“Most importantly, though, we want to influence the future,” he said.
That includes working with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to maximize record levels of construction funding.
In addition, “I’d like to see more younger people, women, and minorities become involved in AGC activities and work toward leadership roles,” Casteel said.
Throughout his career, Casteel has helped others advance. Before his current position as Vice President of Williams Brothers Construction Co., Inc., based in Houston, he spent 28 years with TxDOT.
Among his professional achievements, “I’m most proud of the success experienced by people I worked with through the years,” Casteel said. “Several went on to be TxDOT district engineers and presidents of companies. I hope the time we spent working together helped prepare them for those bigger roles. I’m also very proud that several of the women I worked with became huge successes. That’s hard to do in a male-dominated field like engineering and construction.”
A native of Graham, Texas, Casteel began his TxDOT career in 1983 in the agency’s Graham office. He held various positions throughout the state before serving as District Engineer in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Childress, and (on an interim basis) Laredo. He eventually became TxDOT’s Assistant Executive Director. Additionally, he served as a researcher at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute in College Station, Texas, as part of a joint program with TxDOT, where his research focused on improving highway construction work zone safety.
After retiring from TxDOT in 2011, Casteel became City Manager in Graham, Texas, then joined Williams Brothers in 2015. Since then, he served as Chair of the San Antonio and Bryan AGC chapters and Co-Chair of the TxDOT-AGC joint committee. In January 2022 he was unanimously elected to a one-year term as President of AGC of Texas.
Casteel holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. He also completed the Governor’s Executive Development Program at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
In his interview with Texas Contractor, Casteel shares lessons learned throughout his career, as well as priorities for tackling industry challenges through AGC’s work.
Why did you choose a career in engineering?
When I was in high school, several of the men who ran the football booster club were engineers. They hosted meetings in their homes, which were much nicer than my house growing up. At that point, I didn’t know what engineering meant, but it looked like a good way to make a living.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
I met Amadeo Saenz when we were both TxDOT District Engineers. At the time, I was in Corpus Christi and he was in Pharr. As I witnessed his innovation and persistence yielding great results for the Rio Grande Valley, he became my model for a successful District Engineer. Later he became TxDOT’s Executive Director and allowed me to serve as his Assistant Executive Director. He worked harder than anyone I ever knew and listened to everyone. When it was time to make a decision, he provided the guiding leadership to get us all on the same page.
What lessons have you learned in your professional life?
- It’s important to be seen. Show up for work every day and talk to everyone.
- Listen to everyone. Those without degrees and titles often know more about what’s really going on than you do.
- Tell the truth, even if it gets you in trouble. No job or paycheck is worth compromising your ethics.
- No one person gets these giant, important projects done alone. Everyone is important.
- If you wait your turn, your turn will never come. Go get what you want – but if you have to hurt someone, it isn’t worth it.
What are your priorities as President of AGC of Texas?
To prepare for this year, I worked closely with AGC Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Woodard, her great staff, Past President Kal Kincaid, and the rest of the Board. We held a very enlightening workshop that helped me define my role and priorities. Our theme for the year is PAST-PRESENT-FUTURE. At each Board meeting, we highlight a past AGC leader to celebrate and learn from them. Various committees work with TxDOT and other agencies to optimize the present. To influence the future, we want to identify and prepare the next generation of AGC leaders; communicate our mission and vision so that those outside the business know what we stand for and do; improve our business models; and help our staff grow with succession plans for key positions.
What are the biggest challenges you expect in the next year?
One challenge is adapting to the new information environment. Because we want facts about construction to be part of the conversation on public priorities, we need to adjust our communication methods for the new world dominated by social media.
Another challenge involves the timing of funding. TxDOT plans $80 billion in letting during the next 10-year Unified Transportation Program – the highest level of funding ever. That’s amazing and exciting and will help many Texans with safer, less-congested roads. However, our challenge is helping TxDOT time these projects to optimize construction and minimize impacts. The votes to increase funding through Propositions 1 and 7 were approximately 80 percent positive. As an industry, we must keep our promises to voters and build the projects this state needs to continue growing and prospering in a safe, responsible manner.