Getting to know Joe – PEC’s New CEO
The Early Years
Joe’s grooming to become PEC’s next President/CEO began early. By the time he was six, Joe was helping his father with his plumbing/HVAC work. By eight, he started his own mowing business and was soon mowing 24 yards a week. When he turned 10, he started his own sign company making magnetic vinyl signs for vehicles in his hometown Colby, Kansas.
“From these work experiences, I learned at a young age the importance of hard work and honoring commitments,” Surmeier said. “I made that a part of my work-life philosophy.”
Joe’s first exposure to engineering was at the age of 16 when he was hired by Zerr Engineering. He worked for Zerr while attending Colby High School and Colby Community College. He finished his civil engineering degree at Kansas State University in 1991 and headed straight to PEC, where he has lived for 29 years. We say lived because he spends more time at PEC than at home, as he puts it… “it is my home away from home.”
Joe’s first day at PEC
When Joe started in PEC’s Transportation Division, the workstations didn’t have telephones or computers but what PEC did have was exceptional people.
“I have a passion for PEC and never thought about going anywhere else because of the way I was treated from day one,” Surmeier said.
Though Joe was from Kansas, he had never been to Wichita until his interview.
“We got to Wichita 30 minutes early (he is adamant about never being late), my wife Missy and I stopped at a convenience store just south of Kellogg about six blocks from PEC,” Surmeier said.
When they got ready to leave, the car wouldn’t start. Joe hoofed it to PEC so he wouldn’t be late. Gary Schock, PEC’s Transportation Division Manager at that time, greeted him in the lobby. He asked how his trip had been. Joe told him it was great, except that his car had just broken down. Joe proceeded to complete several meetings before he was finished with the interview process.
“When it was time to leave, I found my wife in the lobby and the car just outside,” Surmeier said. “They had picked up my wife and had my car repaired. I knew I wanted to work for a firm that took care of people like that. They took care of me and I wasn’t even their employee — yet — I was all in.”
Experience to lead
Throughout his time at PEC, Joe has served as Municipal Transportation Division Manager, Civil Department Manager, and Board of Directors’ Secretary/Treasurer. He has participated in PEC’s signature transportation projects including Grand Avenue UPRR Grade Separation in Haysville, Wichita’s West Kellogg Expansion, 37th Street Realignment between Hillside and Woodlawn and Central Relocation between Webb and Greenwich which included a runway overpass for the Beech Aircraft plant.
“I’m thrilled that someone with so much history with our firm and such a depth of experience will lead PEC into the next chapter,” said Rod Young, PEC’s chairman of the board. “He has a true vision of PEC’s ability to grow and enrich communities.”
Rod became Chairman of the Board in December when Joe was officially elected into the position. For the next several months, Rod and Joe will work side by side to assure a smooth transition until Rod retires in the Fall of 2020.
“I can’t wait for everyone to meet Joe,” Young said. “I am leaving PEC in good hands… even if he is a Broncos fan.”
Joe looks forward to getting to know more clients, supporting PEC’s core values and leading the way to enrich the lives of employees, clients and the communities PEC serves, as he endeavors to see PEC grow.
“It comes down to customer service and taking care of people in the best way possible — above all else,” Surmeier said.
“When you surround yourself with good people, it is easy to make that happen and we have great people at PEC.”
He knows, he learned it — on day one.