Four of the Houston Commercial Construction Industry’s finest leaders chose to retire in 2021, men who made enormous contributions to the industry. In addition to excelling in their roles and companies, they were each servant leaders, in the truest sense of that word. They set a standard of leading through serving that inspired many others. Predictably, they fulfilled their final critical duty. Each left a trained, highly competent successor in place. We salute them in the order they stepped away.
Chuck Gremillion retired as the Executive Director of the Construction Career Collaborative (C3), a nonprofit alliance of building owners, general contractors, specialty contractors, design professionals, and construction trade associations working together to establish a safe, skilled, and sustainable workforce for the commercial construction industry. This unique organization, established in 2009, is critical to building the workforce of the future. When this promising new venture needed a proven full-time leader, Chuck Gremillion was the unanimous choice of the impressive and knowledgeable C3 Board, and their timing was fortuitous. Everyone knew Chuck from his leadership of A&E-The Graphics Complex, a family business, that he and his four brothers sold to Thomas Reprographics in 2007. During the time Chuck served as President, A&E won prestigious awards from the Baugh Center at Baylor University and from the Greater Houston Partnership. The company was also regularly named as a best place to work, both in Houston and in Texas. Additionally, the company was admired and appreciated by all industry leaders and groups for their passionate support of initiatives that elevated the construction industry and its people. He and his brothers regularly gave time, talent, and treasure to programs that improved the industry. Chuck served as Regional President for Thomas Reprographics until he retired in 2012. The industry was the winner when, in February 2014, he accepted the C3 Board’s invite to lead the start-up’s development. It is now a thriving organization with over 280 participating companies, an exceptional board, and a professional staff offering multiple training and support services. Angela Robbins Taylor, Chuck’s successor, is highly qualified to take the organization forward. Chuck and his wife Janna, Katy residents, have 4 children and 5 grandchildren. Chuck will continue to serve on the Board of Directors of Catholic Charities and Pallidus Dei, a parish-based organization. Chuck Gremillion, humble, smart, and authentic, demonstrates the absolute truth that leaders with values, character, and competency lead successfully in all settings.
Byron Wake retired from MAREK this year too, where he served as treasurer and ran the Marek Family Foundation. Byron, a graduate of Baylor and a CPA, spent his career primarily involved with the financial side of business. After time with Arthur Andersen, he joined H.A. Lott, the company that built the Astrodome, serving many years as their CFO. But Byron also displayed significant top-level leadership skills and his fellow shareholders elected him chairman of their holding company. In addition, he served as national president of the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA), after helping form the Houston Chapter (CFMA). He also served as a director of Houston AGC. At MAREK, he earned the respect of all family members and had an enormous impact both on their financial operations and on the charitable institutions they support. Stan Marek, CEO, offers the following comments: “Many words come to mind when thinking of Byron. Number one is integrity, total trust! Number two is competency. When he shares something, you know he is right. The third is compassion. You can feel his concern for others.” These qualities made Byron the ideal man to become chairman of Santa Maria Hostel, an organization whose primary clients are homeless women with children, often also addicted and with AIDS. People discarded by most. But the three Marek Brothers, John, Bill, and Ralph, left on the streets themselves during the depression, made assisting the homeless their lifelong mission, one now carried forward by their children Stan, Bruce, and Paul through the St Vincent DePaul Society and Santa Maria Hostel. The Mareks, with the help of friends, built a 100-room apartment complex, Bonita House of Hope, now part of Santa Maria Hostel, where women go from homelessness to restored dignity and gainful employment. Byron shepherded this program, serving as CEO during its growth years. This pleasant, competent, and highly talented man leaves in place a very capable successor, Andrew Hussmann. Byron and his wife Sandy will travel and spend time with grandchildren. They both are very active with Animeals, delivering food to the pets of seniors who get Meals on Wheels. And Byron, an avid competitive tennis player will devote more time to his game.
Graham Moore retired at the end of 2021 as Regional President of TD Industries, a large facilities maintenance and mechanical construction company founded in 1946 that operates primarily in Texas and Arizona. Graham, a plumber’s son from Richardson, Texas, graduated from Texas A&M and taught industrial arts at Vines High School in Plano before joining TD In 1979. He was an immediate fit with their strong, institutionalized “Servant Leader” culture. All TD Leaders are formally trained in this leadership philosophy developed by Robert Greenleaf while at AT&T. Graham rose steadily through the ranks with an ever-expanding portfolio of responsibilities. He moved from Project Manager to Manager of Engineering and Manufacturing, to Regional Manager, to Vice President, to Senior Vice-President, and ultimately to Regional President over the arc of his 42 years at TD. He also served several terms on TD’s Board of Directors. His career is rare and remarkable considering today’s practice of building a career through multiple job changes. The great culture at TD industries engenders commitment with its foundation in employee ownership, mandatory annual continuing education, and leaders who serve their partners in a way that inspires the people they lead to become leaders. Graham’s legacy is of continuous contribution, with an additional accolade for being a trailblazer in promoting women, minorities, and immigrants to high levels of responsibility. Nikki Watson, Senior Vice President of the Houston Region (Graham’s successor here), Randee Herrin, Corporate Senior Vice President of Manufacturing and Technology, Laura Price Gautreaux, Vice-President in Austin, and Ronell Peters and Tasos Banos, Senior Vice Presidents in Houston, are examples. Graham’s strong leadership talents also served the industry and the community. He was elected to the boards of both Associated General Contractors and Associated Builders and Contractors and was chairman of the board of Spaulding for Children, one of Houston’s most respected private foster care and adoption agencies. He also served on boards of several other plumbing regulating groups. More recently, he joined the board of Chamberlin Roofing and Waterproofing in Houston. He and his wife Terri have three children and look forward to finishing their retirement home in historic Granbury and spending more time at their Casita Del Rio near Waco. All who have experienced this savvy, understated, affable man’s exceptional leadership abilities stand and salute as he exits.
Another high-achieving leader who retired at the end of 2021 was Jerry Nevlud, CEO of the Associated General Contractors Houston Chapter. Jerry Joined AGC in 2000 and became CEO in September of 2004. Jerry, one of 8 children, grew up in a construction home. His dad, a multi-craft worker (carpenter/ ceiling man) spent his entire career with MAREK. Jerry worked for MAREK for 15 years, ultimately running their Austin office. His brothers Phil, (35 years) and Paul (47 years), have worked for MAREK their entire careers too. His two younger brothers both worked there for shorter periods too. In his remarks at a retirement celebration, he honored his dad, craftwork, and MAREK, saying “My dad raised 8 children working as a craftworker for a caring employer.” Jerry graduated from St. Pius High School and from the University of Texas. He has made impactful contributions to the industry while at AGC. He provided many more opportunities for young professionals to get involved in the chapter, creating future leaders to preserve and enhance the industry and community responsibilities of AGC. He reorganized the committee structure and energized the political action, education, and communications initiatives, and expanded the use of social media. He spearheaded the chapter’s seminal activities to launch Construction Career Collaborative (C3). Perhaps his greatest accomplishment, for which he modestly claims little credit, was the organization of the multi-association coalition that successfully persuaded Mayor Turner and Judge Hidalgo to declare the industry “essential.” The surgical spotlight of history will accentuate how important this carefully choreographed moment was. It is the only time since the founding of Houston in 1836 that the industry faced the very real possibility of being governmentally banned from putting work in place, a scenario with consequences too dire to envision. Jerry’s leadership skills, like these other men’s, are consistently recognized and constantly sought. He was elected to head the Executive Leadership Council comprised of the hired leaders in all AGC Chapters. He is on the Advisory Board of Catholic Charities, having served his term as a director, and in an “old grad makes good” development, he remains on the board of St. Pius High school, where he was the past chairman. Jerry and his wife Gail have two sons, Stephen and Nathan, and a grandson, Sutton, who stole the show at his retirement celebration. They will be spending time at their new place in Hallettsville where both families have their roots, and on their many Catholic ministries. Jerry leaves the chapter in great hands. His successor is Kyle Holland, an Aggie and an experienced project executive who has been active in AGC as a volunteer since college. Jerry, predictably, leaves the chapter in terrific shape.
What did these exceptional men, very different in many aspects, have in common? Certainly, they had leadership opportunities and leadership competencies. But the true differentiator was they each had leadership character. They were unwaveringly clear about their “True North.” They are, to use the wonderful phrase spoken by the current Senate Chaplain Retired Rear Admiral Barry Black to honor the Doles, “ethically congruent” throughout their lives. They have earned from this industry, the farewell tribute that Winston Churchill gave to his World War II War Cabinet Members, “The light of history will shine on all your helmets.”