Given the November issue’s focus on architecture, construction and engineering, it seemed like an opportune time to recognize prominent women in these fields which traditionally have been male dominated.
But many Arkansas professionals are proving that women can thrive in these industries, whether their role is on a job site or behind a desk.
This month, AMP recognizes some of those leaders — in roles ranging from estimating assistant to company president — who are helping blaze trails and grow the state economy in the process.
Bid Coordinator/Contract Specialist
Koontz Electric, Morrilton
Michelle Ashmore joined the Koontz Electric project management team in October 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Arkansas Community College-Morrilton with an AAS in business office technology. She is certified in construction quality management for contractors from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Her duties include scheduling, tracking and submitting all bid opportunities totaling more than $120 million annually. Ashmore also executes and bonds all contracts received and keeps all regulatory compliance current.
Amber Banks, AIA
Cromwell Architects Engineers, Little Rock
Amber Banks joined Cromwell as an intern in 2015 and began her architectural career with the firm after receiving a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas in 2017. Since joining the Cromwell team, she has worked on a variety of projects including education, military, medical and municipal. She is a member of the American Institute of Architects and an active community member, serving as a board member for International Development Service and as a mentor for North Little Rock W.O.R.K.S.
Senior Project Engineer
ECCI, Little Rock
Akemi Bauer was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. At the age of 22, she traveled alone to New Mexico to obtain her master’s degree in environmental engineering. While in New Mexico, she worked at an environmental firm as a field engineer. One of her career highlights at the firm was overseeing the installation of more than 100 monitoring wells at the North Railroad Avenue Plume Superfund site project. With colleagues, she recently published a paper about this project in the Applied Science Journal. Since moving to Little Rock 15 years ago with her husband, Bauer has obtained her professional engineering license and expanded her focus beyond remediation projects to include Clean Air Act Permitting and Compliance. She began her career at ECCI as a project engineer and has since been promoted to ECCI’s top engineer status of senior project engineer.
Baldwin & Shell, Little Rock
Stacy Baxter is a project coordinator at Baldwin & Shell Construction and has been with the company for two and a half years. She has been in the industry for 17 years and her background includes construction, engineering and environmental work. Baxter is a professional bodybuilder at the National Gym Association. She lives in White Hall with her son.
Clark Contractors, Little Rock
Kara Bryan is a project administrator at Clark Contractors and has been part of the Clark team since April 2020. Prior to that, she worked at Bass Construction and Habitat for Humanity in Monroe, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in construction management from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. As a project administrator, Bryan is responsible for managing the entire submittal process on a construction project, including developing a submittal schedule at the beginning of the project, ensuring that all submittals are expedited through the review process with the design team and contacting all subcontractors and vendors with correspondence. Bryan has worked on a variety of different projects at Clark, including phase one of the Ritz Theatre Restoration in Malvern, renovations for the Hamburg School District and most recently the Good Day Farm Cultivation and Growth Facility in Ruston, La.
Baldwin & Shell, Little Rock
Originally from north Louisiana, Josie Bush is quickly learning to call Arkansas her home. She attended Louisiana Tech University in Ruston and earned an undergraduate degree in marketing as well as her MBA. Bush has accumulated a variety of experiences, completing internships in industries including telecommunications, information technology consulting, property management and student services. At Baldwin & Shell, she traded a business suit for a hard hat and is learning the construction industry from the ground floor. As estimating assistant, Bush engages with local business owners, collaborates with her team on various projects and serves the customer – her favorite role.
Field Office Manager/Technician
McGeorge Contracting Co., Little Rock
Lea Cecsarini began working for McGeorge Contracting in August of 2000 in north Arkansas. Hired as a flagger/laborer, she never thought of construction as a career; she just needed a job to support her four children. Little did she know that road construction was the career she was called to have. Cecsarini set a goal to be the first female foreman the company ever had and relocated her family to Central Arkansas to pursue it. In the fall of 2014, she achieved that goal. Twenty-one years after she joined the team at McGeorge, Cecsarini is a field office manager technician, “taking care of just about everything out in the field,” and grateful that her job, borne of necessity in 2000, turned into a career she loves.
Vice President of Infrastructure
Crafton Tull, Fort Smith
Michelle Dodroe is an experienced civil engineer who leads Crafton Tull’s office in Fort Smith. Her expertise includes sanitary sewer assessment and remediation; mainline water extensions; water and wastewater asset mapping and modeling, roadway and drainage design. Dodroe is a member of L1eadership Arkansas, Class XVI, and she graduated from Leadership Fort Smith in 2019. Dodroe earned a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Webster University. She is a licensed Professional Engineer in Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
Taggart Architects, North Little Rock
Whether sketching dream houses or drawing cartoons, Reyna Espinoza was a creative child. Given her inclination toward mathematics, the path seemed almost obvious. She attended the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University. Being a first generation Mexican-American graduate, she was accustomed to overcoming various problems, and difficulties and problem solving became second nature. Espinoza has been a project manager at Taggart for five years. Having used various BIM programs in her 14 years of experience, she currently specializes in using Revit computer software to create construction documents.
Baldwin & Shell, Little Rock
Maggie Estes is a project manager for Baldwin & Shell’s Construction Services Division, and just celebrated her fifth anniversary with the company. After graduating from the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, she built her experience from the ground up. From electrical supply sales, to assisting project managers, running bids, facilitating bid solicitations & submittal packages, she developed a well-rounded understanding of all of the teams necessary for a successful project. Her fascination with spaces and how a building physically and mechanically comes together led to a perfect gateway into her career. Estes now manages multiple construction projects up to $7 million dollars in value including renovations, rehabilitations and ground up construction, from early schematic design through full execution.
She currently serves on the National Association of General Contractor’s Construction Leadership Council Committee.
Vice President, Human Resources
Lexicon, Little Rock
Danna Gauntt joined the Lexicon team 29 years ago, hired by company founder Tom Schueck, and built the HR department from the ground up. She was recently promoted from Human Resources Director to Vice President, Human Resources. Her department is responsible for staffing a company that is reorganizing and now has more than 1,800 employees. Lexicon President/CEO Patrick Schueck said her promotion was well deserved and demonstrates how Lexicon strives to hire good people and then let them grow and achieve within the organization. When Gauntt joined Lexicon, the only real benefits it offered were insurance-related. Today, Lexicon offers a comprehensive benefits package that rivals anyone in the industry, she said.
Herron Horton Architects
Jennifer Herron, AIA, founded Little Rock’s Herron Horton Architects with her husband, architect and artist Jeff Horton. She is a graduate of Little Rock Central High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Design. After practicing architecture in the San Francisco Bay area and in Little Rock, she and her husband founded their own firm. Herron believes architecture is about people, and she has a curiosity about how people use space and how they relate to their surroundings. A passion for telling stories through photography has enriched her sensitivity to light, environmental conditions and how conditions affect the human spirit.
Senior Project Manager
C.R. Crawford Construction, Fayetteville
Krista Kirk has been in the construction industry for more than 20 years. With a bachelor of science in business administration from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Kirk began her career in construction as a project manager’s assistant and in less than a year became a project manager. Kirk’s strong management skills and industry experience helped allow her to excel in a male-dominated industry. Her responsibilities include leading complex construction projects and ensuring each project’s completion is achieved on schedule, on budget and with quality and safety. She has worked on a wide variety of projects for public and private sector clients including, most recently, the Highlands Oncology Group treatment center in Springdale; Generations Bank in Fayetteville and Gateway First Bank in Jenks, Okla.
Kim Koch and Fallon Lee
Insight Engineering, Little Rock
Kim Koch is Insight’s founder and principal. She is a registered Professional Engineer and USGBC LEED Accredited Professional with more than 15 years of experience in mechanical systems design, project management and company leadership. Koch has managed and designed projects in K-12, higher education, health care and commercial market sectors. She has worked on all types of mechanical systems, from ground-source heat pumps to complex district energy systems, bringing a wealth of technical expertise to her work.
Fallon Lee is a principal and mechanical engineer with experience in commercial, education, and health care. She is a registered Professional Engineer and a graduate of Arkansas State University with a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. Fallon has worked on projects ranging from controls upgrades, HVAC equipment replacements, to new commercial buildings and existing facility renovations for buildings of all sizes.
Senior Electrical Engineer
Cromwell Architects Engineers
Pam McElrath, PE, LEED AP BD+C, is a 1992 graduate of Southern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. She holds professional engineering licenses in 10 states and is a LEED Accredited Professional. She is an active member of Electric League of Arkansas and Illuminating Engineering Society. McElrath has worked for Cromwell for more than 28 years and is head of its electrical engineering department. She is experienced in electrical, lighting, instrumentation and control-system design as applied to office, industrial, municipal, educational and medical facilities. She is also skilled in electrical and lighting retrofitting for adaptive reuse or building renovation projects.
Kinco Contractors, Fayetteville
Melissa Roach is a Springdale native and second-generation Kinco team member. She graduated from the College of the Ozarks in Missouri and obtained her master’s degree in Historic Preservation from Clemson University/College of Charleston. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles from historic home consulting to project coordinating on multimillion dollar renovations and new construction. She has a passion for restoration and was an integral member of the Kinco team on the historic renovation of Cane Hill Presbyterian Church.
PDC Construction, Little Rock
Karen Ross is a Little Rock native who attended Auburn University where she earned a bachelor of science degree in building construction followed by an MBA from the University of Arkansas. She started her career working as an estimator and project manager at Kinco Contractors from 1993 to 2001. Ross joined PDC as a project manager in 2001 and by 2005, she became one of the company’s owners. In 2011, she took on the title of president. She also serves as senior project manager, senior estimator and senior scheduler and is involved first-hand with every project at PDC, working directly with owners, architects, engineers, and subcontractors to make sure every project is a success.
DC Sparks Construction, Rogers
Melody Sparks is the CFO and co-owner of DC Sparks Construction in Northwest Arkansas. She brings more than 20 years of business experience to her role including customer service, logistics, data analysis and office management. Sparks made the jump into construction in 2016, recognizing that her skills were needed to help grow the family business. With her education in business management and more than two decades of experience working in the local CPG market, she has helped to streamline office processes and implement marketing strategies to grow the company. She is also a licensed Realtor and property manager with Southern Tradition Real Estate in Springdale.