Ditchdigger of the Year: Dan Buckley

Dan Buckley and former Ditchdiggers
Buckley joined with former Ditchdiggers of the Year: Jeff Rumer (2013), Kara Habrock (2018) and Mark Fuglevand (2019).

To be successful in business, and in life, one needs to be able to navigate change. Periods of change can be challenging—sometimes even scary—but they also represent new opportunities. In 2019, Dan Buckley experienced firsthand the challenges and opportunities that come with change.

In January 2019, he had accepted a new position with Garney Construction to help grow the company’s presence in the Mid-Atlantic region. In March, he was sworn in as NUCA’s Chairman of the Board, during a year in which the association transitioned to a new CEO — a process that lasted the better part of a year.

Buckley, a DC area resident, attended weekly in person meetings at NUCA’s headquarters in Northern Virginia throughout the process. He provided a steady hand as the organization positioned itself for the future. In addition to his presence at the NUCA office, Buckley also made trips to many local chapters, keeping them apprised of the process and providing assurance that the association was moving in the right direction.

Buckley and his wife, Dianne
Buckley and his wife, Dianne, celebrate a long day of successful lobbying in Washington, D.C.

“2019 was certainly an eventful year,” Buckley recalls. “When the CEO resigned, the board of directors immediately executed NUCA’s succession plan. It was a long process, but our focus was making sure that the association was being guided in the right direction.” The board eventually hired Doug Carlson as the new CEO in early 2020, about the time that Buckley’s term as chairman was ending.

For his dedicated service over this past decade, Buckley was recognized as the 2020 Ditchdigger of the Year at NUCA’s Annual Convention & Exhibit, held February 4-6, 2021 at the Naples Grand Beach Resort in Naples, Florida. The Ditchdigger of the Year is presented annually to a contractor member who has made a significant contribution to NUCA and the underground utility construction and excavation industry.

“Being recognized as Ditchdigger of the Year is truly an honor,” Buckley says. “It’s nice to be recognized for all of the time and effort that I’ve put into the organization over the years, and to be included among a group of men and women that I have always respected.”

Overlooking the White House from a rooftop restaurant.

“An even greater honor and privilege is representing the real ditchdiggers—the ladies and gentlemen who are in the field doing the work. They are the ones who put in the hard, tough work, every day, they are the ones who risk their lives, and they are the ones who make our companies profitable. I humbly and proudly represent those individuals out in the field.”

Buckley also credits his wife, Dianne, with providing the support needed to balance his job, volunteer activities, and personal life. “None of it would have been possible without the support of my wife. She is a true construction wife. She has endured the 2 a.m. phone calls, the 6 a.m. meetings, and the 11:30 p.m. networking events … all of the volunteering I have done for my industry over the past 20 years, she has supported.”

Buckley in the Rayburn House Office Building
Buckley in the Rayburn House Office Building for the U.S. House of Representatives,
continuing his lobbying efforts.

Buckley’s long association with NUCA began at the local level with NUCA of DC, where he was a founding member in 2011 and served as President from 2014-2016. At NUCA of DC, he was instrumental in recruiting nearly 40 new member companies to join the fledgling association.

Getting involved at the national level was the next logical step, and Buckley began serving on the Board of Directors in 2012. A couple years later at a NUCA Leadership Conference in Newport, Rhode Island, Buckley was approached by former Chairman Ron Nunes and Vice Chair Jeff Rumer and was asked to step up his participation to the Executive Committee. He accepted and eventually rose through the ranks to the role of Chairman.

Thinking back on his involvement with NUCA, Buckley, like many others, cites the relationships and friendships formed through the years, but also says that the knowledge taken away from events is invaluable. “The relationships are priceless, of course, but the ideas and information I was able to gather and take back and implement into my companies was immense, whether it was at a roundtable, committee meeting, or social event.” Lobbying on Capitol Hill, which he has done for years, for Clean Water, WIFIA, and SRF funding, combating overreaching regulations such as WOTUS, Silica, and PLAs has also been an extremely important part of Buckley’s fight for the Utility Industry. It is imperative to reach our Congressional delegations and impart our knowledge and weight of the needs of our communities and employees. At Garney, Buckley participates on the company’s Government Relations Council.

Buckley, as Past President of NUCA DC, enjoys a baseball game with National Partner Ferguson’s Pat Burke, Jeff Ferguson, Dave Burgess (retired) and Greg Leonard.
Buckley, as Past President of NUCA DC, enjoys a baseball game with National Partner Ferguson’s Pat Burke,
Jeff Ferguson, Dave Burgess (retired) and Greg Leonard.

With his term as Chairman over, Buckley has had time to focus on his role as Preconstruction Executive-Mid-Atlantic for Garney Construction. Buckley says one of the things that attracted him to Garney was the firm’s experience in, and focus on, collaborative delivery projects, most notably Design-Build.

“Garney has an amazing reputation for exceeding client expectations,” Buckley says. “And one of the things that really attracted me to them was the fact that they are so heavily involved in design-build and collaborative delivery. I had been involved with multiple design-build projects over the years, and I love that project delivery method. I like that you are able to guide the design—that you are able to give input and collaborate with the designer and owner before the drawings are complete. It really helps to spark creativity, teamwork, and deliver superior results.”

“Working for an employee-owned company that focuses on design build project delivery has long been a goal, especially with the amount of design-build procurement growth currently taking place in the Mid-Atlantic area. A few years ago I noticed there were more design-build projects coming out in Washington, D.C., Richmond, Hampton Roads, and the Baltimore areas, and I wanted join a company that understood Design Build and was leading the way for it within the market. I was welcomed to Garney Construction by Steve Ford and Jordan Carrier, as their business development preconstruction executive Mid-Atlantic Region and supported in my role as Chairman of Board of NUCA.”

NUCA Ditchdiggers of the Year

Kansas City-based Garney, an 100% Employee-Owned Company, is among the largest contractors in the United States that pursues collaborative delivery work in the water and wastewater sector. The company has completed more than 900 Alternative Delivery projects, over 470 Collaborative Delivery Projects and over 225 Design-Build Projects. Operating in 32+ states, Garney builds over $1 billion in water related projects each year and is ranked No. 1 in ENR’s list of Water Supply Contractors and No. 2 on its list of Top All-Environmental Firms.

With his role, Buckley obtained a Design-Build Institute of America’s DBIA certification. “This has been a whole new world for me,” Buckley says. “I used to pursue mostly hard bid work, and now I have the ability to pursue private and utility work in a collaborative environment. It really fits my personality.”

With Garney well established in the water/wastewater market, Buckley is optimistic about its prospects for the future, and for the future of the market as a whole. “Water/wastewater will probably be the most sought-after commodity in the next 20 years. Access to clean water is critical, and yet its funding is constantly overlooked. The COVID Pandemic reinforced my conviction that we can live for a week without roads, bridges, or even power, but we cannot survive without water, clean water. It has never been a more important time to advance water infrastructure and thus become better stewards to our environment.”

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