A new chief executive is taking over at Raba Kistner, the prominent San Antonio construction engineering firm — and for the first time, it’ll be someone from outside the Raba family.
At the start of 2021, Gary Raba will step down as president of Raba Kistner, which provides environmental planning, project management and other services for projects across the U.S. and in Mexico.
Chris Schultz will take over as president of the firm, which has over 500 employees in 12 offices in Texas, Utah, Nebraska and Mexico. Schultz has worked at Raba-Kistner for his entire career, beginning in 1990.
Raba said he decided to step down to prevent employees from “groupthinking.” Since becoming the chief executive in 2013, Raba said he always planned to leave the role around late 2020.
“A CEO has got a shelf life,” Raba said. “It’s time for new ideas. It’s time also to allow some other people in the company to grow and assume a little bit more responsibility.
“This is allowing some of the younger people that have different ideas to get out and express themselves,” he said.
Raba took over from his father, Carl Raba, who started the firm in 1968.
Since then, the company has played a role in some of the largest construction and infrastructure projects in San Antonio, including the expansion of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, the Shops at La Cantera and the redevelopment of San Pedro Creek.
Raba Kistner was acquired in late 2018 by Cardno, a large Australian engineering services firm that’s publicly traded on the Australian stock exchange.
Since that acquisition, Cardno split off the segment of its business that contains Raba Kistner, creating a new publicly traded company called Intega that now owns the San Antonio-based company.
But Raba said the ownership change hasn’t affected the company’s day-to-day operations.
After Raba transitions out of his role as president, he plans to stay involved with the company as a chief strategy officer focused on acquiring other companies. He said the firm has acquisitions underway that were delayed by the pandemic.
He also said Raba Kistner is well-positioned entering 2021, pointing to the possibility the federal government will pass a spending bill to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure.
“We have millions of people moving to Texas, and they’re not bringing roads and bridges,” Raba said. “Those are things we need.”
At the state level, Raba said Rep. Dade Phelan, the presumptive Texas House speaker, has prioritized ensuring funding for flood control projects. That could mean there’s money available for state-funded projects in the new year.
“You’ll see a lot of flood control, water control projects that are state-funded,” he said.
Raba said he wasn’t worried the ownership and leadership changes at Raba Kistner could translate to less community involvement and philanthropy within the firm. It’s the employees who set a company’s culture, not the top executive, Raba said.
“Our respective families are engaged in the community, but our employees are engaged in the community as well,” Raba said. “They define what are our core values.”