Looking back and forward with current and past ACEC Presidents Jeff McKerrow and Brett Letkowski

Host Scott Heidner meets with the previous and current ACEC presidents in Jeff McKerrow and Brett Letkowski to discuss the latest developments and the opportunity that lies ahead for the organization.


[00:00:00] Welcome listeners to the QBS Express, the ACEC Kansas podcast series. I'm your host executive director. Scott Heidner. And we have a fun one in store for you today. Folks, we are doing something new, but it's, uh, we hope this is something that's new today, but gonna become tradition. We have got our past president Jeff McKerrow with Kimley Horn.

With us, as well as our new president, Brett Letkowski with TranSystems, the, the old and new titles are, are not quite as appropriate. Now that transition happened in late June. And we actually had our podcast bumped a couple times for scheduling purposes, but we decided, uh, we're gonna try and make this an annual thing.

We hope listeners get value outta this. It's a little bit of a look at the year that just passed and a little bit of a look at the year. That's ahead. A little bit of a look at what life is like for an ACEC Kansas board member. So gentlemen, thank you for making time to join us. Glad to be here, Scott.

Happy to be here. Very good. Well, let's take a look back. So the year in review, the year of MACRA, we will call it or el Hefe as I referred to Jeff McKerrow mostly for my own purposes. I wanna talk just a minute about the legislative session we had, but then I'd love to hear from both of you about what else you saw from the prior year, July of 21 to June of 22.

Uh, boy, we did have a good session. Didn't we fell us. Sure did man. Oh man. So infrastructure funding finally made whole, both on the transportation side, the water side and the vertical side. We didn't see any sweeps of, of infrastructure funds out, uh, glory. Hallelujah. That's a massive change from when I started on the board.

So true. It's just incredible. And actually on that note, why don't you tell us, when did you start Jeff? Because you had a, an, an interrupted experience on the board? Uh, well, yeah. The board got tired. I mean, for year . I dunno how you wanna put that or phrase that, but, um, uh, gosh, what was it? 2015 when I first came on the board that probably boy, those were the dark years.

Weren't they? Yeah. Yeah. So we had the conversations we had were, were much darker back then. Yeah. Uh, that we were having. So it it's, it's been fun to see this kind of come up, raise up like a Phoenix here and we're kind of all that's in the. The background again. Yeah, that's nice to see, uh, if it wasn't, if it wasn't for the fact that it would pick up on the podcast, I would be knocking on wood most aggressively , but we had a great year for infrastructure funding and a lot of, um, folks to thank for that success.

I certainly think. ACEC had a fundamental part to play in it, but there were a lot of stakeholder organizations out there that were invested in that. And sometimes in the legislative world, what doesn't happen is what is important is what does happen. And I'm pleased to say that I don't think there was a single piece of bad legislation in terms of our industry that passed to this year.

So. Great legislative year for sure. And, uh, el Hefe, I think you get to take credit for that, cuz that was under your watch. I'm happy to take credit with, with, uh, little to do actually I think one of the best things that came out of that is still the, the story on the grocery sales tax. How, when that was first came out and introduced, it was.

Just out there for everybody to, and it was gonna be a, a reduction in those sales tax. I think the education that so many members of our organization have had with their legislatures, the work that, uh, you'll have done here with, at BHL to, to communicate out all of a sudden we got out when we raise that.

Wait a second, if you cut it, that would mean a reduction in transportation funding. And without any pushback, everybody's like, oh, that's not what we wanted to do. Yep. We'll just change the margins. So your money is held. Uh, you're still gonna get fully funded. We'd have, and it wasn't even a political issue.

Yeah. When we've got, you know, both parties on board and saying, yep. Just just make it happen and kind of made that easy. And that was, that was a big win, I think, legislatively that could have come back and bit us a little bit there, but it, it turned out not to be the case. That is a really, really good example.

Uh, and I give a lot of credit to legislative leadership to once we brought it to their attention, uh, they were very forward looking about that. It wasn't what they intended. It was a good win. I'm glad you brought that up. Yeah. There's also been a couple bills and it wasn't necessarily this past year.

That never passed, but died and are no longer, uh, some of the software bills, the Putin spyware bill. I wasn't gonna say it that way, but thank you for calling [00:05:00] it. What it's poor. Brad, tell these guys all the time. Don't call it that. Then I just call with that on the podcast. some of our members will probably remember.

We spent a lot of time fighting that one. The bill that would've required, anybody doing state work of over $50,000 to put the tracking software on all their devices and tracks your mouse clicks and your screenshots and everything else. Yeah, it does get back to the point though that sometimes it's what doesn't pass that has the biggest impact, even more than what does, and that, that, Bill's actually a good example of how ACS a national organization works out.

You kind of were the, the person who shined the light on their hair in Kansas. Can you coal mine? All of a sudden, everybody, like many states were like, wait a second, we got this same crap coming up. We didn't even realize what was in there. Yeah. And to a state, everybody got that thing killed. I think so.

Yeah, that was good. Uh, every, I think New Jersey is the only state where that bill has made some progress and maybe gotten through one chamber, but not all the way into. Well, the legislative stuff, obviously near and dear to my heart. But what else do you guys want to talk about from the past year, uh, that you just think ACEC members would want to know about or should know about that their dues dollars are, are supporting that we're doing for the benefit of the industry?

Well, I, I guess I would start with, uh, Joe Dremel was not able to do it to host a meeting in person his entire run as, as president, but Jeff got us through that and allowed us to meet in person. So that, that was nice. I, I think our, our, uh, the luncheons we have, you know, we have four of those every fall and, um, They were well attended, even with some, even with some usual speakers, like gunner hand, talking about gondolas and, and unified government of KC K there.

And it's like, people are all, this is, this is different, but all right. We, we like, we're open to this idea that the engineers in the room are like, we, we can do a gondola . I have to tell listeners who probably don't know Joe Dremel was president before Jeff McKerrow and was the poor bastard that inherited the year of COVID.

So, you know, no live meetings. And that's why Brett says dribble could never pull it off, but L Hefe got us back together in person. That's awesome. that's true. It was good to be back. And we did have strong turnout. I think folks. Folks were ready. Yeah. And those were the, mostly the membership meetings that I think membership lunches you guys were talking about, but what else?

There was a lot of activity in the last year. Yeah. You know, part of that also coming back in person meant we could resume some good in person conversations with key leaders like KC, we're actually having. Every couple months, we're having some informal conversations with the top of their leadership.

Some of our representatives just keep communication lines, open, same thing with k.to be able to move once again, away from trying to do that, you can't have a casual conversation on a zoom call. Yeah. That's that just doesn't happen. So to be able to do that in person again, I have some jokes, talk about some issues and actually push them pretty hard on a few things too.

I think that was, that was one of those advantages we're able to have once again, to get through that. Cause we got some with K for instance, we got some contract language, uh, change it been in the works for a while, but we finally kind of pushed through a couple things that made it where some of our firms are much more comfortable actually signing contracts with K again.

So it's a good chance for us to really mitigate some of those issues and kind of work through and. Some of these conversations really. You gotta be face to face to have. It's so nice to have that again. So, and what Brett's for listeners, what, uh, Jeff's talking about is, you know, we have the formal partnering committees that a lot of our members know about, but we also do a lot of things that we don't, you know, put on the front page of the newsletter and publicize, like some of these more private conversations with senior leadership at K E and KDOT.

And I might say you made the comment, Jeff, that it's a chance for us to push, you know, fairly hard on them. For a few things, but one of the reasons it works so well is it's also a chance for them to push pretty hard on us, you know, when they have issues that they want our partnership to help with issues they're having with consulting industry, you know, it's a good forum for them too.

Well, Scott and I just got back from a lunch with Burt Moore, Calen Reed mm-hmm yep. Doing that same thing earlier today. And part of that, I mean, that conversation came up before. Calvin that we're, we've got some formal partnership meetings that they just thought we were too quiet on. Yeah. Um, so we had some conversation with our members and said, this is the time to be bashful.

This is the time to speak up and work a few things out. So that was good to have no doubt. The other big thing that I, I thought was I I'm taking a lot of pride in is we actually doubled our scholarships this year. So we've increased the funding for those to really help students recognizing. [00:10:00] Hey, college is expensive and all that, we were looking at our budgets while we all are in, in the business, the organization ACEC, isn't here to hold a bunch of cash.

So we took a look at that and realized it's time to, to up that. So we're pretty pleased that we're able to double our budgets and hopefully we'll get some good applicants in this year for that. And one thing that I would suspect a lot of listeners don't know, not through any fault of their own, but it is.

Unbelievable. The success that Kansas scholarship winners have gone on to have at the national level, the larger scholarships, some of which, uh, include, uh, all expenses paid trips to the ACEC national annual conference, where these young engineers get to meet and network with all these folks. I mean, one year the, the overall winner was from Kansas when the conference was in Hawaii.

And they got flown out to, to Hawaii, to the conference. So yeah, the scholarships program is a pretty cool deal and tragically underutilized, you know, we don't get the number of applications that, that we would wish for. So maybe the podcast will help with that. Some. Yep. Yeah. Let's hope so. What else team?

What else from the past year gone by that? We should comment on thinking through, I mean, it, I mean, it was really, it felt like a return to normalcy. After a couple years of crazy, COVID a couple years of zoom meetings and not sure everybody unsure what was happening. There was a lot of issues. We had some progress that was made on, uh, one of the big business issues we had was the PPP loans.

Mm-hmm . And some of the progress on that, uh, a lot of our member firms were kind of hit with that and. We really didn't get good direction from the U S D O T I would say, down to local D O Ts, every state was handling it different. We were able to work and we actually pulled in from some of our other member organizations, uh, across the country.

Good examples of where states did. And we were able to work and get a bit of a resolution we're we're still hoping for a federal fix. Uh, but at least we made progress on that. And that was a big issue to a few of our firms. I think the other thing I'd add is our budget's very. Very very strong and sadly, some of that's probably cuz COVID we didn't travel for a year and didn't have expenses, but we are in a good.

Status right now. Yeah. Yeah. We really are. Excuse me. We really are, which is grateful something I would add. And, uh, I think they were in person last year. You guys have to confirm for me, but the awards programs, we have EA awards, but maybe even more than that, I'm thinking of our public improvement awards.

Uh, yeah, they were back in person. So yeah. Uh, we had the, I think the counties were in, um, Overland park. We have the award ceremony there got to present those hand, those out. That's a great opportunity. Not only for our clients to get recognized front of all their peers, but our firms to get up there. Say, tell us, you've actually been up there to present, but tell the members the best kept secret of these awards programs, which we hope people see in the publications, but probably not.

Everybody has time to read that far. Probably the most impactful part of winning that award to your firm is where it's present. Right, right in front of, uh, the leadership of all, either the counties or the cities, we do one set of awards for the counties, one for the cities. So they get to get up there.

Not only showcase a great project they've done that have benefited the communities, but it's actually also just, they're doing it in front of a bunch of other future potential clients. So you're up there. You're, you're not only trying to get recognition from your clients, which we all like to do, but also you're out there and you're able to promote yourself as somebody who.

Good quality work, which. Big of quality. That's the one CRI big criteria for those awards breach is you the cities and S do have to use the QBs qualification based selection yes. To, to hire their firms that, and they get an in. Absolutely. So that, that's a great, a great way. And it's a great way to get a general plugin on QBs every time as well without beating over their heads.

Yes, absolutely. Roll their eyes a little bit, but little bit more carrot than stick. Yeah. Yeah. And Brett, for you, you'll get, do. A free lunch of, of stale chicken and over bread beans every time. So it's great. Just looking forward to it. So it's like every other conference. That's right. That's right. Unless you're the winner up there on stage show showcased in front of a hundred plus counties or.

However many cities, the QBs thing, I will say though, that that is my passion. So that is a pretty darn cool part of it. Not eligible to win unless it's procured with QBs. Although I will note for listeners, any of you out there that have a sole source arrangement with your client. We view that as 1000% pure QBs, as long as they're not asking you to price, uh, before you have the scope conversation.

Well, one of the thing, uh, Brett, I might ask you to talk about cuz you just wrapped up your year [00:15:00] about it. But another important partnership we have is with K S P E our president elect, which was you last year. Serves as our liaison. KSPE talk a little bit about our relationship and partnership there, if you would.

Yeah. Uh, it's a great relationship, different different group, but we, we coordinate together quite a bit. Uh, we ho host our at the KSPE, uh, annual conference is where we hold our ACEC professionals and private practice. Mm-hmm we service annual meeting annual meeting. Yeah. We do our annual meeting and, and what Brett's referring to, we serve.

KSPE has five practice divisions. One of 'em is professional engineers and private practice pep. In Kansas, that's us. That's us. Yes. We have a memorandum of understanding where we ACEC serves as the pep chapter, which is really cool, cuz in most states, all states that I'm aware of, I guess, uh, the SPE just has a separate pep chapter and.

Without intending to, they just kind of compete with ACEC you know, they're in the same space, but I think people that were around long before the three of us were pretty forward looking and forward thinking and, and put this in place. And the partnership really works well. You know, we partner on the water quality seminar.

We would do that in conjunction with K S P. And we've really got a great symbiotic relationship over in the legislature. K S P E obviously takes the lead sled dog role in all things licensure. And we typically are right behind them with support. We take the lead role in all things, procurement, QBs, and, and more private side contractual stuff.

But K S P E is usually right behind us offering their support on that. Even on infrastructure. Most folks probably don't know this, but on the transportation and the vertical side, a C C is, is usually the lead on that with some support from Ks P, but K S P E for reasons that predate us has always been the main, uh, uh, sled polar on water, all kinds of water issues.

And we, we just, most of the time were able to work in a supporting role to. That's a good point. In fact, we mentioned the K E and formal meetings. We have, we actually have K S V actually joining us as well, because it impacts they've got a whole lot of people in the water, utility businesses, the governmental side, and the utility side of, of our practice who actually are with Ks V.

So we got them involved as well. So that, that is. Good aspect going on. Yeah, it's a great partnership. It really is. Which one of you guys, somebody volunteer and talk to me about QBs and David Comstock. And specifically, I will say if there is any membership benefit that is under utilized and, and frankly that is that we need more awareness about despite all our efforts.

It's this one. So yeah, he's probably the most undertapped resource we have. So that, for those of, you know, Dave, he retired Kate out there. He's willing to go and talk to anybody about QBs. He attends some of these conferences as in the past, when we see, you know, our clients making that error that they think they want.

Professional engineering services, uh, particular public clients that we, we get him to contact them, reach out, have conversations he's done. So with MPOs, with cities, with counties, sometimes it, sometimes it can make a difference, uh, right away. Other times it's just planting that seed for conversations that take a while to develop and immature.

So, and, and honestly the quality that he does when he's representing. I hope Dave's not listening cuz we, we don't pay him a hell of a lot. and he thinks we're paying up too much. And uh, I know what other states pay for things like that. We've got a good deal going. So it's, it's a good, he refers to it as is missionary work.

And I think two things by that one, certainly not gonna get rich on it. And two, uh, you know, you're never gonna save every soul cuz there's new souls being born every day. You know, it's just a continuous. You have to keep working at it. The, the education process never stops. I might add two things for our members.

One, this is Dave's involvement is generated when we get a contact from a member, alerting us that somebody is, is not using QBs. What's super critical is when David makes that call, he doesn't say, oh, you know, Acme engineers, ask me to call and put your relationship in peril. What he says is I represent the industry and we've had several members that have asked me to reach out and have this conversation with you.

Uh, and dog gone it, I, despite our best efforts, it is not that widely utilized, which is kind of a shame. Uh, only other thing I would say [00:20:00] too. Most folks only think to contact Dave when somebody has gone off the rails and they're not using QBs, but one of the greatest uses of Dave's time is maybe you have a client that does use QBS.

But they just had a new election and there's a new county commissioner, or maybe they just hired a new procurement officer or a new city manager. Sometimes it's getting, it's an ounce of prevention instead of a pound of cure. It's a great time to ask Dave to get out and have a conversation with those folks.

And I may just add to what you said by, by using Dave that really. It insulates us as a consulting firm. He's the one out there and not, not the consulting firm trying to explain to our client. Absolutely. Oh yeah. Your, your relationship's not in peril in that situation. And your point about changing of either staff or elected officials with laugh.

A change in procure procurement officer's same thing, like a change in a city attorney. The, the, the previous person in that position was doing it all wrong. So they obviously they're going to make a change and do everything the right way now. So it's, it is a continuous education process. I wouldn't have brought me in here if they didn't want me to.

Fix it. Right? Right. Yeah. Now, now the guy just retired. It's okay. well, one last thing I want talk about from it's actually not from the past year, it's from the current year. Uh, but I'm pretty, dogone excited about it. So I wanna mention it and then I want to. Change the, the theme a little bit and ask you guys what your experience on the board has been like and what it's like to serve.

But another thing that we have not been able to do, it's been three years, but glory hallelujah. Our LP program, our merging leaders program is back. They had their first meeting a couple weeks ago here in Topeka. Man. Oh man. Have I missed that? That's my, that's probably my favorite part of my job. It really is.

Ah, but that, that's nothing, they only got delayed like two years. Right. I mean, I, now here's a, here's a question for you. Do you remember why? When I was NELP, I missed a course. Uh, I, I thought you were gonna go a different direction. I don't remember why you missed the course before the coronavirus. There was the swine flu.

Yes. And that's what I had. Oh, for heaven's sakes. I had forgot. So I was sick as hell and just not able to move and had to miss a course. And then I relocated outta state for a few years and finally came back and yeah, so it took me five, seven years or something to finally graduate DLP. So like most. Slow for persistent I got there, I got there.

So when somebody misses an LP course, we just invite 'em back the next year. And they're not officially graduates until they, you know, take each part of the course. And for most of 'em it's the next year for L half a, it was five or six years where I'll just take a while where I thought you were going with that.

Um, I didn't intend to do it, uh, but, oh my gosh, I. Felt like I had tatted on you, Tom Swenson was president. This is when you were still at tra systems. And somehow we're talking about the E P and oh, for listeners that knew Tom, uh, the intensity level on a one to 10. It was just 12 all the time. Right. You know?

Right. And. Something came up about you got my, you got my butt in trouble there, but yeah, about graduates and, and like how we, you know, real point of pride that we make a special point. If anybody misses, we invite him back. And so everybody that's ever shown up as a graduate and I'm like, well, not, not everybody.

And oh, he snapped around. Well, who I said, well, you know, Jeff McKerrow moved to Texas for crying out loud. So he didn't whatever he like, well, he ain't in Texas anymore, you know? So at six 30, the next office.

At by 6 35, I had sent an email to you saying what session is left? What the hell do I?

Yeah, well, I'm sure. Sorry about that, but I'm glad, I'm glad you came back to finish. Okay. Well, let's. Let's change gears. Let's talk about what it's like to be on the board. Cuz I will say selfishly, I hope somebody or several somebody listening today is a board member of tomorrow. It would be fun to kind of paint for folks a picture of what it's like.

Uh, so tell me Brett, I'll start with you. Gimme just the reader's digest version. Your journey to being on the board. Um, you know, when did you learn about ACEC? When did you start getting invested? Did somebody nurture that? When did you decide to get on the board? Cetera, et cetera? Well, when did I. Started really getting interested in ACEC.

It's been quite a while. So, um, but we just mentioned Tom Swenson. There is the person who got me fully directed [00:25:00] into ACEC and before he was even, uh, president, he had, he was talking to me, telling me he was on the board and he was try to become president and. He said, you need to follow on my footsteps. Now you need to get about three or four years after I'm off the board.

Before we can get you on Tom, put me on the KDOT ACEC liaison committee, uh, served on that for, uh, the three years then it was, uh, well, probably four or five years. And then I got on the board and went to the first two years and was made, present elect, uh, which was pretty exciting. And then now. President?

Uh, no it's been, it's been a great, uh, great journey. It's, it's amazing how much you learn behind the scenes, kinda the inside baseball stuff. It's, there's a whole lot that happens in the sausage making. And before I was on the board, I, I didn't even know that stuff existed now. I immersed in it and just love it.

Yeah, that's pretty cool. Jeff, what about you? I knew I wanted to get there eventually as well, and I had, uh, Changed firms was starting and filled out the forums, you know, online, Hey, sign me up. I'll be on a committee, whatever. Just love to have an opportunity to kind of get involved in this and. They brought me on into the all things.

I think it was the bridge liaison committee. Mm-hmm so started there. And then, and, and honestly, Scott, this is all about retribution and get back at you me in trouble with Tom, but no, it's I had that opportunity. Did that for a while. Then you got the call up, um, for those who don't know, you know, at ACEC, we do kind of try to make an concerted effort.

When we think about our, the, who we're going. Uh, invite onto the board cuz we want a good cross section. So geographically throughout the state of Kansas, we look around and we wanna make sure firms don't have continuous presence that we're rotating firms in and out. Uh, and even what's your firm's area specialty.

Are you, are you a vertical firm? Do you concentrate on water services? Geotech? Uh, geotech type services, transportation, whatever it is to get for, or board a good cross representation. Uh, luckily where I was at, they didn't have a, uh, hadn't been on the board yet in Kansas, so it made a good sense, good opportunity.

And, and I grabbed hold of it. So it was a good, good opportunity there. And I've really enjoyed it. Not only the inner workings, like Brett mentioned, but also just that camaraderieship of who we're working with. I mean, the board folks, we spent time together. Gone to DC together. We've gone to different events together, uh, really promoting our business.

We've made visits to our legislators together to promote things. And it really is. It it's almost like a collegiate. Uh, I mean, we're all competing often on the, some of 'em on the same projects, but at the end of the day, we're, we're all in this together and we have that good relationship and that's, that's kind of special when you can sit down with and, and go into meetings with legislators with D.

Different firms and we can speak together. We've got the same issues. All of us are dealing with right now. It's finding enough people to, uh, to work for us and everything else that that level of let's work together. Figure out what's working on with that attitude of, you know, rising tide rises all ships.

That's where we're at here. And I say this, if you believe in the theory that you know, the, the quality of the people that surround you in your life play a large impact in the quality of your life. No better place to be than the ACEC board. I mean, it's just a list. People particularly now that I'm, I'm starting to move off we got quality people, you know, to, to what Jeff said, excuse me, really.

When we come to these board meetings, everybody checks their logo at the door and it is not about your individual firm. It is all about the industry. Yeah. That's a good way to say it. Check your logo at the door. And it's for large firms and small firms in every, every, every discipline. Yep, yep. Yeah. You know, we, yeah.

I mean, the, it does sometime we get hit with that. Oh, gosh, it's just, you know, large civil firms. We're all you're about, you know, but our last board meeting, we talked about raising on call limits for, you know, vertical work contract and state of Kansas. And we spent a lot of time on water. So yeah. That's, that's absolutely right.

Scott, I gotta tell you a story. Yeah, please. On my journey. I, as I sitting here thinking about it was when Jeff was talking. So when I first started going online, selecting committees to join mm-hmm . Apparently was not paying much attention because the, and I don't remember who the president was called me up.

All excited. You wanna be on the vertical? Committee? No, I know nothing about vertical construction. Oh, anybody in your company? No, I don't have anything. I do the roadway. I do this well, we've got those all filled out, but we can't find anybody [00:30:00] like, well, that might be why . Well, I, I understand that you're gonna feel that because.

while we encourage. And, and I probably am. I dunno if anybody reads our newsletters, I hope they do. I hope so, too. Uh, and I apologize for a few of. Monthly post that I did when I was president, but I, I think on three or four, I kept handing sign up, come on. Let's, let's get some names on these lists, people volunteer and everything else.

And I still had to make some phone calls up to some ours. Isn't it? The darnest thing. So listeners, what we keep talking about with the list, there's, uh, it's in the newsletter every month and it's on the website. You can go in there and click. There's a form where you can check every box where you have any interest in serving and it takes 90 seconds tops, click submit, and that's it.

And it's fascinating. We get such low response to that, but if we ever pick up the phone and call leadership at a firm and say, do you have some people you would want in this role? My gosh, they'd. They jump three feet off the ground and say not only, yes, but boy, I'm gonna have to think about who, you know, we've got all kinds of people we want for this, but we can't get anybody to go on, fill out the survey.

It seems like, well, let me ask you this. Um, all we've talked about so far really is what ACEC does and to the benefit of all the members. But let's dial it in a little bit more. I don't wanna call it selfishly, but personally, at least your firms, you and your firms, obviously, and anybody else that serves you are, you are pulling away a lot of valuable time to commit to this.

But there's a return, not only to the industry, but I think to the actual firms and individuals that serve, uh, what do you guys feel you've gotten out of it? Uh, not just the good being done for the industry, but as, as individuals and as companies competing in the marketplace, learning a lot about the legislative side of things and, and being much more educated on that process, the contract language.

All of that, but also developing really great relationships with future partners. I mean, that is, that has just been outstanding to work with just great group of people and, and you, you just really develop strong relationships and it's makes it very easy to call 'em and say, Hey, this, we know this project's gonna be coming out.

What do you think about us teaming together? Mm-hmm that's awesome. Yeah, I, I was gonna say, so Kimberly Horn, we're new here. In the by state region here. Uh, I think we opened our Kansas city office less than two and a half years, two and a half years ago. We've teamed a lot. And a lot of the former board members that I've been with over the years, I've free out called we've partnered on projects, pursued them together, won them.

Some of 'em together. I know this many isn't like, but we wanna wanna win. 'em all still. But, um, but we've won quite a few things and it's big. I mean, Kimley Horn's a huge supporter of ACEC, uh, on the national. It serves as our pack. We don't have a company pack. Um, we all contribute kind of there and there's, there's gentle pressure to contribute, uh to the national pack.

Uh, and it means a lot to us as a firm, we just see it doing, doing a lot of good in the industry. And also even like the new. Group on the national level. Mm-hmm, , there's a lot of value on that and we're picking up good information and learning some things. So, so one thing, excuse me, that you guys didn't mention that I always feel, you know, as a, as a observer participant would be pretty cool.

You know, if I owned an engineering firm, I would love this for my people that I send. And that is simply the number of venues. With people of high influence to our industry where you are the face. And I just believe there is tremendous value in that. And this would be true in, in my industry and anybody else's too.

I think when you get to sit down with Senator Moran or an agency, secretary, you know, Tom Styles or Secretary Loran, or Chad Bristo or whoever. and there are five people. I mean, there are thousands of private sector engineers in Kansas, but there is only three or five or seven that are sitting at that table as representatives of the industry where that person knows you're in a leadership position on the board that has to be good for you and your firm.

Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And I think that's a, frankly, I think that's a huge personal benefit, you know, uh, in addition to the, just wanting to serve the greater good. That's a, that's an ROI on your time. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. What's a board meeting, like tell listeners [00:35:00] the past president looks out the window.

we hope he's awake.

Don't sniff my coffee. and I ask you, where did the tradition of past president staring at the windows? Uh, we've been picking on dribble, but it wasn't dribble. No, no, it was Kinsel in, Kinsel in, yes. Yeah. He would sit in the corner, look out and, uh, he would second every motion without hesitation. So he was, it was, um, now, you know, I, I think it's, uh, just like anything there, there.

We've had meetings that are very serious on some tough issues. I think back to when I started and we were having firms reducing their staff, shifting people out of outta state, wondering what was next. Uh, so we had, we had those tough conversations about some businesses we had to. We'd agree to help cover the cost of our KOP partners to attend our partnering conference.

Yeah. I mean, that's a, what a memory. Yeah. So we we've gone from things like that. Really tough discussions to tough discussions on different elections. What's going on, the relationship that our industry had with the legislature and the contractors when those things were strained to, to. Good meetings.

We're talking about positive things. We get some good speakers coming in. Talk about different issues. We. We could all celebrate some things together. Like the engineering initiatives act. Yeah. That helped fund a lot of money. Getting back, invested into our universities here for engineering you're here. I mean, there there's some good things that happen.

So it's, I mean, it can vary quite a bit, but it does feel like every time we show up at that board meeting, we're here together to try to figure out how to help our industry and everything move forward. And I think that that's one of those neat things. So it's very much. Chance to hear what's going on and try to try to talk through solutions and figure out what are those next steps we can take, or sometimes what are those steps we shouldn't take?

And just, this is an opportunity to sit back and just. We don't need a, to, to be involved here and, and maybe we can get KSB partners to take up something for us. It's really nasty. It's uh so everybody has a voice. Yeah. Nobody's allowed to sit there and not say something. Yeah, everybody's always okay. You know, Brett, what do you think about this issue?

And it it's serious. It's hard. I mean, we, we take it very serious, but we have a lot of fun too. It's it's enjoyable. Yeah. There's a lot of laughter in between the serious conversations. Yeah. And, and some good natured needling. So I'll say one of the thing again, as a, as a participant observer. So in most groups, whether it's at an employer or just a group of friends or whatever, there's always those one or two people that are.

They're just forward thinking and they ask the good questions. They come up with the ideas or the questions that kind of stop you in your tracks and make you realize, oh, wow. That is a whole new way of looking at that. And, and a new way. We need to look at that. And I hadn't thought about it until that person just said it.

And usually you go out in any group of, you know, 10 or 12 and there's, there's that person. And on the ACEC board, it's everybody. And it is there isn't anybody on the board that hasn't taken a turn at, offering a comment into a conversation that you see the rest of the board, who just had three minutes of dialogue and thought there was a little consensus and then somebody kind of drops that thought bomb in there.

And you see the rest of the table kind of lean back in their chairs and say, oh, well, holy cow. Didn't think about that and, and credit there to one just, I think by and large, we've got great people on the board, but the diversity of our board, the fact that we've got. A geo technology on, you know, Matt's here representing us and what he sees and the issues he sees.

We've got people from small firms who do private work. We've got people in the water industry and transportation, small and big Dave's vertical. Yeah. Scattered throughout the, the state. We see things different. Think of things different. And I think that that helps that conversation. I bet you, uh, you mentioned Matt qua I'll offer just one anecdote.

Uh, the emerging leaders program several months ago, we were having a conversation. We really had not been very aggressive about raising the cost of that. And it's, it's not meant as a profit generator. It's really just meant to be a member value and we price it not to lose money. But we had started to lose some money on it because our increases just hadn't kept up [00:40:00] with the inflationary cost of meeting space, et cetera, cetera.

So conversation about what do we do and where do we, where do we put that price tag? And, you know, folks were all contributing and, you know, credit to the board. They are so thoughtful about not wanting. Cost anymore, uh, to the members for these part, uh, participation opportunities. And they have to, and oh, maybe it's here, maybe it's here.

And, you know, nobody wanted to go too high. And, and Matt qua, who was very quiet by nature and who had not said anything finally leaned in and said, I guess I just have one question. Is that enough and just the whole room is kind of like, uh, yeah, actually we've been trying to keep the number low, but yeah, he's he's right.

And just those kind of moments happen all the time. Yeah. And it's pretty cool in a room full of, you know, a list minds and talents to see that happen over and over again, where. Brings, you know, a fresh perspective or something that just changes the whole conversation paradigm. That's one of my favorite things.

Being a part of it. Well, let me ask you this one more thing, and then I wanna switch gears and Brett, maybe shift more to you about the year ahead. What's the biggest challenge about serving on the ACEC board? Brett, let's start with you. I mean, it's, it's a time commitment. Uh, it's not just a time to get here and attend the meetings, but generally we've got one or two agenda items that are, that you need to spend some time doing your homework.

So you come prepared for the. So it's, it's not overwhelming. But it is a time commitment. I mean, you wanna you're with your peers and, and they're all great people. You don't wanna look like the dummy in the room, so you gotta do your own work. I thought I was making that easy for you. I was say that, but I'd hold back.

You know, I think that there is a time commit. It's not overwhelming. But it is a commitment that you personally you're making. We didn't have too many, we had a good legislation session, but we still had a few calls in the evening. Scott, you and I talking about some things and what's that next step we, you know, Brett is learning this as the president.

You, it could be a 24, 7 job on occasion, but it's, it's a commitment. I think that's that's worth it. So yeah. You know, how, how do you balance that? How do you look at again, these aren't life? Commitments to go through this rotation or faster to get through the board in ours than some state, some member organizations where it's like a 37 year thing or something.

but there is that time commitment there to it. And I'll say this too, and you guys both know this, but when you come on the board initially, You know, it's a real time commitment. There's nine board meetings and membership lunches, and then there's an expectation you hit the Midwest states conference and the annual meeting mm-hmm and then there's a lot of ad hoc things, you know, dinners with ACEC national staff.

When they come in or opportunities to meet with legislators, deliver pack checks. And board members get in on all of that. So it's a pretty healthy time commitment, not to mention Brett, like you said, the, the prep time ahead of the board meetings, but as you both know, I will say this, the differential of what's asked from you as a board member versus a president is, is pretty substantial because.

You know, I don't think Jeff, just to touch on your anecdote, I'm not sure that you and I ever did have those seven o'clock at night conversations when you were just a director, but once your president, right. Brett and I were texting last night and whatever was last night or the night before, whenever it was at 9 45.

And, uh, you know, obviously somebody with the, the Moxi to. President of a C, C is probably very, very busy during the day already. And so just ends up being the default time to take care of a lot of business. Okay. Well, let's switch gears and Brett, this will be more you, but Jeff jump in obviously as well.

Uh, what do you want to talk about from the year ahead? What do you see? What are the challenges? What are you excited about? Areas of focus, all that kind of stuff. Uh, paint a picture for the members. Things are going really well. Right now. You mentioned earlier we're fully funded transportation wise infrastructure.

Yes. All infrastructure. Yes. We mentioned earlier, there's really knock on wood, not any legislative issues that we're gonna have to probably fight this next round. Not that we see. You never know what's coming, but yes, we are really not hearing a lot again, if it wouldn't reverberate on the podcast, I'd knock on wood, but I think that's right.

So it's. There's not, you know, not a lot of challenges that I see at this point. We do have a, an election coming up in November, but you, things are good there. I think [00:45:00] I was, I was gonna jump in there because we have talked about those. We've got like governor race this year. We've got two brewer pro infrastructure candidates, the incumbent governor Kelly.

Who's been great to us in the industry. Attorney General Schmidt who's we've known has been an industry friend of ours as well for decades. Now you spoke in my LP course. Um, so yeah, that's, that's kind of nice to have where it's, we can sit back and say, we've got two good friends. We like 'em both. I think so.

That's, that's a, it's an incredibly, uh, fortunate spot to be in. We've got a lot of colleagues in other states who. Having the we've got two candidates and neither one of 'em are very supportive over industry. So, yeah, it's a good point. We're very fortunate in that regard. So to say it, do I have a mission for this year?

It's just not to screw up. , you know, keep, keep the train on the tracks. There's not a lot happening and. Not try to create something either. There's a lot of truth in that we talked earlier with legislation about sometimes it's what doesn't pass. That's more important than what does, I think the same is true here sometimes.

Like right now, when things are going about as well as, uh, as can be hoped, you know, sometimes it is just to keep that momentum going forward, uh, and being back in person finally, you know, participation and turnout for things is strong. What about a C E C national? Any thoughts there? I know national director is a different job.

That's Mr. Hancock, but a lot of partnership there. Anything you see for the year ahead? Well, what I was gonna say is, is getting on the board and, and going up to, to Washington for the training the day and a half training, amazed at how much national really. It is unbelievable and a very well oiled machine.

You know, they were so instrumental while they continue to be instrumental in the PPP stuff, but just amazed at how much they they do for us. And they've got the minute man fund if we, if we ever needed it. We, I know you talked to 'em about it a few years ago. On the QBs issue. Yes. Yeah, we sure did. So, you know, they just great people to work with and so accommodating and gosh, it's they, if, if we ever have a problem they've bend over backwards to help, they really do.

And what Brett's talking about, we probably should have mentioned this earlier, when we talked about the board experience, but ACEC national does an orientation for incoming state board members. And it is, I mean, it's, it's. Kind of awe inspiring the volume of stuff that give you in a day. All right. So I, I've gonna digress here a little bit.

Please do. This is one of my favorite Kinsel stories. Um, so Kinsel, and I, you know, where this going? You wrote the story. No, I just love Kenel Lynn stories. So we were out in, we went to DC together for that orientation here several years ago and there's a dinner reception. And so we're out at dinner and we get out and, and we're walking back to the hotel cuz.

ACS nice enough. On the national side, they put us in a nice hotel and all that. So we come walking back and everything and walking through this little pocket park and we're seeing this and I'm like, well, look at that raccoon and Kenel looks over and he goes, That's not a raccoon, that's a rat. We looked and there's like a dozen of these giant rats.

And I look over and I think, I think that one's read the paper it was just, they were huge. And they were like the puppies. There was a homeless guy, a bench. And he had a, I think he was talking to the rat. I think it was just amazing. They weren't around during the daytime, but my God at the middle of, we got out there at 11, 12 o'clock at night, there's just.

We fought through a hoard of rats to get back to the hotel. So, so I ask you, is there a parable in there for Washington DC? Probably. Probably, yeah. Park full of rats that only show themselves fully at night. well, I will say that is the TAST Kinzel Lynn story that you could've. I tried to have gone. There are the things, but yeah.

That's I have to tell one more Kinsel for our listeners that don't know Kinsel they'll probably be like, why are they cradling on about this guy? The Midwest states conference. Once every four years it goes offsite. And that's where it was this year. And one of our board members said, they mentioned to Kenel, if they're going, of course, Kenel had been to that location.

He said, Kenel immediately was like, okay, well, here's what you need to do. Gotta get a rental car, cuz you wanna buy alcohol in any kind of bulk. You can't do it on the property. If you don't have a rental car, you can't get off the property. So make sure you get a rental car and then go up this liquor store.

I recommend that's where you wanna buy your booze. guy's like silly me. I thought he was gonna tell me something about C C you know,

Uh, well, gentlemen, let's, uh, let's end with this. So this has been a blast and I hope listeners, [00:50:00] you know, have enjoyed this, but also learned, uh, some things about what goes on at a C, C and what it's like to be a board member. And, and what's coming for the year ahead, but just a little personal round RO shock test.

First thing that comes to your mind, Jeff will start with you. Oh man. Favorite movies, you know, I, I don't want as spin as I used to, but I still just love. I'm gonna say it. Eighties, nineties baseball movies. Yes. You know, field of dreams, bull Durham. Yes. Natural major league. I, I, I, I know my wife has done something wrong when she puts that up on the TV and all of a sudden I'm watching, uh, Durham again.

I'm like, all right, this is cool. I'm good. That's out. Open up. Just enjoy it. So, oh, that is an absolutely wonderful answer. Mr. Lukowski favorite kind? No, no different question for you. I can never remember if you are more of whiskey or bourbon, but what is your favorite go-to flavor to of bourbon? Uh, either I can, I can never remember if you're more of a whiskey or bourbon guy.

Um, probably Wellers. Very good. Speaking of bourbons and whiskeys, uh, shout out to our ACEC national pack chair, Agnes auto, who in addition to making the job, uh, streamlined and leaving a, an outline for people to come behind and all the other things she's done to not only succeed today, but put us in a position to succeed in the future.

But the first pack chair that has showed up to raffle off arm loads of booze. Smashing success both financially and for morale, I might add at our meetings and I'm going to put this out there, Joe Dremel. If you're watching, we know you can't have a meeting in person. But you're taking over as PAC chair next year for, uh, for Agnes, you better show up with some decent, some decent liquors that, and I'm not bitten on, you know, Jim beam offense.

We better have some Wellers there because we just heard it on the podcast. Well, I wanna Woodford, uh, Agnes pro Woodford, and I want it. Thank you, Cameron. McGown for picking my name. That's outstanding. And Scott, thank you. You actually were selected first and you, you turned it down. I thought the optics were not good with staff drawing the winner and drawing my own name for a bottle of whiskey.

I just thought, uh, my little voice inside my head saying I should probably just, if that had been a cigar, that might've been a different story, he would've cared, but there, it would've been a different story. so on that note, I might say this too. I think I'd have to go back and look. But I think in my 21 years with ACE C, this might be the first time I've had back to back presidents that don't smoke.

Cigars guys are pillars of high moral character. I have to say. Well, there, there's a big difference between not smoking cigars and higher moral characters. First of all, you're the other, only person that's ever said that to me. thank you. I do appreciate that. And don't forget the other thing you have for the first time back to back a couple of MI grandson.

Oh God. I thought I was, oh, almost made it through almost made it through, but just in case I talked over you, go ahead. Say it again. Back to back Mizu graduates. Oh. Yay. executive session board. Be ready. It's taking a few decades, but we've slowly get this Kuhn down. Cream is rising to the top eventually. Oh, that's awesome.

Well, gentlemen, a hugely appreciate you making time to come join us on the podcast. This has been a ton of fun. Uh, hope it will be for listeners too. And, uh, assuming we don't get, you know, uh, an avalanche of negative feedback, we're gonna make this an annual thing. Brett will have you back next year when Cameron McGown takes the reins and you can, uh, uh, harass him and haze him.

On on the podcast next year, but appreciate you guys coming. Thanks for all your years of service on the ACEC board as well. Yeah, I could ask real quick. I don't have to wait till the next podcast to, to harass. Cameron, do I? I can do during the board means Kevin's no, you can, you can text him as soon as we get done.

No, no need to wait on a good thing. Gragg I'm not done with you. Don't worry. I all listeners, thank you so much for joining us for the QBs express. We will see you next time on the ACEC Kansas podcast.

Looking back and forward with current and past ACEC Presidents Jeff McKerrow and Brett Letkowski
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