April 2022 Vol. 77 No. 4


A quiet industry giant takes a humble bow

By Jeff Awalt, Executive Editor

To understand the affection an entire industry can seemingly have for an individual, one only needed to walk into the large ballroom of the Fort Worth Convention Center on Jan. 25. 

MVP winner Gary Oradat addresses the sold-out crowd. 
MVP winner Gary Oradat addresses the sold-out crowd. 

There had been concerns that attendance might lag at the in-person Underground Construction Technology Conference (UCT) as a new variant of Covid-19 raised fresh concerns about air travel and large events. But those fears proved unfounded, as attendance exceeded expectations. 

And nowhere was that more evident than at the luncheon honoring Gary N. Oradat as the Most Valuable Professional of the underground infrastructure industry for 2022. The biggest crowd in MVP Award history came to pay homage to Oradat, applauding not just his exemplary career, but the success of the many professionals he mentored over the past 45 years. 

“I met Gary Oradat back in 1988, and he has guided and helped me through my career,” said Russ Ford of Lockwood Andrews & Newman, recalling a sign that he noticed in Oradat’s office at that first meeting. “It said something like, ‘Don’t interrupt the guy doing the job to tell him that it can’t be done.’ And through his entire career, that’s who Gary has been.” 

Oradat has been continuously involved in the underground infrastructure construction and rehabilitation industry since graduating from Texas A&M University in 1975. He got his first engineering job at Dallas Water Utilities, and that experience landed him an Engineer III job in Houston’s Public Works and Engineering Department. He spent 23 years in the department, rising to the position of deputy director before retiring in 2004 and becoming chief engineer at the Coastal Water Authority, where he advanced to executive director. 

“Winston Churchill once said, ‘History will be kind to me for I intend to write it,’” said Tony Almeida of Halff Associates, the MVP for 2013. “And that’s exactly what Gary has done. He wrote his own story, and that is what makes his story so remarkable. 

“When I was asked to introduce this year’s most valuable award recipient, I felt honored and humbled,” Almeida added before introducing Oradat at his award presentation. “How do you do justice to someone who has been recognized by their peers to be worthy of such an honor?” 

After leaving CWA in 2011, Oradat founded an engineering consultancy and served as water utilities practice lead with Halff Associates, then joined the Trinity River Authority (TRA) in 2019 as executive manager of the newly formed Planning, Design and Construction Administration team. 

Oradat, who lives in Fort Worth-area city of North Richland Hills, has been involved during his career in virtually every aspect of municipal planning, operations, design, construction and management of water and wastewater transportation and treatment, stormwater drainage and raw water transmission segments. 

His professional involvement includes serving as past chairman for the American Society for Testing and Materials-Plastic Piping Systems Committee. He remains an active member of several subcommittees, including sewer, trenchless technology and reinforced plastic piping systems. 

He is also a past board member of the Underground Construction Technology Association’s Gulf Coast chapter. In addition, he is currently a member of the American Public Works Association and the Society of American Military Engineers, and a registered professional engineer in Texas and Louisiana. 

“Gary has always been generous with his professional advice and counsel, not only to me, but most notably to young professionals. He was generous with his time and effort to give the effort to develop talent in any organization which he worked,” Almeida said. 

“His career in this industry can be stated in four words: Fortune favors the bold,” he added, before the presentation of Oradat’s award. “He deserves this honor because he made a bold difference using his talent and passion, and we are all benefactors of his story.” 

As others lauded his positive impact on people, Oradat thanked and recognized those who contributed to his own success. 

“The great thing about being the age I’m at now is that I can look back over a long history and see where the good Lord put people in my life to open doors – moved me here, moved me there,” Oradat said. “And so, all of you in one way or another played a role in whatever I’ve been able to achieve.” 

He thanked many people by name, starting with his family, and singled out Dr. Marsh Rice, the director of the Dallas water department when he started work there and an important role model for his career. 

“He was a very good mentor. And what that taught me was that, when you get to a certain stage in your career, it’s good to be a mentor to those that are coming up behind you,” Oradat said. “Don’t underestimate the influence you can have on someone’s career.” 

Sounding almost surprised by his own success, he credited everyone around him. 

“I had the kind of career that I never thought would have been possible. I can honestly say I achieved everything that I started out to achieve,” Oradat said, naming numerous people he worked and learned from along the way. 

“I want each of you to understand that I am here because of the influence and the help and the support that you’ve given me over the years. No one is more cognizant of that help than I am. Truly, I stand on your shoulders.” 

The annual MVP Award is co-sponsored by the Underground Construction Technology Association and Underground Construction magazine and presented in conjunction with the UCT Conference. • 


2022 Most Valuable Professional Gary Oradat 

Presenting the MVP were: Mike Shelton, UCTA Gulf Coast Past President; Gary Oradat, 2022 MVP Awardee; Lauren Kubin, UCTA North Texas President; Justin Reeves, UCTA National President; Robert Carpenter, Underground Construction magazine. 

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