By: Fara Foster, Director of Communications & Community Engagement
We know very well how hard our road teams work. Whether operating equipment, shovels, rakes, lutes or flags, those are the people who put in long days in some of the hottest conditions imaginable. However, far too often we overlook the people who oversee that work.
Our foremen work even longer days than their teams do. After the paving day is complete, our foremen must plan for the following day, ensure the needed asphalt mix is ordered and delivered, and survey the planned work zone for potential hazards. They are also responsible for training their teams, accounting for their hours worked, and maintaining safe working environments.
Achieving foreman level in our companies is no small feat, because it’s no small task. Our foremen carry tremendous responsibility and one of the best is Levester “Duke” Watt.
What makes Duke so effective and respected is the concern he demonstrates daily for his team. A dedicated family man, he treats his team as if they were family. That dedication is what drives him to encourage the best in the people around him. “He’s a great teacher,” said Jamal Hayes, one of his newest team members. “He tries to bring out the best in everyone around him.” Courtney Liddell, an equipment operator who has worked under Duke for seven years, said that does not end when the work day does. “He always pushes us to do better on the job, but he does that outside of work about life decisions, too.”
When Duke joined our family of companies 25 years ago, he did so at the encouragement of another employee. Though young, he quickly proved his abilities, drive and loyalty, being promoted to foreman just a few years later. He has built his team much the same way, as many of the people he leads were recruited directly by him.
However, one of the most tenured members of his team came onboard for different reasons. Ronnie Stark tells of rejoining the company after quitting over a disagreement. In Ronnie’s words, he had “gotten away with things he should not have” in his prior role. When he rejoined Lehman-Roberts, he was told he was being placed under Duke’s management because “he can keep an eye on you and keep you in line.”
“I’m proud to say Levester Watt has taught me 100% of everything I know about asphalt,” Ronnie, now Duke’s lead man, said. He goes onto say that he and Duke have learned a lot from each other in the 20 years they have worked together and have enjoyed watching each other grow. He also echoes his team members, saying, “Duke goes above and beyond what someone should do to make sure it works out for you.”
“I know how much that man loves his family and he loves his work family the same way.” Ronnie continued. Because Duke cares so much about people, he invests a great deal in training his team. Success for him is not just measured in tons of asphalt placed each day, it’s measured in seeing the growth in each person. It is also measured in making sure those people go home safely. Courtney recounts Duke’s constant reminders that “the way you come to work is the same way I want you to return home.”
Courtney also testifies that Duke regularly tells his crew how much he appreciates them. Ronnie adds, “I love my job. This is a great company, but Duke is really the reason I love working here.”
It’s men and women like Duke who make our companies strong. As we celebrate his 25 years of service to Lehman-Roberts, we thank him for his leadership and care for his team. Levester Watt is the epitome of “The WHO Behind What We Do.”