Leadership

Mike Burke

Mike Burke

Chairman of the Board

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Michael Burke serves as Chairman of the Board for Universal Engineering Sciences. Michael is the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AECOM.

Michael proved instrumental in evolving AECOM from a mid-size private engineering company to a publicly-traded global engineering powerhouse with revenues in excess of $21 billion. He led AECOM through numerous acquisitions, transforming the company into one of the world’s largest engineering design and construction firms. He directed the company’s initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), which was one of the 10 largest NYSE listings for 2007, and one of the largest engineering industry IPOs of all time.

He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Archer Daniels Midland Company, one of the world’s largest agricultural processors and food ingredient providers. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Westwood Professional Services, CarbonCure Technologies, and SitelogIQ. In addition, Michael is an active member of the Los Angeles community and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Children’s Bureau, which helps at-risk children through state-of-the-art child abuse prevention and treatment services. He previously served on the Board of Directors for LA 2028, the committee responsible for bringing the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games to Los Angeles. Michael holds a JD from Southwestern University School of Law and a BS in Accounting from the University of Scranton. 

Brian Kirkpatrick

Brian Kirkpatrick

President

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Brian Kirkpatrick serves as President of Universal Engineering Sciences. Brian has been involved in the growth and development of UES through his M&A work with Palm Beach Capital since 2020. He is focused on building UES into a national market leader through the acquisition of complementary businesses, expanding the company’s footprint into high-growth areas.
Brian previously served as President of Composites at Clock Spring/NRI where he oversaw a significant merger and integration and led several global manufacturing initiatives. Prior to that, he served as Chief Investment Officer at Capital Guardian where he was responsible for the firm’s investment strategy and founded the firm’s first mutual fund division.
Brian holds an MBA with a specialization in International Business from The University of Miami and a BS in Finance from The Warrington School of Business at the University of Florida. He serves on the boards of the Quantum Foundation and The Taylor Foundation.

David Witsken

David Witsken

CEO

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David Witsken serves as CEO, Universal Engineering Sciences. Prior to joining UES, Dave spent 17 years with BrandSafway in various global executive leadership roles including M&A, Sales, and General Management and most recently as President of BrandSafway’s Industrial, Energy & Commercial division. BrandSafway is a provider of services and products to the industrial, commercial and infrastructure end markets worldwide.

Prior to joining BrandSafway, Dave spent 18 years at General Electric in various leadership positions and completed Six Sigma Certification and completed GE’s Executive Training curriculum. Dave received a BS, Mechanical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati and an MBA from Westminster College, where he currently serves as an Advisory Board member.

Mike Dear

Mike Dear

Chief Financial Officer

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Mike Dear serves as Chief Financial Officer and is based at UES’ Orlando headquarters. Mike is an experienced finance leader with more than 30 years of global expertise in engineering services and construction with both privately held and public organizations. Mike most recently served as Chief Financial Officer for PLH Group, a private equity-backed publicly-traded infrastructure construction group, where he significantly increased profitability, restructured and reduced debt, and administered a liquidity event for the founding shareholders.

Prior to that, he worked at John Wood Group, a publicly-traded global engineering and construction management firm. He served as CFO for Wood Group Mustang based in Houston, where he was responsible for worldwide financial, commercial, contracts and legal, IT, property and facility management activities. He previously worked as Group Financial Controller after initially joining as CFO of their Light Industrial Turbines Division. He is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program and is a Chartered Management Accountant (ACMA and CGMA).

Gary Elzweig

Gary Elzweig

Chief Strategy Officer

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Mr. Elzweig is a graduate of Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and is a Registered Professional Engineer in the States of Florida and Colorado with 45 years of experience in the fields of mergers and acquisitions, real estate development, engineering, design, construction, and business start-ups. In addition, Mr. Elzweig has met the requirements for designation as a Fellow with the American Society of Civil Engineers (“ASCE”), registration by the Structural Engineering Certification Board (“SECB”), by the State of Florida as a Special Inspector, Standard Building Inspector and Radon Measurement Specialist.

Business History:   For the last forty-five years, Mr. Elzweig has enjoyed the challenges of successfully managing and building national engineering and technology-based businesses. In 2019, Mr. Elzweig opted to start again and returned to doing what he enjoys most, growing independent engineering businesses that focus on client service. Consequently, Mr. Elzweig along with his longtime partner, Palm Beach Capital, started Obsidian Group Holdings, LLC, currently operating as Universal Engineering Sciences, an engineering industry roll-up. Serving as the Company’s President, Mr. Elzweig led the acquisition and growth strategy for the firm which has completed 17 deals in the last 32 months and has exceeded $420 million in revenue in 2021. Universal Engineering Sciences was voted the #1 fastest growing Engineering firm in the United States by the Zweig Group. Recently, Mr. Elzweig, Mike Burke and Palm Beach Capital recapitalized the firm with Byron Trott of BDT capital on 31August2021. Mr. Elzweig is continuing with the firm as its Vice Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer. 

Additionally, Mr. Elzweig led the reorganization of Quality Built, a national Third-Party Risk Management Solutions firm. Mr. Elzweig also oversaw and guided the acquisition and integration of West Coast Property Consultants into Quality Built in December 2011. 

In 2002, Mr. Elzweig opened Code Administration, Plans Review & Inspection Services, Inc. (CAPRI Engineering) a structural engineering, inspection, and construction materials testing firm with an aggressive business plan and handful of determined employees.  Three years later, CAPRI‘s annual revenues exceeded $50 Million with 16 offices and in excess of 400 employees nationwide. 

Mr. Elzweig started his first venture back in 1984, a large regional engineering firm called PEICO with six Florida regions. After successfully merging PEICO into USLB, Mr. Elzweig held executive responsibility, influenced strategic corporate decisions for all USLB subsidiaries which included thirty offices nationwide and 750+ employees; all while continuing to serve as PEICO’s CEO and President. 

Innovations: Mr. Elzweig lobbied the Florida legislature and the construction industry and was instrumental in passing Florida Statute §553.791, Florida’s Private Provider Law whereby developers and builders can elect to use privately licensed inspectors and plans examiners as an alternative to using traditional municipal channels.  

Awards:  Mr. Elzweig has been named as “Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year” for the State of Florida by Ernst & Young.  The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (EOY) annual award honors entrepreneurs whose ingenuity, hard work and perseverance have created and sustained successful, growing business ventures.  Candidates must possess outstanding qualities in entrepreneurial spirit, financial performance, strategic direction, community and global impact, innovation, personal integrity, and influence.

Professional Affiliations: Serving as a valuable resource to the design and construction industry, Mr. Elzweig is a Board Member with Columbia University’s Engineering Council (Emeritus) and is the past Chairman of the Broward County Board of Rules and Appeals, as well as past Chairman of their Structural Committee.  Mr. Elzweig is actively involved with the Florida Engineering Society and was their representative on the Governors Building Construction Permitting and Inspection Task Force.  Mr. Elzweig is also an active member with the FBI’s Citizens’ Academy Alumni Association.

Sheila Norden

Sheila Norden

Chief Human Resources Officer

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Sheila Norden has a passion for fostering collaboration that enables and accelerates projects and change initiatives. Sheila has an accomplished background in HR that includes leadership roles in Benefits, Compensation, Labor Relations, Operations, Compliance, Organizational Change, Talent Development and Strategic HR Business Partnership. She has extensive expertise in M&A, engaged in more than sixteen events. 
Sheila approaches her role with energy and enthusiasm and has the innate ability to see around corners, which helps her navigate complex situations, identify critical dependencies and proactively solve problems. Commonly referred to by her peers as “Air Traffic Control” for her ability to lead projects and people, Sheila is an expert at ensuring alignment within the HR function and with UES' strategy. She is a trusted advisor and coach to many leaders across UES, with demonstrated expertise in leading teams and helping others build their skills and develop their careers.
Sheila has a B.S. in Psychology, a M.S. in Human Resources, both from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Business Administration from Liberty University. She is a certified Senior Professional in HR and completed the HR Learning Partnership through RBL.

James Bristow

James Bristow

Managing Partner

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James Bristow, PE, serves as a Managing Partner for the corporate team, based in the Western Division. James is a national brand liaison for UES with a focus on new and existing clients, recruiting the best and brightest team members, and on adding new partner firms to the expanding UES platform. A perpetual student passionate about learning and growth, he supports the Division’s efforts around recruiting, mentoring, and training. James is actively involved in national organizations such as ASTM, ACI, TMS, and more. He leads by example with his community involvement in organizations such as Green Our Planet, where he is a board member, and Los Vaqueros, where local businessmen give back to their community by empowering and aiding children and families in need.

James is an expert in construction materials testing and brings two decades of experience, knowledge, and expertise to UES’ management team. He holds a Master of Science and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from UNLV.

Trent Anderson

Trent Anderson

President, West Division

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Trent Anderson serves as the Western Division President and has more than two decades of experience in business, construction, engineering services, mergers and acquisitions, and leadership development. As Division President, he leads the regional vice presidents, business unit leaders, and branch managers in California, Nevada, and Utah focusing on effective communication between the Division and the National Leadership team.

Trent's experience on national strategic leadership teams allows him to stabilize operations and accelerate the integration of the Divisions' new and existing branches. Trent holds a BS in Agribusiness from Tarleton State University and an Executive MBA from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Ed Alizadeh

Ed Alizadeh

President, Midwest Division

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Ed Alizadeh, PE, JD, serves as UES President of the Midwest Division. His technical background includes extensive experience in environmental consulting.

Ed joined Geotechnology, Inc. in 1989 as a staff engineer after spending five years as a petroleum engineer with Amoco Production Company in New Mexico. He was promoted to Project Manager and then Environmental Department Manager, and in 1996, Ed was promoted to President of Geotechnology where he oversaw the continued growth of the company, including the opening of branch offices in Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas, and Mississippi. He has also overseen the acquisition of two firms, expanding the firm’s geographic footprint into Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. In 2020, Ed became CEO.

Ed is currently Vice-Chair of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). He has also served as Chairman of ACECMo. Ed is a member of the Engineer’s Club of St. Louis and the Missouri Society of Professional Engineers and has been very active in the Geoprofessional Business Association (GBA). Ed is currently on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity St. Louis and Pedal the Cause which raises millions of dollars for cancer research.

Ed holds a JD of Law from Saint Louis University School of Law and a BS in Petroleum Engineering from The University of Tulsa.

Brian Powell

Brian Powell

President, Texas

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In addition to his current position as President of Alpha Testing, Brian Powell, PE, a 28-year veteran of the industry, serves as Texas Division President, UES. He manages all UES operations throughout Texas, and partners with the UES corporate leadership team including President Brian Kirkpatrick to assess and push forward growth opportunities in the region.

Brian joined Alpha Testing in August 2002. Prior to that, he worked as a field geotechnical engineer for HBC/Terracon, HBC Engineering, and McBride-Ratcliffe & Associates. Brian holds an MBA in Business Administration from The University of Dallas and a BS in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University.

David Hesterlee

David Hesterlee

President, Southeast Division

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David Hesterlee, PE, was a founding partner of Contour Engineering when the company started in 2000. David earned a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a bachelor of Science in Physics from West Georgia College. He holds a professional engineer license in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. As President of the Southeast Division for Universal Engineering Sciences, David oversees offices in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. His areas of expertise include geotechnical engineering, large-scale site development projects, design of mechanically stabilized earth retention systems, and special inspection programs.

Rick Kushner

Rick Kushner

President, North Florida Division

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Rick Kushner, PE, serves as President of the North Florida Division. The North Florida Division includes our Rockledge, Daytona Beach, Palm Coast, Jacksonville, Orlando, Gainesville, Ocala, Tampa, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Panama City, and Pensacola branches. He is responsible for overseeing high-level operations and profitability of multiple regions within his Division, managing integration efforts, and providing leadership in all areas of the business.

Rick has 38 years of civil/construction engineering experience. He is a PE in 11 states and an SI in Florida. He started with UES 28 years ago in Daytona Beach and pioneered the opening of branch locations in Palm Coast, Jacksonville, and Norcross, GA. Prior to that, he served as Construction Testing Engineer/Manager for Professional Service Industries, Inc. (PSI).

Rick holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a master’s in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas, Austin.

Travis Merrick

Travis Merrick

President, South Florida Division

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Travis Merrick serves as President of the South Florida Division, which includes the Miami, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie, Ft. Myers, and Clewiston branches. As a Division President, Travis is responsible for overseeing high-level operations and profitability of multiple regions within his Division, managing integration efforts, and providing leadership in all areas of the business.

Previously, Travis worked for five years in real estate sales, then, in 2008, he joined GFA International as a Business Development Rep. He quickly learned all aspects of the business, growing from Business Development Rep to Branch Manager to COO for GFA. GFA was acquired in 2019 into what went on to become the UES family of companies, and Travis was named President of the South Florida Division in early 2021.

Doug Curley

Doug Curley

President, Mid-Atlantic Division

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President and Owner Douglas Curley, PE, has led SUMMIT Engineering for nearly 18 years. He oversees 180 employees in six locations across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Douglas’ 30 years of experience in the engineering and construction services industry ranges from field and laboratory testing to senior-level project management and engineering. His extensive experience includes performing, managing, and providing technical consulting for Construction Materials Testing, Foundation Engineering, Construction Management, Geotechnical Explorations, Environmental Assessments, Asbestos and Lead-Based Paint Surveys, and Property Condition Surveys.

Douglas is a former Captain and Combat Engineer in the U.S. Army.

Gary Raia

Gary Raia

Chief Risk Management and Safety Officer

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Gary Raia, ARM serves as the Chief Risk Management and Safety Officer for UES including all subsidiaries nationwide. He oversees all of the Property and Casualty Insurance for the Corporation and Manages the Safety Department with 12 Regional Safety Professionals including a Senior Claims Specialist. Gary has over 35 years of experience with Risk Management and safety for construction, manufacturing and the insurance industries. He is dedicated in creating a strong safety culture for UES and making them an industry leader with regard to the company's reputation for employee safety and the communities they serve. Gary is an active volunteer with his church working with food drives, social activities and sports events. He has also volunteered in the Mentorship program in Titusville, Fl. to support and mentor underprivileged students and young adults who do not have active role models in their households. He was there to teach, counsel, tutor and guide them and understand the importance of a good education and avoid peer pressure that causes the bad decisions. He has a Bachelor of Science in Safety Systems Management and Industrial Engineering.

James Bird

James Bird

Chief Information Officer

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James Bird serves as the Chief Information Officer for Universal Engineering Sciences and is based at UES' headquarters in Orlando. Jim has more than 30 years of experience in IT leadership positions, creating and executing strategic plans that solve business problems and building teams focused on superior customer service and innovative business solutions. Prior to UES, he served as VP of Technology at geotechnical and environmental consultant Braun Intertec Corp. Previous to that he spent 16 years leading IT in the finance industry. Jim is responsible for providing IT leadership to help align the company’s priorities with information systems and technological capabilities in order to fully support our business strategy. He is also responsible for setting an IT vision and strategy to lay the foundation for future innovation and growth and for delivering all IT services nationwide.

Kathy Kilmer

Kathy Kilmer

Senior Vice President, Integration & Innovation

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Kathy Kilmer serves as Senior Vice President of Integration & Innovation and is based at UES’ Orlando headquarters. Kathy is focused on ensuring seamless and effective integration of acquired companies in addition to creating and implementing systems that enable the company to achieve its growth goals. Kathy most recently worked as the SVP of Customer Relationship Management, Analytics, and Consumer Insights at Travel + Leisure Co where she completely transformed the end-to-end customer experience from highly disparate, manual, and complex processes to an enterprise-wide CRM solution for the 7K+ users. 

Prior to that, she spent 25 years at The Walt Disney Company leading worldwide Industrial Engineering and Sales Planning and Development. She earned her degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University and a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Central Florida, as well as an EMBA from the UCF College of Business. She currently serves on Purdue University’s Industrial Engineering Advisory board.

Ron Harris

Ron Harris

Service Line Executive

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Ron Harris serves as Service Line Executive, overseeing the collection of individual business initiatives across UES’s engineering footprint. Ron brings nearly 40 years of professional experience to UES, including extensive sales and account management leadership at high-growth companies such as Netezza and IBM. Throughout his career, Ron’s focus has been customer-centric, earning trust not just through sales but through delivery.

Ron has also been an outspoken advocate for change management in companies experiencing accelerated change, growth and restructuring. Before UES, Ron had most recently served as Senior Account Manager at Interos, a supply chain start-up, and as Regional Sales Manager for Splunk, a data management firm. He holds a BA in Civil Engineering from Layfayette College and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity.

Portfolio of Companies

  • Universal Engineering Sciences, Inc.
  • Aries Consultants, LLC
  • McGinley & Associates, Inc.
  • Geotek Engineering Company, Inc.
  • GFA International, Inc.
  • Nova Geotechnical and Inspection Services, LLC
  • Contour Engineering, LLC
  • IQC Southwest, LLC
  • Wallace-Kuhl & Associates
  • Quality Control Consultants, Inc.
  • Construction Testing and Engineering, Inc.
  • IQC Southwest, Inc.
  • Summit Engineering, Laboratory & Testing, Inc.
  • GEOServices, LLC
  • Geotechnology, LLC
  • Alpha Testing, LLC
  • GSI Engineering LLC

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