January 2023 Vol. 78 No. 1


Rehab Technology Profile: NASSCO Standard Bearers Pete Kurz

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 Pete Kurz who embraced the ideals of NASSCO to become one of its staunchest supporters and effective memorable leaders. 


(UI) — I grew up in Bethesda, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C. That is where, in high school, I met my wife, Eileen. I attended the University of Maryland where I studied business administration.

During the first semester of my senior year, I suffered a ruptured appendix and would need to repeat the semester. After five years of dating Eileen, I had two choices after my recovery – go back to school or marry Eileen. I chose the latter and it was the best decision of my life. We were married in 1978 and now, 44 years later, we have five children, four grandchildren and are happier than ever. 

Early in my career I was a private contractor doing intellectual property research work. In 1986, with three children at the time, Eileen suggested that health insurance might be a good idea, so she encouraged me to find a job with better benefits to support our growing family. A mutual friend introduced me to Trevor Gardner with Atlantic Machinery, a company that sells sewer cleaners and other municipal equipment. That was my first entrance into the world of trenchless technology and the beginning of my very long career. 

While sales was never something that particularly interested me, my education in business administration primed me for this new role and I worked in technical sales for Atlantic Machinery until 1990. Around that time, it became clear that my family needed to move to an area with a lower cost of living than Washington, D.C. Eileen worked at home raising our children, and a single income for a family like ours was not something easy to maintain in our nation’s capital, so we moved to Richmond, Va. 

In 1990 I went to work for Virginia Public Works Equipment, now ISG, where I sold Vactor equipment. After working there for 10 years, I moved on to Tri-State Utilities, a lining contractor. 

I took a short detour when I went to work with Envirosight in 2012 to get back into the equipment side of things, but returned to ISG in 2015 as sales manager. I love the opportunity to coach and train people by passing along my past experiences and knowledge of the industry, and I remain in this role today. 

Discovering NASSCO 

During my time at Tri-State is when I first learned of NASSCO. Tri-State was just getting into the lining business and had connections with former NASSCO Presidents Jack Conte III [1997–1999] and Steve Gearhart [2000–2001]. So off I went to NASSCO’s 2002 Annual Conference at Sanibel Harbor Resort & Spa in Fort Myers, Fla. I walked in and felt completely lost; I had no clue what was going on. Then I met Irv Gemora, who served as NASSCO’s executive director from 2002–2010. With his easy, approachable style, quick wit and welcoming manner, Irv made me feel right at home. 

After my introduction to NASSCO at that annual conference I jumped right in and got involved as much as I could with committee work. The ability to network and contribute was a perfect platform to help me meet new people, understand emerging technologies, and contribute to NASSCO’s mission to set standards for the assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure in a personal and meaningful way. 

Irv always made a huge impression on me because of his ability to get things done. He identified issues, took charge, and really knew how to delegate. In fact, this is what impressed me then, and continues to impress me today. NASSCO accomplishments are never because of one person – everything is a team effort by individuals who truly care about the industry and do what is right, even when it means rolling up your sleeves and working side-by-side with your competitors. 

At the 2010 Annual Conference at Don Shula’s Hotel and Golf Club in Miami Lakes, Fla., I ran into Irv taking a break outside, smoking one of his trademark cigars. Irv knew his time at NASSCO would soon be coming to an end and he was really putting on the pressure for me and others to get more involved. Little did I know how much that prodding to get involved in NASSCO would change my life both professionally and personally. I owe so much to Irv, and with his recent passing I continue to mourn my dear friend. 

I turned a corner then, thanks to Irv, and got more involved in NASSCO. In 2011 I was elected to NASSCO’s Board of Directors. At this time NASSCO was being led by Ted Deboda, who served as executive director from 2010–2018. Ted’s vision included strategic planning to develop a solid path for NASSCO’s future. My first year on the board, we had a strategic planning session in Los Angeles that lasted three days, and it was brutal. It was, however, another turning point for me and for the organization. Having a solid strategy made the board a more cohesive unit, brought us together with common goals, and gave us purpose.  

Natural growth 

One of the unique things about NASSCO is that it is very organic, by design. The organization, as a whole, accomplishes so very much, but rarely, if ever, can credit be given to a single individual. I believe that is because its members are truly in it for the right reasons. Truly awesome ideas that came up in Board meetings were grown organically over a period of time and often they evolved into committee goals. This allows NASSCO members from very diverse backgrounds – contractors, system owners, engineers and suppliers – to weigh in and develop ideas into training, technical resources or advocacy that benefit the entire industry. 

A great example of this was when, in 2015, Mark Metcalfe served as president of the board, and brought up the idea of yearly financial audits. He had experience running a reputable corporation and saw how NASSCO was growing into a major industry player, and the need for us to get a handle on that growth. The audit was Mark’s idea, but the entire board accepted, acted upon it, and made it happen. Regular financial audits or reviews are now written in the NASSCO Bylaws and Mark’s idea has become a foundational requirement to ensure NASSCO’s continuing financial integrity and growth. 

During my last year as president, it was important to me to make sure one very important NASSCO initiative was ushered in, and that was government relations. There had been talk over the years regarding what NASSCO’s role should or should not be. But as a 501 c (6) organization, it is our responsibility to be the industry voice and advocate for our members in Washington, D.C. 

In 2017 Ted introduced us to Steve Dye, who had been serving as a government relations consultant for WEF. With his deep understanding of the industry, Steve brought to NASSCO the knowledge of legislature, logistics and communications to help our members express NASSCO’s key policy recommendations to increase funding for underground infrastructure. I consider this an extremely important and effective way for NASSCO to serve its members and the entire industry.  

While I may have missed out on my last two semesters of college, serving on NASSCO’s Board was an education perhaps even more valuable to my career. At times I almost felt guilty because, while I did put a lot of time and effort into my role, I personally gained so much more from the experience than I feel I gave. 

My time on the NASSCO Board felt like graduate school – I came away from the experience feeling as though I had a competitive edge. The relationships you develop within NASSCO are also a true gift. As a member of NASSCO’s board, and even being highly involved in NASSCO committees, you get to know some really good people from every sector of the industry. My experience at NASSCO truly changed me. 

After my service to NASSCO as president, I decided to take a break from leadership. I believe that effectiveness only lasts so long, and since I truly care about the future of NASSCO, it was important to me that new, fresh ideas be cultivated among the board and committees. When I look at NASSCO’s membership roster today, I don’t know most of the names, and that is fantastic. 

New directions 

I am excited about the future of NASSCO. Going back to leadership of our executive directors, Irv brought exactly what NASSCO needed in the early 2000s, as he was instrumental in getting PACP, launched in 2002, off the ground. Not only did Irv get it off the ground, but he also helped make it the national standard, giving NASSCO the reputation it enjoys today as the leading industry association. As mentioned before, Ted stepped in next to manage that growth by ensuring there was organization and a solid plan to handle the explosion of PACP and NASSCO’s other training programs, including ITCP. 

When Ted left in 2018, I was serving as NASSCO’s president and was very much involved in the search for a new executive director. It became clear that we needed someone to lead our organization who knew how to run a small business, understood the nuances of a 501 c (6) trade association, and had a good understanding of all trenchless technologies. Sheila Joy fit that bill and her transition into this role was seamless. Much of that credit can be given, in part, to Mark Metcalfe and his willingness to serve as interim executive director as we searched for the right executive director to take us into the next few years. 

Since Sheila took the role as executive director in 2018, NASSCO’s entire business model has changed. All NASSCO training programs including PACP, LACP, MACP and ITCP, are managed on the NASSCO website, with students finding sessions, registering for classes, paying fees, downloading certificates, and even taking the classes and exams virtually or in-person. This model and the technology used to deliver courses, opens doors for other NASSCO training programs, including the recently launched NASSCO Grout Safety Training Program and a NASSCO Certification Program for Drain Cleaning, which will be launched in 2024, with other training programs in development. 

NASSCO committees are also making major headway through advocacy in Washington D.C., in the development of workforce development initiatives, curriculum to help close the skilled trades gap, and by supporting young professionals through our scholarship programs – not to mention the many, exciting advancements in technology and standards being developed by our member companies. 

As we look to the future, we also look to the past. Over the last couple of years, NASSCO has worked hard to engage our past presidents, and I am honored to be part of the group. The advancements made in recent years by NASSCO would not be possible without the sparks of ideas and ingenuity that came from our board and other NASSCO members in years past. To remember and acknowledge their contributions honors them and our industry.

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