November 2023 Vol. 78 No.11


Russ Ford named 2024 MVP of underground infrastructure industry

(UI) — Russ Ford, a noted infrastructure expert, has been selected as the Most Valuable Professional of the underground infrastructure industry for 2024.


Ford, a senior associate at Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. (LAN), will be honored at a special luncheon on March 19, 2024, at the Oklahoma City Convention Center, in conjunction with the annual Underground Infrastructure Conference (UIC). The award is co-sponsored by the Underground Construction Technology Association (UCTA) and Underground Infrastructure magazine. 

Ford, who resides near the Bryan, Texas, area, has a 41-year career of progressive engineering, supervisory/managerial, and administrative/executive experience involving the various aspects of municipal planning, operations, design, construction and management, in the water/wastewater transportation and treatment, stormwater drainage and raw water transmission segments. 

Robert Carpenter, editor-in-chief of Underground Infrastructure magazine, recently made the announcement on behalf of the UCTA and the magazine. 

“Not only has Russ been invaluable in aiding municipalities accomplish great things with their projects, but he has also been a significant driver and supporter of the UCTA and instrumental in starting the North Texas and South Texas chapters,” Carpenter pointed out. “He remains an integral part of the UCTA today. 

“Through the years, Russ also served a critical role in working with the UIC program committee to bring valuable and beneficial information to attendees.” 

Industry kudos 

According to Gary Oradat, executive manager, planning, design and construction administration for the Trinity River Authority and previous MVP awardee (2022), “Russ was involved with UCT at its very beginning. It’s hard to think of anyone who has been more involved in advocating for new (and better) pipeline products and construction methods which, at the time, were considered innovative. His recognition as MVP is more than deserving and I extend my sincerest congratulations for this honor.” 

Ford graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in construction science. From the start of his career, he envisioned a world of serving communities, building quality infrastructure, safeguarding the client’s best interest and championing a culture of excellence. 

“Russ has always had a vision to build and change infrastructure for the better,” said Wayne Swafford, president of LAN. “Ford actively participates in the company’s business development. He sees the benefits of innovative solutions for an extensive range of civil engineering projects. He’s played an influential role in making sure we’re delivering the best water and wastewater treatment plants, water storage facilities, and pump stations, among other high-profile projects.” 

Ford’s expertise is not just confined to the construction site; he is an expert in piping materials, a skill honed through both hands-on construction projects and strategic sales of pipe products. 

“His deep understanding and practical knowledge of various materials have positioned him well in our industry,” added Steve Gilbreath, LAN’s chief operating officer. “He’s a trusted advisor, ensuring that every project he touches meets and even exceeds expectations.” 

At the heart of Ford’s work is his unwavering commitment to his clients. He possesses a proven ability to deliver cost-effective solutions without compromising on quality, ensuring that every dollar spent is an investment towards long-lasting and reliable infrastructure. 

“As a colleague,” Gilbreath continued, “his leadership extends to his ability to recruit, direct and supervise a talented pool of design engineers, technicians, and consultants, fostering a collaborative and high-performing work environment.” 

Ford’s project portfolio is as diverse as it is impressive, featuring extensive infrastructure work with both municipalities and governmental agencies across Texas and beyond. Cities like Laredo, Galveston, Houston and numerous others bear the mark of his expertise, with projects that not only meet the needs of today but also lay a strong foundation for the future. 

A native of Waco, Texas, Ford served as president of the board of the Gulf Coast Trenchless Association (predecessor to UCTA), and now serves as the South Texas chapter liaison to the National Board and is on the steering committee for the annual UIC event. 

“It is a lifetime achievement award,” stressed Ford, on being named MVP. “The previous recipients are truly a who’s who of the underground industry. To even be considered in the same sentence as them is the highest honor I can imagine.” 

Diverse career 

Ford described his professional path as diverse with direction from several industry leaders. “I began work as an engineer tech and loved surveying. I worked under industry experts such as John Barton building plants and he trained me to be an estimator of underground piping systems which led to a career in the piping industry. 

“Being in Houston in the late 1980s during the greater Houston wastewater program, with solutions to trenchless construction, elevated my career quickly. It never hurts to be in the right place,” he pointed out. 

“I was surrounded by experts, and I learned everything I could. Gary Oradat lifted me up on his shoulders and guided my career. In 2002, I was having lunch with a client, Tony Boyd, who was in charge of the Houston Surface Water Program. Tony asked if I ever thought about coming to the dark side of the force, the engineering business. I reminded him that I was not a P.E. He told me that he had tons of designers who were top notch. He needed someone to connect the problems and the problem solvers. I have been doing just that for 20 years.” 

Ford continues to be an avid supporter of UCTA. “As president of the Gulf Coast Trenchless association in the 1990s, I worked with key people to envision UCTA as a national nonprofit to advance knowledge, support education and offer networking opportunities. UCTA currently has chapters in North Texas, Gulf Coast, Arizona, and South Texas. The association continues to grow in many directions.” 

Many people have influenced his career. “I would thank my mentors who I credit for my successful career. They include John Barton, Cleo Whitlock II, and Tony Boyd. The information they have taught me is invaluable. 

“My wife Vickie is my biggest cheerleader. I thank her for coaching me. Thank you to my friends, who have lifted me up on their shoulders and made me look really smart on occasion.”

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