The “Go-To” Guys: An Achen-Gardner Pipe Crew Spotlight

Jessica Claas | Monday January 4, 2021

You all know them; the type of guys you can call for help with anything. They answer on the first ring, ready to jump in, no question, and they sure as heck don’t whine about it or make excuses. Those guys make up Omar Smith’s pipe crew. They walk into any situation with a “we got this” attitude. It’s no wonder when Achen-Gardner Construction (AGC) is installing a new innovative product, placing record setting pipe runs, or needs an on-call emergency repair crew, that they rely on these guys.

At the helm of this “specialty crew” is Pipe Superintendent Omar Smith. Omar has been with AGC for nearly 10 years, but has 24 years of experience in the construction industry. Omar has always been the “go-to” guy. When AGC needed a mentor for new recruits, or extra hands-on-deck when they started their Tucson branch, Omar stepped up.

Omar became so good at being the “go-to” guy that at first, General Pipe Superintendent, Mike Gewecke didn’t want him to be tied down to a single project. He wanted to keep him and his crew in his back pocket.

“There is great honor in knowing you are kept in reserve as a resource, a problem-solver, the handler if you will, and called upon when a secret-weapon is needed. Omar has great leadership qualities with his crew, along with safe and well-structured job sites.” said Mike, “He runs a tight ship.”

Nowadays though, Omar is leading some high-profile projects, but he doesn’t do it alone. He has a solid crew behind him. One he calls his family. They are always razzing each other like brothers. Meet Omar’s ride or die, Leadman Octavio Herrera Perez, who they affectionately call “OT” or Overtime. Omar and OT have been working together for more than 13 years, including a decade of work together with AGC. When you’ve worked in the trenches side-by-side with someone that long, you form an unshakable bond. Jose Montoya also shares this connection with Omar. “Junior” as he is known to his work family, is another leadman who started with AGC more than 4 years ago. Junior excels at handling the logistics of any project. Rounding out this nimble crew is operator Fernando Rivera, pipe layer Rodrigo Sida, and operator Vincent Guillen. They are new to AGC in the last two years, but have stepped up in a big way.

And when we say big, we mean big. This crew is currently working on a project for the City of Glendale that will be the longest Primus Line pipe run in the United States at an amazing 15,500 linear feet. And talk about cool stuff, the Primus Line they are installing is an innovative pipe rehabilitation product. It consists of a multi-layered, high strength, and flexible material that is pulled through the host pipe with a winch and air is blown into it, eliminating the need to dig up the entire line. You can find out more information about that project here.

Omar keeps the “go-to” mentality instilled within his crew. He takes great pride in the fact that his team can take any new learning experience or project, and not just own it, but excel at it.

Now, let’s highlight some other cool accomplishments these gentlemen have been a part of. This crew:

  • Installed the largest diameter and longest section of the innovative pipe rehabilitation product, Primus Line in the state of Arizona for the City of Peoria.
  • Self-performed slipline rehabilitation of approximately one mile of 60” PCCP transmission main using a 56” steel liner.
  • Sliplined 14,000 linear feet of 6” sewer line inside an 8” ductile iron pipe from the Beardsley Road Water Reclamation Facility to 111th Avenue. This was an award winning project and the longest section of Fusible PVC installed in Arizona.

Here’s what Omar had to say about his crew:

ESS: What makes you most proud of your crew?
Omar: “I can call these guys day or night and they are ready to go. I never have to question their commitment, loyalty, or ability to get a job done.”

ESS: What are three words that describe your crew?
Omar: Dependable. Ready. Compadres.

ESS: What makes this crew special?
Omar: We take our work seriously, but boy do we share a lot of laughs while doing it.