September 2020 Vol. 75 No. 9

Rehab Technology

NASSCO Standard Bearers: Kay Doheny

NASSCO continues to set standards for the assessment and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure. A vast array of individuals has contributed to the success of the association, both in the past and present, that has driven NASSCO’s industry mission. This series of articles recognizes those who have not only been critical to the success of NASSCO, but the industry as well.

This month, we profile Kay Doheny, part of a major legacy success story from Jack Doheny Companies. Her dedication to the sewer cleaning and rehabilitation industry and fervent enthusiasm for the mission of NASSCO have made significant positive impacts upon the market.

My story is hard to share without mentioning my father, Jack Doheny. I say this because he was so much more than my “Dad.” He was my mentor, a smart and strong leader who grew my knowledge, appreciation and love of this industry.

My father got started in the business when his family left Wisconsin in 1948 and headed to Chicago – where I was born – to become a salesman for O’Brien Manufacturing. The company was owned by my great-aunt and great-uncle who invented the first power sewer cleaner that was ever built, and the rest is history.

In the late 1970s, our family relocated to Northville, Mich., where my dad started his own brick and mortar company known today as Jack Doheny Company (JDC). I earned my Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration with a major in Marketing from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. Then I moved to Arizona where I put my degree to work as a sales representative for the national paper supplier, Jim Walter Papers Inc.

After about a year of settling into the Arizona lifestyle I wanted to use my hard-earned money to either buy a boat or a condo. Whenever big decisions had to be made, I always consulted with my dad, so I called him for his advice and he said, “Don’t do anything until I get there!” I loved his response – I thought it was awesome that he was so excited and was flying out to help me!

I was wrong. He was coming to meet with me face-to-face because he wanted me to move to Michigan and work in the family business. I didn’t think twice. It was May of 1984 and within a couple of weeks I had packed up, moved to Michigan and have been there ever since.

At that point, JDC was relatively small, about 30 employees. It is not always easy to work in a family business, but my dad and I had a great relationship and I knew (and kept) my boundaries. We were joined at the hip and I was able to learn the best from the best. Although I had my own office, I spent about 50 percent of my time in his office with dad patiently teaching me the ins and outs of our business, preparing me to lead JDC into the future. Today, we are 200-plus people strong and distinguish ourselves by our collective, comprehensive industry knowledge and years of expertise: Doheny Know-How.

My first role at JDC was to provide administrative support to the Jet-Vac sales team. Over time I also supported accounting, managed vendor relations and jumped in wherever I was needed. When NASSCO’s PACP was launched in the early 2000s my focus shifted to industry relations, conferences and networking. When my dad passed away in 2016, I moved up from executive vice president to the role of president. Seeing the need to expand the business by bringing in fresh perspectives from outside talent, we hired Steve Shafer to assume the role of president and I took over as CEO.

I honestly thought my dad would always be here. He loved his work and he loved this industry, having also been named a NASSCO Standard Bearer. In fact, if he hadn’t succumbed to Parkinson’s Disease, I believe he would still be working today. Our team works hard carrying on the fundamentals and high standards my dad established. And in that way, my dad is still here with us.

Over the years I saw first-hand how industry standards were not being followed – or, in some cases, were non-existent – and how cities and other system owners were not benefiting from preventive maintenance. I wanted to do everything I could to help set those standards and build awareness of the need to properly inspect critical infrastructure, so I turned to NASSCO and its mission. While my dad had been involved in NASSCO for many years, I did not jump in feet first until 2010, when I attended the Annual Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Soon after joining I was nominated to the Board of Directors and worked my way up to become president of NASSCO from 2016–2017, as it entered its 40th year. I was honored to follow in the footsteps of NASSCO’s first female president, Kathy Romans (2011–2012) and Joan Stone (2013–2014), indicative of how NASSCO has evolved into an organization that is much more inclusive.

Speaking of inclusivity, while NASSCO is still primarily a contractor organization, it has also opened its doors to include public agencies, consulting engineers and vendors to provide a well-balanced mix of industry specialties and interests that mirror the underground infrastructure world as a whole. The benefit of having this diverse membership base is that all specifications, technical resources, and other educational and advocacy initiatives are represented by experts from every segment, delivering excellent support to members and our entire industry.

In addition to the organization becoming more inclusive, I have seen NASSCO do a great job of building awareness through clear messaging surrounding its mission and benefits to members. I have also witnessed the various NASSCO Committees becoming better organized to reach their goals through active involvement and productivity, which has reached unbelievably high levels.

NASSCO Committees have also expanded to stay current with industry trends to represent all segments. The three new committees that come to mind are Government Relations, Health and Safety, and Workforce Development. While not purely technical in nature, these three areas are critical to funding underground infrastructure, keeping our workers and communities safe, and ensuring we can fill the skilled trade gap through education, respectively.

The former is so important to me, in fact, that I have volunteered to serve as co-chair this year on NASSCO’s Workforce Development Committee. Working as a national partner with SkillsUSA, this important Committee is busy developing curriculum for trenchless rehabilitation technicians.

As I look to the future of NASSCO, my hope is that, together, we continue on the path of inclusiveness and recognition of all aspects of our industry, because everyone identifies with different areas of importance. For me, it is safety and workforce development. For you, it may be something else, but with 12 highly active NASSCO Committees there is something for everyone. The higher our levels of involvement, the more we can make a true and lasting impact on the future of underground infrastructure and set standards for assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation. •

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