VDOT fills senior staff positions

The Virginia Department of Transportation, in a late-afternoon Friday news dump, made several announcements regarding staff additions, including the hiring of a new chief financial officer, John W. Lawson.

The 21-year VDOT veteran will oversee VDOT’s $3.3 billion annual budget and will provide oversight and bring innovation to VDOT’s spending of state and federal resources.

Lawson will focus on innovative financing options that can leverage VDOT’s resources with private funding to enhance Virginia’s construction and maintenance programs. He will oversee the implementation of new business processes that will improve VDOT’s management of funding, and will work to streamline project financing, administrative spending, and business activities.

“We are thrilled to have this expertise, leadership and professionalism on our team,” said VDOT commissioner Gregory A. Whirley. “John has a proven track record in financial operations, financial planning, budgeting, and financial systems, and he knows the complex world of government and transportation finance as well as anyone in the country. His leadership will be invaluable as VDOT works to improve its financial management and strives to become more efficient and effective with spending the taxpayers’ investments in transportation.”

Lawson holds an associate degree of science and arts from Rappahannock Community College, a bachelor’s in accounting from Christopher Newport, and is a graduate of the Virginia Executive Institute. He worked as an accountant with Engineering Incorporated in Hampton, VA before joining VDOT in 1987. He has served in several financial positions with VDOT, rising to become the director of financial planning, a position he held since 2001.

He has served in a senior advisor role to several administrations and has provided strategic financial oversight to VDOT’s senior management for more than two decades.

VDOT also hired two department veterans to positions overseeing the statewide maintenance and construction programs. Emmett Heltzel, P.E. was selected to be state maintenance engineer and division administrator for VDOT’s Maintenance Division. Mark E. Cacamis, P.E. is the state construction engineer and division administrator for VDOT’s Scheduling and Contracts Division.

“I am pleased to have selected two highly qualified professionals to provide strategic vision, leadership and focus to these two core-mission areas of our business,” Whirley said. “These two professionals will usher in a new era of accountability, efficiency and vision for our maintenance and construction programs.”

Heltzel, formerly the assistant division administrator in VDOT’s Location and Design Division, will lead VDOT’s maintenance program, overseeing pavements, interstate maintenance contracting, roadside maintenance and emergency response activities on Virginia’s nearly 58,000 miles of state-maintained highways. He will provide guidance, policy and budget management activities to VDOT’s nine districts to ensure that VDOT roadways are properly maintained and that emergency response activities are carried out.

Heltzel began his transportation career a construction laborer in high school and college, working on pavement and maintenance contracts, grading, pipe trenching and excavation operations, surveying and grade control operations.

He is graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and holds a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Virginia. He served for 27 years in the U.S. Army and in the Army Reserves, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Heltzel worked in private-sector engineering firms for 18 years before joining VDOT in 2003 as the assistant state location and design engineer.

Cacamis is VDOT’s new state construction engineer and division administrator for VDOT’s Scheduling and Contracts Division. In this role, Cacamis will oversee the development, review and management of billions in construction and maintenance projects issued by VDOT each year. He will work closely with procurement professionals, industry experts and VDOT staff statewide to ensure that contracts are bid according to established schedules, that contract language is appropriate to manage VDOT’s project delivery on time and on budget, and that bids are negotiated in the best interest of the commonwealth.

Cacamis previously served as VDOT’s Hampton Roads District construction engineer since 2005. Fifteen years prior to joining VDOT, Cacamis was with construction and engineering firms in Mobile, Ala.

He received his associate’s degree in forest technology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse N.Y., a bachelor’s in civil engineering from the University of South Alabama and a master’s in public administration from Old Dominion University. He is a Certified Professional Constructor, and a Certified Construction Manager.

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.

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