Industry leader Robert Westphal will retire on July 1 after a decorated career at Michels Corp. and in the utility construction industry.
Westphal started with Michels as a laborer in 1965 when he was directly hired by company founder Dale Michels. He worked his way through the ranks as operator, foreman, project superintendent, general superintendent, vice president and, finally, senior vice president of construction operations. After retirement, Westphal will continue to play an integral role with the Brownsville, Wis.-based utility construction company when he transitions into a new role of senior strategic advisor by continuing to help Michels maintain and develop customer relationships, and to continue to provide keenly acquired knowledge and business acumen to Michels’ future and growth.
Providing positive leadership has been a hallmark of Westphal’s career. In 1980, future Michels president Pat Michels came to work for Westphal on a water project he was leading in South Dakota. The two developed a friendship and respect for one another which continues to thrive today. Both remain committed to respecting the company roots while keeping a keen eye trained on future growth.
“Bob has been critically important to my family and Michels Corp. for more than 47 years,” said Pat Michels. “He has seen a tremendous amount of growth at Michels and has been an integral part in helping to evolve the company into the success it is today.”
Westphal was heavily involved in the telecommunications boom of the 1980s and, from that arena, helped found and shepherd Michels’ directional drilling operation. He was also instrumental with guiding the company through the resurgence of its mainline pipeline operations.
Spending his career at Michels was an easy decision for Westphal. “I always had the sense that there would be continuous opportunity for growth, not only from the company’s standpoint but for myself, and that has continued throughout my career,” he said. “I have had opportunities to work with many incredibly talented people throughout the organization during the course of my time here.”
Horizontal directional drilling, microtunneling, pipeline construction and pipe rehabilitation encapsulates the diverse fields of underground utility construction for which Westphal has earned himself a highly regarded reputation.
Westphal has remained actively involved in many related associations which have played an in-valuable role in helping him stay in tune with rapidly changing technology, industries and markets. Associations in which he is or has been an active member of include North American Society for Trenchless Technology (2011 Trenchless Technology Person of the Year) and Pipe Line Contractors Association, for which he served 13 years on the board of directors, including president from 2005 to 2006. Westphal also served on the PLCA Labor Committee and the Pipeline Industry Advancement Fund. He is currently a trustee on the Labors National Pension Fund and a member of the Canadian PLCA, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America and International Pipeline and Offshore Contractors Association.