Incoming NUCA Chairman Dan Buckley
Dan Buckley has been preparing to serve as NUCA’s 2019 Chairman of the Board for 41 years – literally. Constantly seeking out leadership positions that would benefit those he served and his own business acumen, Buckley never backed away from a challenge where the end result would be growth. His platform for NUCA this year is “Growing Our Voice” – being a native Washingtonian, this is a concept with which he is very familiar.
In order to effect change in Washington, you have to be heard. In 1964, NUCA was founded in Washington for just that reason: “To represent the common interest of utility contractors, at hearings, meetings and conferences held by legislative and public administrative bodies on a national, state and local level.”
Buckley joined Garney Construction as Preconstruction Executive in January 2019. He is ecstatic to be an Employee Owner of Garney, an almost 60-year-old leading contractor that has built top-quality water and wastewater systems of all sizes and levels of complexity for municipal, federal, industrial and private industries. As a leading contractor, Garney utilizes 10 delivery methods, enabling the firm to consistently earn the industry’s top rankings and awards.
Garney offers a new set of challenges and opportunities for Buckley, as it looks to increase its footprint in the Mid-Atlantic region. Garney has also been a member of NUCA since 1978 – 41 years to be exact. Ironically, the same number of years that Buckley has been crafting his leadership skills.
Beginning in high school, Buckley had an appreciation for legislative and political processes, understanding that to achieve progress – individuals must be heard. After serving as class president for two years, Buckley was approached to apply for a position on the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council to Harry R. Hughes, the Governor of Maryland; he was one of 30 students selected from thousands of applicants and served from 1981-82. In 1986, Buckley graduated from Virginia Tech with dual degrees in Finance and Management and was a member of the Virginia Tech football team. Silicia
Buckley became a licensed Investment Broker right out of college and learned important life lessons from one of his favorite mentors. “My first boss after graduating from Tech was a distinguished man in the field of finance. He taught me that sincerity and integrity were integral in not only the financial world, and not only in business, but in life. He was a man that could carry on a conversation with anyone, make anyone laugh, and make anyone feel that they mattered to him,” Buckley said. “During one of our meetings he said, ‘Do you know what is better than having a silver tongue? Having a golden ear!’ That impressed on me the importance of listening to the needs of others, so that sincerity and integrity would come through – that’s when progress is made.”
These lessons have served Buckley throughout his career, including his positions in the utility construction industry in the Washington, D.C., area. Buckley began as a marketing manager and progressed to business development, purchasing, project management, estimating and most recently Vice President and Senior Vice President.
Recently, he completed a term as Chairman of the Board for Washington Building Congress – an 1,100-member non-political association of the building industry, dedicated to networking, encouraging collaboration on best practices, and working together to advance the building industry. Buckley, who was a founding member of NUCA of DC, served as its President from 2014–16.
“I am a true believer that you get out of something what you put in it; it doesn’t matter if it is in your personal life or your professional career,” Buckley said. “I feel that we all have a duty to give back to our industry. We created NUCA of DC with the idea that if we all came together it would be to everyone’s benefit. It has allowed us to meet as a group with the decision makers of large municipalities and to collaborate toward solutions. And, this enabled us to revise specifications and change payment terms allowing contractors to receive payment faster.”
Getting involved at the national level was the next logical step, and Buckley began serving on the Board of Directors in 2012. A couple of years later at a NUCA Leadership Conference in Newport, Rhode Island, Buckley was approached by former Chairmen Ron Nunes and Jeff Rumer and was asked to step up his participation to the Executive Committee. “I was honored and thrilled because I would eventually be working with Nunes, Rumer, Kara Habrock, Mark Fuglevand and Fred Chesney. These were people whom I admired and would learn from.”
Involvement at the national stage allows an even broader network of contacts. “I am continually learning about new things – whether it is microtunneling or pipe bursting or utility locating,” Buckley said. “There are people doing all types of work across the country that you can learn from. What is truly interesting, though, is that we share so many common problems. With NUCA, we can sit around the table and hear how contractors in other parts of the country – Middle Tennessee, North Dakota, Washington, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania – are dealing with some of the same challenges that we face in Washington, D.C.”
Opportunities – and challenges – abound for the utility construction industry, Buckley said. An ever-increasing population and aging infrastructure ensure that there is no shortage of work. Funding, however, is always an issue. “Money and regulations are two barriers that tend to hold back growth in the industry,” he said. “One way we can help free up money is by convincing our Congress to loosen the restrictions on Private Activity Bonds (PABs) so that we can access private money through public-private partnerships (P3s), similar to what the transportation sector currently has. We are making progress in this area, but it has been very slow.”
Funding for large projects, like the EPA-mandated multi-billion-dollar, multi-year CSO abatement projects – is a double-edged sword, Buckley said. “Those programs require the construction of huge tunnel projects that keep combined sewage from entering local waterways. While that is great for the environment and great for a certain portion of large tunneling contractors, it means that there is less money being spent on maintaining and upgrading our vast network of water and sewer mains, which make up the greatest portion of our memberships’ work.”
Workforce development and accepting change are other ongoing themes that remain front and center in the utility construction industry going forward. “I think we need to re-think the way we view college. College is wonderful and expanding the mind is a necessity, but college is not for everyone. We are limiting our own workforce by telling all high school age children they need to go to college. And at the same time, we as employers need to be ready and willing to bring that new workforce into our culture. The fact is that there are many students who can make more money, and with no debt, by entering construction as a skilled tradesman,” Buckley said.
“We as an industry are also slow to embrace change. We are surrounded by constant change and we need to be able to adapt. I often hear contractors and employees say ‘I’ve been doing this work for 25 years and we’ve never done it any other way.’ But does that mean it is right? Sometimes we are forced into change because the rules have changed, like Silica, and there are times when we need to change because there are better ways of succeeding, whether through technology or new means and methods.”
Buckley says for him, the most rewarding aspect of the utility construction industry is interacting with the men and women in the field. “There are no more dedicated individuals in any line of work than those who sacrifice their body, blood, sweat and family time, just to make sure that our society has running water – every day. They may be rough, but they are some of the most intelligent, creative and hard-working people you will ever meet. We can learn a lot from them, if we just listen.”
The Association doesn’t run on its own. Buckley says it takes a dedicated group of talented and hard-working individuals to come together and form one cohesive unit. With the guidance of Bill Hillman and Chris Barrett, our own NUCA staff make the impossible – possible, the difficult -easy, and the troubled – calm. The staff members are multi-talented and perform myriad duties every day, that only they know how to perform. Buckley is excited that his office at Garney is just eight miles away from NUCA’s headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, so that he will be able to collaborate and interact with this talented group of people on a regular basis.
NUCA Annual Conventions and the Annual May Summit have not only formed strong professional connections with some amazing people from all over the country, but also some amazing personal relationships. “My wife and I have made some wonderful life long memories with some incredible individuals over the past ten years,” Buckley concluded.
Dan and his wife Dianne live in Lansdowne on the Potomac, Virginia. They enjoy hiking along the banks of the Potomac River with their black lab Kaya and visiting the many wineries in Loudoun County, Virginia, with their three daughters.