gaining experience, rising to the role of safety coordinator and, eventually, a safety manager.
Gamez’s passion for safety stems from the loss of a friend and co-worker who died after falling from a scissor lift. Fueled by the motivation to make jobsites safer, he has worked for several years overseeing safety efforts that have affected hundreds of employees in residential home construction.
He now volunteers with the Phoenix Rescue Mission, Ronald McDonald House and Action Against Hunger. He also has coordinated toys and backpack drives for children in need. Through PENTA’s work with Phoenix-area Native American reservations, Gamez has helped members of the Tohono O’odham Nation earn their OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 certifications and become more employable in the construction trades.
38, Associate/Interior Architect
Holubiak helps lead the interior design studio at D/P/S, managing a team of 15 interior designers across three states. She strengthens the firm’s design practice and is constantly exploring new ways to tackle problems and solve design challenges. She develops interiors projects, focusing on quality assurance and design integrity while mentoring junior staff and helping select finish materials as well as overseeing technical detailing, specifications and work plans.
An inaugural member of the D/P/S University Curriculum Committee, Holubiak provides employees with opportunities for continuing education and professional development. She is the founder of Women in Design: New Mexico, an organization that champions women in every design profession. She is currently participating in the GiANT Sherpa Training Program and supports the UNM School of Architecture lecture series. Holubiak recently led a pro-bono project to redesign the lobby for Roadrunner Foodbank, helping to create a welcoming and functional space that supports the organization’s work with 70,000 hungry children, seniors and families in New Mexico.
31, Practice Builder
Hunnicutt brings a unique approach to the practice of engineering, blending a background in the performing arts with technical expertise to foster a collaborative and innovative approach to projects. A graduate of Bard College with a master’s degree in environmental science and policy, she specializes in private-sector land development in the Southern Nevada market. Her projects range from small retail, residential and industrial uses to large-scale industrial, mixed-use, military and sports venues. She mentors analysts and other Kimley-Horn employees, helping with practice development, relationship building, cross-training, diversification, growth, retention and recruiting.
Hunnicutt is an advocate of STEAM outreach for children and young professionals—especially underprivileged children and minorities. She partners with the Nevada Society of Professional Engineers and local teachers to develop cost-effective STEAM-based activities and curricula to expose students to opportunities through the exploration of math and science.
38, Senior Project Manager
The Weitz Co.
Klem manages nearly 30 full-time staff and supervises hundreds of subcontractors at The Weitz Co. A Purdue University graduate, he started working for Weitz as an intern and has spent his entire 16-year construction career with the firm. Early in his career, Klem was charged with overseeing $40 million of subcontractor costs on an $82-million project. More recently, he was responsible for the design, preconstruction and all construction-related activities on the $100-million PHX Sky Train project.
Klem is an active member of the Support Sky Harbor Coalition, which provides education, advocacy and outreach to the Sky Harbor Community. Twice a year, he leads Weitz’s involvement in the coalition’s neighborhood cleanup efforts. A graduate of the Arizona Builders Alliance’s Leadership Development Forum, Klem worked with classmates to renovate a building for Valley Life, a nonprofit that provides services to individuals with disabilities. He also has been a volunteer teacher in ABA’s Project Manager Development Program for the past three years.
37, Project Executive
The PENTA Building Group
After graduating from high school in Coos Bay, Ore., Mason enrolled in a four-year apprentice program with the carpenters union. He put in a full workweek while attending night classes, ultimately graduating with honors from Western Nevada College. No stranger to hard work, Mason has taken on many challenging roles during his 19-year career—from serving as the lead layout carpenter for a $30-million project at age 21 to his current position as project executive for PENTA’s satellite office. He is overseeing operations on a more than $600-million hospitality expansion, with a team of nearly 65 employees and 800 tradespeople.
Mason also serves on PENTA’s executive leadership team, a group consisting of all heads of departments that aims to improve communication and operational efficiency across the company. In his time away from the office, Mason volunteers as a Cub Scout master and assistant scout master for the Boy Scouts of America and supports the PENTA CARES clothing and Christmas toy drives for local families in need.
33, Project Manager
Miller’s construction career began in 2007 working as a field engineer for a family business while pursuing a degree in construction management from Arizona State University. Today, he is pursuing an MBA at the University of Arizona while working as a project manager for Sundt.
Miller is currently overseeing the $65-million Tucson Convention Center Capital Improvements Project for the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose District, a 10-phase project to restore Tucson’s hub for conferences and entertainment. Some of his other projects for Sundt include the $325-million Banner University Medical Center Tucson Expansion and Renovation and the $102-million, ENR award-winning San Jose State University Campus Village project, a 10-story student housing project in San Jose, Calif.
Miller is a graduate of the Arizona Builders Alliance Leadership Development Forum, serves on Sundt’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and chairs its Mentorship Subcommittee. He also has served as Tucson chairman of the ABA’s Young Builders’ Council and is active with the Tucson Metro Chamber Emerging Leaders Council.
Americus M. Mitchell
37, Director of Engineering
Mitchell, a chemical engineer, manages Sundt’s discipline-specific engineers, helps to develop new process engineers and leads the firm’s treatment plant operations. On a recent project, he managed a team handling the major process equipment for a $500-million wastewater plant. He oversaw plant operations for a year and a half, including biological treatment, ion-exchange systems, membranes and thermal evaporation and crystallization. He also acts as the firm’s technical expert, vetting new technologies and treatment processes on Sundt’s industrial projects.
Mitchell’s career began in a chemical facility that produces caprolactam, phenol, ammonia gas, sulfuric acid and ammonia sulfate. He went on to focus on utility system work for a large water and wastewater treatment system design and chemical supply company. His flagship projects include design of water and wastewater systems for Sasol Chemicals’ multibillion-dollar facility in Lake Charles, La., and the Zero-Liquid Discharge System, a project that diverts the waste from millions of gallons of water per day in the Phoenix area.
Mitchell mentors the firm’s younger engineers, teaching classes, helping with calculations and supporting them as they write and publish technical papers on projects.
Mohammed S. Mohammed
38, Vice President of Engineering
Dynamic Isolation Systems Inc.
Mohammed launched his structural engineering career designing concrete and steel structures and supervising construction of residential projects in Cairo. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in civil and environmental engineering from Ain Shams University, Cairo, and a PhD from the University of Nevada Reno.
His interest in structural and earthquake engineering was sparked by the 1992 earthquake in Egypt. Despite its relatively moderate size (5.9 on the Richter scale), the quake resulted in many causalities and caused heavy damage. It took a long time and substantial resources for Cairo to recover from it.
Mohammed joined Dynamic Isolation Systems as a project engineer in 2016, designing seismic-protection systems for structures. During his PhD work, he conducted research projects studying the effects of earthquake duration on bridges and helped Nevada DOT engineers develop the state’s future bridge retrofit plan.
He now builds and manages engineering teams in different countries, educating engineers in quake-prone countries like Peru and Chile about seismic-protection techniques. As an industry expert on seismic-resistant design, Mohammed has collaborated with professors from the University of California Berkeley and the University of Nevada Reno on earthquake-related research projects.
38, Project Executive
While growing up in Texas, Olivas was fascinated by construction projects and knew from an early age he wanted to have a role in changing city skylines across the state. Upon graduating from Texas State University, he joined Hensel Phelps and has since worked on projects in Texas, Arizona and Israel that range from health care, aviation and government to high-tech manufacturing.
He is currently working in Chandler, Ariz., where he’s one of three project superintendents on a $1-billion semiconductor factory conversion and upgrade. His team provides leadership for 91 area superintendents and nine safety and quality staff. At the peak of construction, Olivas and his team supervised more than 8,000 craft personnel and 369 staff.
Through his role as leader of the Effective Leadership Training Program for the Associated General Contractors in partnership with the Arizona Business Alliance, Olivas helps train industry peers and up-and-coming supervisors in how to build effective teams. He attends Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers conferences to recruit new employees for Hensel Phelps and offers career advice to eager young students entering the industry. Outside of work, Olivas coaches his children’s soccer teams and is a leader of life groups at his church.
38, Senior Estimator
The Weitz Co.
Policar launched her estimating career with Weitz while completing her senior year at Arizona State University. In 2012, she took a four-year break from Weitz to work for Intel, where she produced estimates worth $970 million for fabrication plants, semiconductor plants and international offices. Through this experience, she honed her estimating skills and learned a different side of the industry, which helps in her current role at Weitz, where she leads the firm’s preconstruction cost-control efforts, including complete estimates, cost analysis, comparisons, feasibility studies and historical cost reports.
During her 14 years with Weitz, Policar has produced estimates for projects totaling $1.3 billion, an average of $93 million in revenue per year. Her detail-oriented style has helped to develop long-standing relationships with subcontractors, allowing her to get key input from trades during preconstruction. She also ensures that clients are getting the best value for their projects through careful value, cost and systems analysis and historical comparisons.
While participating in the year-long Arizona Builders Alliance Leadership Development Forum, Policar helped complete a $100,000 renovation for a local nonprofit.
All Things Metal
Rock is the owner and CEO of All Things Metal, a five-time winner of Arizona Central’s Top 100 places to work. His passion for construction was ignited while working as a construction laborer during high school. He joined All Things Metal in 2008 and helped the steel contractor survive and then recover from the Great Recession, later becoming a co-owner of the business. He has worn many hats at the firm, including estimating, project management, purchasing and operations.
Rock is fascinated by Phoenix architecture and enjoys the contributions his firm has made to the city’s changing skyline.
He fosters a healthy work-life balance at All Things Metal and has made “building family” a key tenet of its operations. He is passionate about his faith and serves in several church leadership roles. When the church needed a new building, All Things Metal donated most of the labor to create the massive new structure. Rock also has helped design and build three homes over the past two decades, including his newest home, which will be featured in Dallas Style & Design magazine.
33, Project Executive
Spencer leads the team building Arizona State University’s 5,000-seat multipurpose arena. As the new home for Sun Devils’ ice hockey, wrestling and women’s gymnastics teams, the arena also will host university and community events.
The ASU arena project is utilizing Takt Time Planning (also known as flow scheduling) and the Last Planner system, cutting-edge project-delivery techniques that Spencer has been pivotal in establishing and advancing across Mortenson. The system has proven successful on projects like the Salt River Project Administration Building Betterments project in Tempe, a multiphase, multiyear renovation of a 342,200-sq-ft facility and an 80,000-sq-ft, five-story addition on an active campus.
During his decade-long tenure with Mortenson, Spencer has participated in more than 15 landmark projects totaling nearly $1 billion. The work spans health care, corporate and sports markets for high-profile customers, including the Salt River Project, Hennepin Healthcare, Mall of America and ASU.
36, Project Executive
Thompson has supported more than $1 billion in hospital projects throughout Arizona. With a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering from Purdue and an MBA from Arizona State, he has become a solid mentor and lean project delivery champion at DPR Construction.
As a project engineer in 2009, Thompson led DPR’s path toward fully digital construction delivery and eliminated the use of paper, which improved environmental sustainability for the firm. At the time, virtual delivery was cutting edge, and the DPR team also helped the town of Gilbert, Ariz., become one of the first communities in the country to conduct digital plan reviews. Thompson also has helped pass on cost savings and efficiencies to clients through DPR’s strategic partnership with India-based vConstruct, which helps Arizona project teams integrate best-in-class technologies with efficient processes to optimize project delivery.
Thompson leads company-wide initiatives such as the DPR Design Management Academy and is part of the team that launched a 12-month program created to bridge the gap between design and construction. He leads the DPR mentorship program supporting New Pathways for Youth, a Phoenix-based nonprofit that serves at-risk youth and provides opportunities for high school students to learn about careers in construction.
32, Water/Wastewater Engineer
Warren began his career as a water and wastewater engineer with AECOM, designing combined sewage detention facilities to assist the city of Spokane in cleaning up the Spokane River. The most notable facility he was involved with was a 2.2-million-gallon detention facility located on the banks of the river. Warren played a key role in the facility’s design through his work on the development of the initial layout, hydraulic modeling to size and facility validation, conveyance design and structural design support.
Warren also worked in Liberia in a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) position for a non-governmental organization, providing clean water and promoting healthy sanitation and hygiene practices to villages throughout River Gee County. Warren implemented a pilot study of community-led total sanitation, a methodology used to empower communities toward self-sustained elimination of open defecation. Throughout the pilot study, he immersed himself in the culture of multiple villages, developing relationships within communities and observing and reporting on the effectiveness of the program.
Upon returning to the U.S., Warren moved to AECOM’s Phoenix office, where he led a utility team to design nearly five miles of water distribution and sewer conveyance pipeline relocation for Valley Metro’s South Central Light Rail Extension.
Warren is involved in local, national and international organizations aimed at serving communities and building a network to share industry knowledge and resources.
Jennifer Seward is editor of ENR Mountain States, which covers Colorado, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Utah, Idaho and Montana. She has more than two decades of experience writing for the AEC industry and reports from Denver.
Top Design Firms
Diverse Project Portfolios Enhance Regional Recovery
Click Here to Complete ENR Southwest’s Top Design Firms Survey
Contracting Firms Expect Recovery to Improve During 2021
Click Here to Complete ENR Southwest’s Top Contractors Survey
Top Specialty Contractors
Southwest Trades See Mixed Path Going Forward
Click Here to Complete ENR Southwest’s Top Specialty Contractors Survey
Copyright ©2022. All Rights Reserved BNP Media.
Design, CMS, Hosting & Web Development :: ePublishing