The Ditch Digger of the Year Award is presented annually at NUCA’s convention to a contractor member who has made a significant contribution to NUCA and the underground utility construction industry. This past February, the 2012 Ditch Digger of the Year was awarded to Ryan Schmitt, NUCA’s Immediate Past Chairman of the Board and Owner and President of Petticoat-Schmitt Civil Contractors. This is the second time Schmitt has received the award, previously earning the honor in 2010.
“I was very shocked to receive the Ditch Digger of the Year award,” said Schmitt. “Last year, I was working with so many hard-working and committed people who did so much for NUCA, I never thought about winning the award, especially for a second time. It really means a lot to be recognized by my peers. Trust me, my service to NUCA and our industry has nothing to do with awards and everything to do with my passion and commitment for what we do for a living, so to be recognized with an award as significant as this is truly humbling.”
Schmitt began his career in civil construction working as an entry-level estimator after graduating with a degree in criminology from the University of Florida in 1990. He then decided to head back to school and obtain a second bachelor’s degree in building construction from the University of North Florida (UNF). Schmitt received his MBA from UNF and enjoyed working as a general manager for a company for more than 12 years.
In 2007, he became President and Owner of Petticoat-Schmitt, based in Jacksonville, Fla. Thanks to Schmitt’s experience and education, he was armed with the tools to tackle the challenges of starting a new company which continues to grow today. Petticoat-Schmitt has won several awards from NUCA, including the association’s coveted National Community Service Award and the William H. Feather Safety Award.
Schmitt’s commitment to NUCA and the industry led him to become the association’s Chairman of the Board for two terms in 2011 and 2012. During his time, Schmitt made a great impact on NUCA and was able to connect with members all across the country. His experiences helped shape him into a stronger leader for both the association and his company.
“As NUCA’s Chairman of the Board, I had the opportunity to visit many chapters around the country,” he said. “When I made these visits, I was invited with open arms by numerous businesses. I had a great opportunity to share best management practices and learn different ways of doing things from other NUCA members. This helped me make our company better and improve my skills as a contractor and a businessman. I think all NUCA members have great networking opportunities if they just make the effort and take the initiative to do so. I also had the opportunity to develop my leadership skill at my local NUCA chapter [NUCA of North Florida] and our state NUCA chapter, Underground Utility Contractors of Florida. As past president of both these organizations, I learned a lot about leadership, service and the power of unifying many voices through one association.”
Schmitt maintains strong roots within the Jacksonville community; he serves as Vice-Chair of Seamark Ranch and he currently serves on the University of North Florida’s Construction Management Program Advisory Board.
“Our company is a firm believer of supporting the industries and communities in which we work,” said Schmitt. “We are members of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Northeast Florida Builders Association, the Urban Land Institute, the American Society of Highway Engineers and the Florida Redevelopment Association.”
Going forward, Schmitt remains committed to the industry and issues that matter most. He’s particularly passionate about private activity bonds.
“I hope that our industry soon realizes the positive effects of private investment in water and wastewater projects,” he said. “Our lobbying efforts for removing the existing cap on private activity bonds to fund water and wastewater projects have come very close to fruition the last two years. The passage of this legislation could inject up to $5 billion of private funding annually into these types of projects. Everything about this makes sense. It costs very little to taxpayers, it allows private dollars to assist struggling municipalities and it rebuilds our aging and inadequate infrastructure. To see the impact of this, you can look to the success of the solid waste industry which benefitted from this same cap removal some years ago.”
Pam Kleineke is Associate Editor of Utility Contractor.