The new faces of leadership

The new leadership team at Bernier Carr and Associates, from left: Kris D. Dimmick, vice president of operations, Kevin E. Lewis, director of business development, Rick W. Tague, president, and Mickey G. Lehman, executive vice president. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Business

The new leadership team at Bernier Carr and Associates, from left: Kris D. Dimmick, vice president of operations, Kevin E. Lewis, director of business development, Rick W. Tague, president, and Mickey G. Lehman, executive vice president. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Business

Bernier, Carr and Associates future in hands of partnership team

Leadership at Bernier, Carr and Associates will continue as a collaborative effort, according to Bernard H. “Bernie” Brown Jr., outgoing CEO of the Watertown firm.

Operations will be led by a five-person team in a “partnership model” following the retirement of Mr. Brown and Pamela S. Beyor, chairwoman of the board of directors, each of whom will retire at the end of the year. The team will consist of Rick W. Tague, president, Mickey G. Lehman, executive vice president, Kris D. Dimmick, vice president of operations, Michael J. Harris, vice president of architecture, and Kevin E. Lewis, director of business development. Michael F. Peck, chief financial officer, and Joseph A. Escudero, comptroller, will continue as members of the senior leadership team in supporting roles.

“Even though Bernie and I have had specific titles, we have worked cooperatively as a management team for the last 15 years,” Mrs. Beyor said. “It’s not really a big change in that regard, except that the specific title of CEO is not going to be filled.”

The biggest changes to the leadership structure was the creation of Mr. Dimmick’s new position, in which he will assume Mrs. Beyor’s responsibilities of managing daily operations of the firm, and the creation of Mr. Lewis’s post. A registered architect, Mr. Lewis joined the firm in September after serving as the group president of Tetra Tech Architects and Engineers, Syracuse, for the past decade.

Bernier, Carr, 327 Mullin St., provides a full range of engineering, architectural, surveying and construction management services and has a 43-year history in the area.

Mr. Tague said the partnership model is the result of year-long discussions and described it as disseminating various responsibilities of the chairwoman and CEO roles to different partners in the firm, complemented by the “strategic hire” of Mr. Lewis.

“We’re distributing the responsibilities out to that management group to make sure that we cover all the duties and responsibilities that we’ve always had,” he said.

Bernier, Carr might someday fill the CEO seat, but there is no urgency; waiting is in fact beneficial in that the firm will be better prepared to define the role as time goes on, Mr. Brown said.

“I’m very confident that the role of the management group as leaders within the organization is going to continue to work very well and it diminishes the need to have someone sitting in the seat of CEO,” he said.

Unlike Mr. Brown, Mr. Lewis will not spend too much time directly working with clients in his new role, but focus more on “overhead of management of the business side, enterprise and strategic business development,” he said.

“Growth is part of our challenge going forward — how do we integrate what we have and how do we move it forward,” Mr. Lewis said.

To that end, Bernier, Carr on Sept. 1 expanded its geographic reach south with the opening of a new Ithaca office. The firm hired a new architect, Scott Duell, to staff the office and expand the firm’s K-12 work into the Southern Tier and Westchester County, Mr. Tague said.

The office will also tap into municipal engineering work, he said, noting that within 24 hours of its opening, Bernier, Carr submitted a proposal for a water plant in Broome County and was able to put the Ithaca office’s address on the proposal, which helps when going after new work, he said.

In addition to pursuing more K-12 work, the firm plans to pursue more work around Fort Drum and in highway engineering. It has also identified what it calls “market area leaders” who are the most skilled in the firm’s areas of work: health care, municipal/wastewater, civil/structural, construction management, public education, higher education, health care and government services. “We wanted to set these up as studios with teams that are being trained and becoming experts exclusively in those fields,” Mr. Lehman said.

Mr. Tague added that the Ithaca office could grow to a staff of three or four. The firm also in September moved an employee to its Syracuse office, bringing that office’s staff to two engineers. In the last year, the firm has bolstered its support staff in Watertown, which is crucial to support the firm’s expansion, adding about five people, he said.

The firm’s work in the health care sector has notably grown over the last three years, and will be a large part of its work going forward, as will work in the K-12 sector, government services and wastewater treatment, Mr. Tague said. In the last three years, Bernier, Carr has picked up $2 million in New York State government services and in the last five years has done $55 million worth of design and construction for municipal wastewater treatment plants.

“We don’t see ourselves growing new service lines, but expanding projects that we do in those service areas,” Mr. Tague said of the firm’s future plans, adding that the firm has demonstrated its capability in government services and health care with the recent completion of several large projects, such as Samaritan Medical Center’s Summit Village project, a $64 million senior care facility completed in April on Outer Washington Street in Watertown.

With “the right opportunity,” the firm would also consider opening another office to the west or east of its current line of offices, he said.

With most of the blue box having significant tenure at the firm — Mr. Tague 24 years and Mr. Lehman 17 — both say that Mr. Brown and Mrs. Beyor’s ample talents and leadership style will be missed.

Both have been great mentors over the years, helping the staff grow and develop professionally, talents the new leadership team “wants to harness and continue to utilize for our younger staff,” Mr. Lehman said.

The firm’s internship program, for example, has provided hands-on experience in the field to an average of 15 college students and as many as 25 each summer since 1980. Fourteen of the firm’s present employees, including three partners, were interns.

Mr. Tague said that Mr. Brown has been instrumental over his career in developing the firm’s K-12 schools work and “defining a vision for a project,” an area in which a smooth transition will be “crucial.” Maintaining the outgoing leaders’ standard of care for clients and projects will also be key.

“They set a pretty high bar and we need to make sure we maintain that bar,” he said.

Mr. Lehman echoed Mr. Tague.

“They’ve always led by example and we definitely want to make sure we still do that,” he said.

Both also expressed a desire to continue to grow the firm’s staff and create a sustainable firm, adjusting the leadership structure and model as necessary as time goes on.

“The idea that we’ve created 80 to 90 jobs here in Watertown—10 years from now we want to make sure those jobs are still here, if not more,” Mr. Tague said.

Creating a sustainable firm has ripple effects in the region’s economy, Mr. Lehman added—when Bernier, Carr can secure funding for a wastewater treatment plant, that in turn translates to 20 new construction jobs for the season.

“If you multiply that 10-fold, it’s a big economic driver for the community,” he said.

Leah Buletti is a staff writer for NNY Magazines. Contact her at 661-2381 or lbuletti@wdt.net.