Little Rock District civil engineers, Elmo Webb and Roderick Gaines both received awards in the Outstanding Achievement for Modern-Day Technology category at the 2021 Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA).
Webb and Gaines are both extremely capable engineering professionals that collectively have more than 50 years of experience delivering engineering solutions to the nation.
Webb, has served as a geotechnical design engineer, construction manager, and a levee safety program manager. He also serves as needed as a national-level risk assessment cadre member during major flood events. He’s received numerous awards including a Bronze Order of the deFluery Medal in 2020 and Civilian of the Year in 2019. The BEYA award is the first time his contributions to Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) have been recognized at a national level.
To Webb, the BEYA award comes with a sense of responsibility that is perhaps greater than the recognition of excellence that it represents.
“This BEYA is much different, it is special but it feels more like a responsibility, because it recognizes me as a person of color that made one step forward so that some other person of color could see my step, so they can make one more step forward. “
For Webb, who has 36 years on the job with USACE, the award comes as he is nearing the end of his career. With much of his time spent as a geotechnical design engineer, he’s looking forward to retirement and hopes to teach middle school or junior high math.
When asked if he had a single piece of advice for an engineer just starting their career, he had this to say.
“A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame somebody else - or stop trying."
For Gaines, who has received numerous local awards, including the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service and an Achievement Medal for Civilian Service, the recognition from BEYA – an organization that profiles some the most influential and accomplished science and technology professionals - was the first of his career. While grateful and honored, Gaines says that he plans on keeping his head down and focused on work.
“I’m here to be a team player and do my job.”
Gaines currently serves in the Operations Technical Support Branch where he as been the technical liaison to different state and federal agencies on behalf of USACE. He is one of the key team members that ensures the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) is open and safe for river traffic. Responsible for more than $24 billion in annual import export traffic, the MKARNS is vital the nation, and Gaines works closely with MKARNS managers, the U.S. Coast Guard, and industry to manage dredging, bank stabilization, and other measures to maintain the navigation channel.
With almost 30 years with USACE, Gaines has seen good projects and bad. He’s been a part of several award-winning teams and believes strongly in teamwork. To new STEM professionals he has this piece of advice.
“Be grateful for life! Thank God for every day and try to make the most of every opportunity (including the work you do AND the people you meet). Remember that your job is important; enjoy the successes and persevere through the challenges.”