Tom Leto, Project Manager of the Month, Discusses Communication and Teamwork on Complex Projects
Tetra Tech CEO Dan Batrack created our Project Manager (PM) of the Month award to honor PMs who demonstrate excellence in supporting our clients and perform projects to the highest standards of quality and fiscal discipline.
Tom Leto is Tetra Tech’s January 2022 PM of the Month. He provides subject matter expertise and advice on the scope of services and staffing requirements for major geotechnical projects and technical review of geotechnical reports.
“Tom’s knowledge and capacity to manage and lead are differentiators with our clients,” said Mohamad Al-hawaree, head of Tetra Tech’s U.S.-based geotechnical engineering practice. “Tom commands the respect of everyone around him, and he can calmly assess confusing situations, addressing the concerns of the affected parties in a manner that creates order out of chaos.”
Tom has more than 50 years of experience in the field of geotechnical engineering and materials testing and is a senior consultant and project manager based in our Bartow, Florida, office. He supported the design and construction of over 75 waste phosphatic clay and wastewater containment dams for the Florida phosphate industry. His deep expertise and ability to lead in complex situations saved millions of dollars for state and county governments and provided peace of mind to thousands of residents.
He holds a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from the University of Florida and is a registered Professional Engineer in Florida.
“I’m so honored to receive this recognition and can’t be more proud of being a part of this company,” Tom said. “In the face of many challenges and emergency situations over the years, I always maintained a relentless and fearless path and sense of self-confidence that I could come up with a solution.”
We talked with Tom about how his work is supporting more resilient communities and a healthier environment for Florida residents.
What is your approach to maintaining stakeholder communication and relationships during critical events?
Part of our geotechnical practice includes working on behalf of clients to avert or remediate unplanned releases of restricted liquids or solids to waters of the state and neighboring properties, often in critical or emergency situations. Communication is key during these fast-paced responses.
For example, when seepage from one of the above-grade lined ponds at a closed phosphate manufacturing facility resulted in potential instability to the impoundment dike, my team conducted overnight inspections and swiftly determined that there was no imminent danger of failure. However, the surrounding community had been evacuated as a precaution. Our work led to the governor rescinding the emergency order and the County reopening the roads leading to the site, which allowed approximately 10,000 residents to return to their homes. In situations such as these, it’s important to continually communicate with stakeholders and have a clear understanding of the potential danger and what remediation will look like.
How do you support continuous learning in your work?
My passion has been consulting and design for the Florida phosphate industry. Being able to share my background and expertise with others and develop future leaders further drives this passion. I always ensure that I’m making time to assist my associates and collaborate to overcome project challenges together. Delivering quality services to our clients requires team cohesion and encouragement.
I’ve also spent the past four decades providing training to phosphate industry employees in problem detection and classification, root causes of facilities' failures, or near misses, and the methods of corrective action or maintenance. Both as an instructor and as a student, I look for opportunities to learn and hone my skills to continue serving my clients in innovative ways.
Field crew hard at work performing the leak detection survey in a safe manner
What advice would you give aspiring project managers?
Throughout my career, I responded to countless emergencies and critical events that occurred on weekends and holidays. Being both adaptable and dependable is critical to successfully responding to ever-changing obstacles. Project managers need to develop solid communications with the client’s representative and be able to adapt to changing conditions. A project manager can’t succeed without a good and loyal team. One must be willing to roll up their sleeves and get things done alongside their team members.