HDR’s Water Business Group Real
I was fortunate to begin my career
in October 2000 at the Oregon
Department of Transportation as a
right of way agent. The foundation
that ODOT provided me was
incredibly well-rounded. ODOT
trains agents to do acquisition,
relocation and appraisal work.
I will always be grateful for the
opportunities I had there and the
friendships I made.
Currently at HDR, I work with our
national water practice to continue
to grow and expand our presence
in the water market. Our right of
way professionals across the country
have broad water market project
resumes, and my role is to assist
with messaging those services, build
effective teams and promote our
diverse capabilities both internally
and externally. I am tasked with
recognizing how our right of way
business class can align themselves
with those opportunities and
ultimately be of service to programs
that could benefit from our technical
What are some of the biggest challenges in managing
right of way subconsultants?
At HDR, we operate as both a prime contractor and subcontractor, so
our relationships with other firms are a key to success in either role. I
believe that our biggest challenges arise in the area of communication,
consistency and relationships. Trained in effective communications,
right of way agents are quite skilled in this area and typically excel in
their abilities. Communicate early and often with your subconsultants
because during the project lifecycle, one thing is certain: there will be
change and this becomes a challenge to consistency. Our deliverables
must be consistent with the established process because consistency
builds trust. At the end of the day, we are building trust with landowners
in order to acquire the necessary property rights to build our projects. If
you and your subconsultants can move through change while remaining
consistent with deliverables, you not only maintain your relationships
with property owners, but also with all the other disciplines on your
Are there key differences in managing right of way
subconsultants versus a management role in another
I think the key difference between managing subconsultants in the right
of way industry and other industries is that we do not deliver plan sets
or numbers of sheets within a design. Our job is to acquire land rights
necessary to build infrastructure projects within our built environment.
There are certainly many technical requirements to follow, but we are
also dealing with people, and all people have different ways of reaching
decisions about whether or not to sign.
What are some best practices you can share with other
right of way leaders?
I’ve learned everything I know from experienced mentors who
encouraged and supported me as I entered the world of right of
way consulting. They inspired me to work hard, accept challenging
assignments and they taught me how to operate within an engineering
company. Surround yourself with people who know more than you
and build your teams with high-quality staff who care deeply about
the outcome. Give people responsibility, ownership and support their
professional development within our industry.
How do you handle a situation where the client
expectation is different from what you believe is best?
Our clients hire us not only to acquire the necessary land rights for a
project, but also to implement or help develop processes and procedures
that adhere to federal regulations and/or state laws governing the
acquisition process. When there is an expectation that is different than
what we believe is best, then it is our job as consultants to educate our
client on best practices. This can be challenging, as we are walking a fine
line between the mentality that “the client is always right” and telling a
client the “hard truth” about how a specific situation should be addressed.
This is why our best clients hire us. We are not afraid to open up a
discussion that might be uncomfortable if it’s the right thing to do.