Burns & McDonnell welcomes new CEO

Leslie Duke

In January, engineering and construction firm Burns & McDonnell welcomed new CEO Leslie Duke and announced several other new leadership positions.

Duke joined Burns & McDonnell in 1999 as a structural engineer in Houston. Throughout her 24 years with Burns & McDonnell, Duke served in multiple leadership roles, including opening and growing several new offices. She becomes the firm’s eighth CEO, succeeding Ray Kowalik, who retired at the end of 2023 after 36 years with the firm.

“We have the opportunity to progress the world’s industrialization and move the needle for humankind,” Duke said. “Our work is thrilling; it will take investment and collaboration across our entire industry for a greater cause. At Burns & McDonnell, we will be intentional — prioritizing our initiatives throughout the organization, adopting technology, systems and processes to align and fortify our future, and most importantly continuing to go above and beyond for our clients.”

Prior to being named as CEO, Duke served as regional president and general manager of the South Central Region. Over the past two decades, she helped expand the firm’s customer base from one local Houston client to more than 650 local, regional and national clients in the industrial, refining, chemical, manufacturing and power utility markets. During her tenure, the business delivered over $5 billion in engineering, procurement, construction, environmental and consulting services in the region.

Duke played an integral role in launching the firm’s EPC delivery method in its South Central Region, with her efforts leading to the development and successful execution of many projects and programs, as well as the firm earning recognition by numerous industry and community organizations.

Duke earned a bachelor’s degree in civil/structural engineering from Texas Tech University and was named a Texas Tech Distinguished Engineer in 2018. She is an emeritus member of the Dean’s Council for the university’s School of Engineering.

Burns & McDonnell also announced: Joe Podrebarac as the firm’s first chief safety officer; Matt Olson as the firm’s first chief innovation officer; and Chris Baxter as the firm’s first chief risk officer.

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