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Mead and Hunt’s president takes off from aviation

Mead and Hunt’s president takes off from aviation

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Andy Platz of Mead and Hunt Inc. works from the firm's Madison office. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)
Andy Platz of Mead and Hunt Inc. works from the firm’s Madison office. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

When Andy Platz started with Mead and Hunt Inc., he was the fifth member of a five-person aviation team.

Today, that team has grown exponentially. And Platz? Well, he’s the company’s president.

Not bad for a career that started with a newspaper ad.

“I saw an ad in the [Wisconsin] State Journal in 1984 for an airport engineer. I didn’t know what that was at the time,” he said. “I learned everything I know about airports on the job.”

The real-world training in construction inspection and airport design propelled him to aviation group leader in 1992, and helped take the Wisconsin-centric firm from state ventures to national projects.

“Today, I think we’re sitting at about 200 people in the aviation group nationwide,” Platz said. “It’s a good start.”

Even though he’s no longer in the field, he said his heart remains with aviation.

“Airports are kind of like a community,” said Platz, a recent chairman of the Airports Consultant Council. He is still active on the board and with the American Association of Airport Executives and the Airports Council International.

“There’s a wide variety of technical areas within that aviation world,” Platz said, including parking, terminals, pavement, lighting and navigational systems. “It’s not just a piece of pavement and it’s not just a building.”

But, since taking over as president in 2011, Platz now oversees a variety of other work, including projects in the areas of highway, industrial, military and hydrology projects.

“I wear a lot of hats,” he said. “I probably split my time with employees, as far as mentoring and making sure we’re providing opportunities for employees and a good place to work, and the other half of the time I’m working with clients, developing new markets, more services, new services. I do a lot of listening.”

Platz said that last part of his job is as important as any of his other obligations.

“You see a lot of people jump around from firm to firm, looking for greener pastures,” he said. “Our goal is to create an environment where they don’t have to do. That that’s my challenge — to create that environment.”

The Daily Reporter: What is the best part of your job?
Andy Platz: There are two parts, equally weighed. One is seeing young people in the organization grow in their careers. And, I think, secondly is creating strong relationships with our clients through doing good work. Those two things are very gratifying to me.

TDR: What is the biggest challenge in your work?
Platz: I think it’s really balancing winning work with doing good quality work. You want to fill the pipeline to keep everybody busy, but you need to have quality people to get the work done. It’s a teeter-totter balance.

TDR: What is the most useful thing you’ve learned since starting your job?
Platz: In school, you learn a lot about engineering stuff. What you don’t learn about is the soft skills, so the value of listening, the value of having patience, the value of understanding people, whether you’re talking to clients or talking to employees. It’s just not part of your education, but very, very, very important to being successful.

TDR: What do you wish you’d learned sooner?
Platz: Don’t sweat the small stuff, but keep your eye on the big picture. When you come out of school, there are small mistakes and things happen. You can get stressed out, but when mistakes are made — and we all make them — be up front about them and learn from them. As I’ve progressed in my career, the problems get bigger and more costly, but it’s still small stuff in the big picture.

TDR: What can you spend hours doing that’s not work-related?
Platz: I love to spend time outdoors. I like to run, fishing, gardening, anything outdoors. I really enjoy being very active outside.

TDR: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Platz: I don’t want to sound egotistical, but I’m really comfortable with where I’m at and trying to improve. I’m not perfect at anything; I’m always in self-improvement mode. But I have no regrets. Anything I’d like to change, I’m always looking for opportunities to change.

TDR: Which famous person would most like to have a drink with? What would you drink?
Platz: I would say General [Dwight D.] Eisenhower. And the story behind that is I look at different leaders, political and otherwise. I’m a World War II buff. And I saw what he did with the leadership. I like his style and his acumen. I think he was an honorable president and an honorable general. And what we’d have to drink? Whatever he favors, I’d buy.


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