(Photo above): a group picture taken at approximately 10 years in business for Raba & Associates, taken after Richard Kistner, PE, joined the firm. To see a video of Dr. Carl Raba discussing the recruitment of Dick Kistner, click here.
Richard (Dick) W. Kistner joined Raba & Associates in March of 1974, to lead the construction materials testing programs on USAA and UTSA. Before he joined the firm, he was Division Manager at Prescon Industries, over Texas and most of the Southern States, responsible for fabricated structural steel post-tension tendons for concrete structures, such as bridges, parking garages, multi-story buildings, formed retaining walls and more.
Dick joined Raba & Associates as Vice President of CoMET. “I made the decision to leave Prescon for a number of reasons, including the fact that industry trends were making it difficult for Prescon to be successful, including international competition and US gas prices in those days that were causing on time delivery problems.”
(Photo above): Dick Kistner (right), while still with Prescon, directing operations on the Tower of Americas' (in background) existing parking garage built for Hemisfair in 1968.
Carl Raba and Dick Kistner knew each other at the time, but not well. Carl, however, was president of the Bexar Chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE) and Dick was president of the San Antonio branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Both groups met jointly and in that process, Dick met William Goldston, who was then VP of Raba & Associates. Over a few games of handball, Goldston talked to Dick about Raba & Associates and convinced him that the firm firm was worth taking a look at. Many people are familiar with the recruiting that was going on between (Dick’s wife) Patsy Kistner, and (Carl’s wife and partner) Bunny Raba at the time. The wives were familiar with each other through professional associations. Carl credits Bunny with talking him into meeting with Dick to discuss coming to the firm. (To see a video interview about this story, click here.)
“I liked Dick’s reputation in San Antonio, and that he was known throughout the state,” said Carl. “His activities made him well known, and I knew that I could rely on his ability to deliver and make his commitments. I told him that I thought we would make a good team.”
After a good conversation about what would be important to Dick in the transition, the two agreed to start looking at the possibilities.
“I thought that I’d bring instant trust to the company’s materials business, which was important to a young, small firm with a new CoMET department. And, I was dedicated to hard work and to increasing Raba’s bottom line. I was clear on what I wanted to do for the firm and it didn’t hurt that I wouldn’t have to to travel as much as I did with Prescon!)" said Dick.
With USAA and UTSA already as clients, Dick was able to develop a strong testing and inspection staff, utilizing some of Raba’s already long term employees, including a young Dennis Charkow (who eventually went to the Valley office, and is now retired) and a very, very young Paul Lampe (San Antonio, now Executive VP of the firm).
“In addition, I hired senior inspectors from other firms. Lewis Bowen, a hire from Southwest Labs, handled CoMET before I got there; however, he was not a PE and so didn’t have the heavy-weight reputation that Carl and I now had.”
“It was a good arrangement. I liked the fact that Carl’s Ph.D. meant that we would win any argument that came up in regards to how a project should proceed forward, “ admitted Dick.
(Photo above): Dr. Carl Raba (left) and Dick Kistner (second from right) celebrate with Mayor McAllister (center) upon the re-start up of construction on US 281.
“Construction Materials needed dedicated leadership,” said Carl, “to produce timely, accurate reports regarding inspections and the quality of construction materials to produce lasting structures, that would build San Antonio’s future and our projects around the state. Dick brought that to the company, and much more. He was exactly what we needed.”
Dick created a system to the materials department, he got the operation running efficiently. “We had major clients even back then: The WE Simpson Co (later acquired by HDR Engineering), Vulcan Products, Alamo Cement, Schoenfeld Materials, the McDonough Brothers to name a few. They dropped off samples day and night, often without any notes on where the samples were taken from or the test that was supposed to be run. Dick got that straightened out, created a system to deliver quality and accuracy on time. He put together a credible lab with relationships with the American Council of Independent Laboratories (ACIL), that gave us direction, gave us accreditation, which resulted in client confidence and repeat work,” said Carl.
(Photo above): Dick Kistner confers with Bunny Raba on business matters.
“We had a lot of amazing projects back then, including the Bexar County Roads Expansion, Mercantile Bank, lots of City of San Antonio work, Broadway Bank, multiple hotels, and the river development. It was the start of a productive relationship,” said Dick.
“Carl had a wonderful sense of humor and our clients were drawn to him. His humor was not comparable to anyone else that I knew at that time or since then. I don’t know if I realized the role that his personality played at the time but I recognized the role that his Ph.D. played in our business, without a doubt. And I knew that as a team, we were almost unbeatable. We took advantage of that every time that we could to build the firm that eventually become Raba Kistner, Inc,” said Dick.