Fred Chesney (left) receives the Ditchdigger of the Year Award from Kara Habrock.
In recognition of his lifelong service to the utility construction industry, as well as his numerous contributions to the National Utility Contractors Association, Fred Chesney of Centerline Utilities Inc., Palm City, Florida, was recognized as the Ditchdigger of the Year by the association at its annual convention in March in San Antonio, Texas.
“Fred has passionately dedicated his time, talent and treasure to promoting NUCA and the industry for more than 30 years,” said Doug Carlson, NUCA Chief Executive Officer. “With his many years of commitment, it would be next to impossible to list all of Fred’s contributions to advancing the underground utility industry over the years, but Fred has made his mark on this industry and our association.”
Chesney has dedicated his entire life to the underground utility industry. Chesney earned his bachelor’s
degree from the University of Florida in Building Construction Management before starting his business Centerline Utilities Inc. four years later. He founded Centerline in 1980 and continued to serve as the company’s president until his retirement last year.
Under Chesney’s management, Centerline became a well-respected underground utility contractor located in the South Florida area. The company joined the local chapter NUCA of South Florida (then known as the Utility Contractors Association of South Florida) in 1986 and has been involved since then on the local, state, and national levels.
Chesney has been long involved in the industry’s associations, including on his local industry chapter. He served on that chapter’s board of directors beginning in 1989, and before assuming the chairman’s title for NUCA served as the national association’s Chairman-elect, Vice Chairman, and Secretary, and as a Contractor director since the early 2010s.
His industry accomplishments are numerous, proving his dedication to the utility contractors’ local and national associations over the last 40 years. Chesney’s Centerline Utility was named his local chapter’s Member Company of the Year in 2009 and 2010; Contractor of the Year in 2010, 2012, and 2014; and NUCA of Florida Contractor of the Year in 2016. He has been a major sponsor of his chapter’s events, actively recruits new member to the association, and has been an ever-present participant to NUCA’s Washington Summit lobbying events, national conventions, and industry meetings.
Most recently, Chesney served as the past chairman of NUCA National in 2020-21. He led the organization through the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and through his leadership expanded the ranks of the National Association with his NUCA+1 membership growth initiative. His knowledge of this industry and loyalty to NUCA is unmatched.
“When I first joined UCA of South Florida in the 1980s, it never occurred to me that 30 years later I would be Chairman of the national association,” Chesney said when he accepted the chairmanship. “But once you get involved with your local chapter and know what you can achieve as a volunteer, you realize how much you can give back to the industry that has given you so much.”
A focus of Chesney’s term as chairman was on increasing membership. He dubbed his growth campaign as NUCA+1 to encourage every NUCA member to recruit at least one new member during the course of the year. During his term, two new chapters were added, and the association reported a 5 percent increase in membership.
His chairmanship, however, was marked by the unexpected and unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic that altered businesses around the globe. NUCA’s emphasis shifted toward working with the federal government to ensure that the utility construction industry was deemed “essential.” Additionally, Chesney and the board oversaw a period of transitional leadership at the national level, which included the first year of Doug Carlson’s tenure as CEO.
His term as chairman not only saw increased growth while navigating the pandemic, it also helped set the stage for the future growth of the association.
This Ditchdigger of the Year Award is presented to a NUCA contractor member who has made a significant contribution to NUCA and the underground utility construction and excavation industry.
NUCA Ditchdiggers of the Year
1971 – Peter Ellis, Rockville, MD
1972 – Joe D’Annunzio, Scotch Plains, NJ
1973 – Sam Luciano, Hazlet, NJ
1974 – Fred Campagni, Cortland, NY
1975 – William Feather, Marlton, NJ
1976 – David Shevock, Dover, DE
1977 – Leonard Genghini, Elkins Park, PA
1978 – John Felton, Missoula, MT
1979 – Robert Griffith, Aldie, VA
1980 – Rick Egge, Woodinville, WA
1981 – D.A. Foster, Merifield, VA
1982 – Joe Corrado, New Castle, DE
1983 – Loretta Simmons, Rochester, NY
1984 – Vic DiGeronimo, Independence, OH
1985 – Leon Asadoorian, Salem, NH
1986 – Bill Burgett, Fredericktown, OH
1987 – Ben Luster, Tucson, AZ
1988 – Ed Cruz, Holmdel, NJ
1989 – Harold Ruf, Pleasant Grove, UT
1990 – Jay Matricciari, Baltimore, MD
1991 – Andy Mayta, Palm Harbor, FL
1992 – Gerry Kenny, Wheeling, IL
1993 – Harold Mueller, New Berlin, WI
1994 – Delaine Nelson, New Berlin, WI
1995 – Mark Harris, Lake Mary, FL
1996 – Richard Foster, Newtown, PA
1997 – Tom Henkels, New Berlin, WI
1998 – Mark Accetturo, Fairburn, GA
1999 – Jim Barron, Baltimore, MD
2000 – Jim Stutler, Denver, CO
2001 – Steve Theis, Rolling Meadows, IL
2002 – James King Jr., Conyers, GA
2003 – Greg Strudwick, Copell, TX
2004 – Lyle Schellenberg, Salem, OR
2005 – Terry Dillon, West Lafayette, IN
2006 – Cheryl Yoder, Jacksonville, FL
2007 – Larry Fortin, Las Vegas, NV
2008 – Jim Giannelli, Albuquerque, NM
2009 – Glenn Ely, Newtown, PA
2010 – Ryan Schmitt, Jacksonville, FL
2011 – Dan East, Dallas, TX
2012 – Ryan Schmitt, Jacksonville, FL
2013 – Jeff Rumer, Denver, CO
2014 – Florentino Gregorio, Washington, D.C.
2015 – Warren Graves, Roanoke, Texas
2016 – Bruce Wendorf, Punta Gorda, FL
2017 – Ryan Kinning, Pender, NE
2018 – Kara Habrock, Omaha, NE
2019 – Mark Fuglevand, Bellevue, WA
2020 – Dan Buckley, Chantilly, VA
2021 – Fred Chesney, Palm City, FL