ESOP Advisory Council

ESOP ADVISORY COUNCIL

The GHA Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) Advisory Council is not just a committee, but a pivotal component in shaping a robust culture of ownership, engagement, and professional advancement among GHA’s employee-owners. Acting as a key element within GHA’s ownership structure, the council plays an essential role in both sustaining and evolving a shared vision for the future trajectory of the company.

COUNCIL COMPOSITION

Our council is made up of ten diverse representatives, each hailing from a different division within GHA. This structure ensures a broad spectrum of voices are heard, reflecting the company’s unified commitment to its employee-owners.

ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Liaison to Leadership: The council ensures the interests and perspectives of GHA’s employee-owners are effectively communicated to the Board of Directors.

Onboarding: The council works diligently to integrate new members swiftly, ensuring effective and efficient operations moving forward.

Conference Participation: Council members are expected to attend at least one ESOP Association conference during their term, ensuring a continuous influx of fresh perspectives and best practices.

Educational Programs: Continuously updating and providing ESOP-specific educational materials for new and existing employee-owners.

Event Coordination: Creating and managing a comprehensive annual calendar of events that align with GHA’s core values and ESOP objectives.

2023 ESOP Association Conference
2023 Chicago Dogs Game

OBJECTIVES AND GOALS

Initially established with a focus on communication, culture, and employee engagement, the council has continually evolved its objectives to adapt to GHA’s changing needs.

Core Values and Mission: In alignment with GHA’s foundational beliefs and commitments, the council focuses on transparent communication, comprehensive education, and the coordination of special events.

Adaptive Strategies: Recognizing the dynamic nature of GHA’s operational landscape, the council is committed to evolving its strategies to meet changing organizational needs.

Ownership Mentality: One of the council’s primary objectives is to foster an ownership mindset among employees, aiming for active participation and long-term commitment.

Ongoing Communication: Improving communication and engagement throughout the office.

FUTURE VISION

The ESOP Advisory Council plays a critical role in enhancing the integrity of GHA’s ownership model by faithfully representing the diverse interests of all employee-owners. This representation serves as a fundamental aspect of the council’s role, granting it the authority to voice the interests of each division within the company. The council’s goals for GHA’s future extend beyond short-term achievements but include a shared long-term vision. This vision is geared toward a workspace where new ideas are valued, and originality is encouraged.

Through these efforts, the council seeks to go beyond its function as a liaison between employee-owners and the leadership of GHA, aiming to be a proactive force in advancing the company’s journey toward innovation and shared success.


Employee Owned

GHA is an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) Company.

In 2018, GHA transitioned to an ESOP organization. This signifies that every member of GHA’s staff possesses an owner’s stake in enhancing our services and the value they deliver to our clients. Beyond the financial benefits for all GHA Co-Owners, we deeply believe in the contributions each one of us can make through our experience, insight, and dedication. This belief drives a variety of employee opportunities, always anchored in the understanding that we, the Co-Owners, possess a distinctive voice that demands recognition.

WHAT IS AN ESOP?

At Gewalt Hamilton Associates, our team members are more than just employees; they are vested stakeholders in the company through our Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). An ESOP is a specialized retirement plan that operates through a trust, a distinct legal entity that acquires, holds, and manages company stock for the benefit of its participants. This unique structure allows GHA co-owners to receive company shares as a portion of their compensation, providing them with a vested interest in the company.

HOW DOES AN ESOP WORK?

Much like a 401(k) plan, an ESOP provides a framework for long-term retirement savings. However, there are key differences. In our ESOP, employees are not required to contribute financially to acquire company shares. Instead, Gewalt Hamilton Associates takes on the responsibility of making all contributions. This reflects our dedication to investing in the people who make our success possible.

The value of each ESOP account is directly linked to the stock price of Gewalt Hamilton Associates, rather than external market securities. This ensures that as the company continues to grow and thrive, so does the financial well-being of our team members. To maintain transparency and integrity, the value of our company stock is assessed annually by an independent third-party appraiser. Any increase in the stock value is then equitably redistributed to the ESOP beneficiaries—our valued owners-employees.

By implementing an ESOP, our goal is to nurture a culture where excellence and innovation are the norm, as every team member has a direct stake in the company’s overall performance and success.

BENEFITS OF PARTICIPATING IN AN ESOP

Participating in an ESOP offers numerous advantages that go beyond traditional retirement plans:

Alignment of Interests: With a stake in the company, team members are naturally motivated to contribute to its success, thereby creating a cohesive and focused work environment.
Financial Security: The ESOP provides an additional layer of financial stability for retirement, supplementing other retirement savings plans you may have.
Tax Benefits: ESOPs come with certain tax advantages, both for the company and for the employee beneficiaries, making it a financially prudent choice for long-term planning.
Shared Success: As the company grows, the value of the ESOP shares also increases, allowing co-owners to directly benefit from the company’s success.

ESOP ADVISORY COUNCIL

The GHA Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) Advisory Council is not just a committee, but a pivotal component in shaping a robust culture of ownership, engagement, and professional advancement among GHA’s employee-owners. Acting as a key element within GHA’s ownership structure, the council plays an essential role in both sustaining and evolving a shared vision for the future trajectory of the company.

At GHA, each division is represented on the council, ensuring an approach where every opportunity is explored and every concern is addressed. We take pride in our inclusive culture, and as a testament to this, all GHA Co-Owners are invited to serve on the ESOP Advisory Council for a term. Those who have taken up this opportunity unanimously agree that it offers a unique platform to actively shape GHA’s future.

Our culture at GHA is deeply rooted in a shared journey toward the future, with each of us as Co-Owners playing a pivotal role. Throughout the year, we have numerous celebrations that underscore this collective spirit. The Annual Stock Reveal is a moment we all eagerly await each year. The dedicated members of the ESOP Advisory Council pour their energy into making this event memorable, ensuring not just insightful discussions but also great food and team-building fun.

COMPANY CULTURE

The ESOP model inherently encourages a culture of collective responsibility and mutual respect. Team members are not just employees but co-owners who have a vested interest in the quality of work and solutions we provide to our clients. This sense of ownership creates a work environment where integrity and excellence are not just expected but are a natural outcome of our company culture.

By integrating an ESOP into our benefits package, Gewalt Hamilton Associates aims to create a workplace where everyone’s contributions are recognized and rewarded, and where each team member benefits directly from our collective success.

2023 ESOP Stock Reveal

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

GHA: Embracing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

At GHA, we are deeply committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In 2020, we established the DEI committee with a clear mission: “Our goal is to cultivate partnerships with experts and practitioners in our community to advance diversity and inclusion within our firm.” Our aim is to create an inclusive environment where all voices are heard, valued and celebrated.

As part of our ongoing DEI initiatives, GHA forges community partnerships aligned with our commitment to integrity and positive impact. Since 2004, our Philanthropy Committee has collaborated with Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep through the “Corporate Work Study Program,” supporting education and development for young individuals. We proudly hire full-time employees from this program, investing in our workforce’s future.

Wadee Rafati, Civil Engineer, Municipal Services Division

“Through our DEI efforts, we strive to create an inclusive environment where everyone’s voices are heard and valued,” says Wadee Rafati, a key member of the DEI committee. “We are dedicated to driving meaningful change and building a workplace that celebrates diversity and promotes equity.”

-Wadee Rafati, Civil Engineer

GHA Chicago Dogs Game

Education and building for the future are vital aspects of our DEI efforts. GHA donates funds to the College of Lake County, inspiring students through STEM-focused scholarships. Additionally, our contribution to the City Colleges of Chicago’s Black Equity and Excellence program amplifies our commitment to equity and a more diverse industry.

In 2022, GHA partnered with Ethos Talent, implementing their Management Program to cultivate leadership skills and a diverse workforce. This program serves as a foundation for ongoing DEI development, empowering our managers to champion diversity and inclusion.

To ensure fairness and equal opportunities, GHA adheres to EEOC regulations and analyzes our processes to address unintentional bias. We strive for equity across all stages, from recruiting and hiring to compensation and career advancement. Internally, GHA upholds the values of integrity and continuous improvement by enhancing DEI within the company.

GHA Paint 'n' Sip Night

Anika Moore, MAIO, CPO

“Our employee handbook has been rewritten to incorporate more inclusive language that represents our current culture and creates a welcoming environment for new hires. We are dedicated to fostering an inclusive workplace where every individual feels respected and included.”

-Anika Moore, MAIO, Chief People Officer

Through these initiatives, GHA demonstrates its dedication to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. With a deep-rooted passion for celebrating differences, upholding integrity and embracing continuous improvement, we are committed to shaping a more inclusive future for our employees, clients and communities.


What Makes Us GHA?

GHA's Vision - Now and Into the Future

GHA will be the premiere consultant partner in the Midwest, providing high-quality services and designs for our clients and community.

GHA will be forward looking, working toward a common vision that includes diversity and inclusion, a feeling of belonging, and built upon strong internal and external relationships.

GHA will be a world-class place to build a career, focused on staff development and training at all levels, creating challenging and rewarding opportunities for all staff.

GHA will build and maintain a strong culture, one built upon trust and growth, and our core values of Integrity, Dedication, and Passion.

Our Core Values:

Integrity

Integrity is at the core of everything we do at GHA. We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Our DEI committee, which was established in 2020, cultivates partnerships to advance DEI within our firm and our community. Our DEI initiative is enriched through our long-standing partnership with Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep. By collaborating on their “Corporate Work Study Program,” we’ve been providing educational opportunities and career pathways for youth since 2004.

Dedication

At GHA, dedication is the driving force behind our success. Our team of professionals embodies a commitment to excellence, consistently going above and beyond to secure client satisfaction and project superiority. A culture of continuous learning and growth defines GHA and is reflected in our comprehensive training programs, enriching mentorship opportunities, and promising career advancement initiatives. The strong collaboration among all of our team members further enhances our mission.

Passion

At GHA, our passion for community involvement is a vital part of our identity. We deeply value our role in positively impacting the places we inhabit and work. This commitment to making a difference is evident in our active engagement with environmental conservation efforts. Our longstanding partnerships, such as that with Friends of the Chicago River, enable us to participate directly in initiatives aimed at creating cleaner and more sustainable waterways for the enjoyment of future generations.

COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTIONS:

  • College of Lake County (CLC)
  • City Colleges of Chicago
  • Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep
  • Youth Conservation Corps (YCC)

At GHA, our dedication to inclusivity shapes our future. We celebrate diversity and integrity in all our endeavors. Our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion fuels a culture of innovation, allowing creativity and passion to drive our solutions. Join us as we build a community that values every perspective, working together to make a meaningful impact.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT:

At GHA, we foster an environment characterized by dedication, integrity, and accountability. Our team members are empowered to drive meaningful impacts, with a commitment to excellence evident in every aspect of our work. By joining the GHA team, you align yourself with a professional community passionate about innovation and precise execution.

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS: 

  • Lake County Adopt-a-Highway
  • Friends of the Chicago River
  • Northern Illinois Food Bank
  • St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

At GHA, passion is more than just a word; we consider it the driving force behind our mission to make tangible positive impacts in the communities we proudly serve. We firmly believe in the ripple effect of our collective actions, where each contributes to our wider goal of shaping a more sustainable and inclusive future.


Leadership

GHA’s Leadership brings together the right education, the right experience, and proven, consistently high performance as a leader.

It takes something special to be a GHA leader. That something is found in abundance throughout our leadership. With a collective belief that guiding clients’ projects to their best conclusions is a privilege, they help drive the entire GHA team towards consistently delivering at the high level our clients have come to trust.

Arthur Penn, PE, is not only a four-time champion of GHA's highly competitive chili cook-off, but also the President and COO of GHA. With more than 20 years of dedicated service to GHA, Arthur's leadership and expertise have been instrumental in driving GHA's growth and success. Arthur brings his passion for finding the perfect blend to his role at GHA. His ability to combine industry knowledge, strategic vision, and management skills ensures GHA's continued excellence and positions the company as a frontrunner in the industry.

Arthur Penn, P.E.

PRESIDENT / C.O.O.

Dave Marquardt leads GHA's Construction and Survey department with confidence and innovation, bringing with him 25 years of hands-on experience. Dave is not only an accomplished professional but also an avid Rolling Stones fan. Having attended over 20 concerts in six different states, he has immersed himself in the energy and music of the legendary band. This passion for the Rolling Stones is reflected in Dave's work at GHA, where he combines his appreciation for artistry and precision to deliver exceptional results on every project.

David Marquardt

DIRECTOR OF CONSTRUCTION AND SURVEY

Donald E. Dixon, P.E., Principal, has dedicated more than two decades to GHA. His entry into engineering was influenced by his father, a Utility Contractor in South Carolina, who introduced him to the intricacies of construction blueprints. This early exposure, combined with a desire for the "air-conditioned office" his father spoke of shaped Don’s professional journey. At GHA, his deep-rooted understanding shapes his methodical approach, ensuring each project is executed with precision and innovation.

Donald Dixon, P.E.

PRINCIPAL

Donald Matthews, P.E., CFM, began his remarkable journey with GHA as a student intern in 1986, advancing to a full-time position in 1988, and now serves as Vice President and Principal. Don's expertise in site design and water resources management has helped GHA establish itself as an industry leader. In his free time, Don can often be found playing rat hockey with his buddies. The focus and dedication he demonstrates in the game are paralleled in his work at GHA, leading to innovative solutions that enhance our communities.

Donald Matthews, P.E., CFM

VICE PRESIDENT / PRINCIPAL

Greg Newton, GISP, brings more than 11 years of expertise to his role as the Director of Geospatial Services at GHA. Alongside his professional achievements, Greg has a hidden talent—he spent 3 years traveling the country as Ringo in a Beatles tribute production. His passion for geospatial services and his unique creative background blend seamlessly in his work. Greg’s extensive knowledge and experience in the field allow him to provide innovative solutions and valuable insights to our clients.

Gregory Newton, GISP

DIRECTOR OF GEOSPATIAL SERVICES

Jonathan Past, P.L.S., acquired his professional licensure in Land Surveying in July 1999. Serving as GHA's Senior Surveyor and Land Survey Services Manager, his attention to detail and wealth of experience have significantly elevated the company's land survey services. Outside the office, Jonathan has a lifelong involvement with Native American culture as a member of the Ho-Chunk Bear Clan and Heylushka society. This relationship to the land and its history adds an extra layer of significance to his work at GHA.

Jonathan Past, PLS

SURVEY GROUP LEADER

Leo Morand, P.E., Director of Municipal Services, began his journey at GHA as an intern before moving to a full-time position in 2002. His passion for motorsports, specifically NASCAR, mirrors the dynamic and fast-paced environment he manages at GHA. Just as a racecar driver navigates the twists and turns of a track, Leo guides the Municipal Services Division with finesse, ensuring that every project is handled with the highest integrity and attention to detail.

Leo Morand, P.E.

DIRECTOR OF MUNICIPAL SERVICES

Lucas Deferville, Assistant Director of Construction & Survey Services at GHA, has been a valued team member since 2000. Starting as an intern in high school, Lucas has dedicated more than 18 years to GHA, becoming a full-time employee in 2005. Outside of work, Lucas is passionate about lawn care and gardening, meticulously tracking his lawn and plant care with an Excel spreadsheet. This attention to detail reflects the precision and care Lucas brings to his work at GHA.

Lucas Deferville

ASST. DIRECTOR OF CONSTRUCTION

Mei Zhu, P.E., CFM, LEED AP, Director of Water Resources, has been an integral part of GHA for more than two decades. With master's degrees from both China and Louisiana State University, she's a respected leader in water resource engineering. Active in her local school district's Chinese community, Mei organizes annual events celebrating her heritage. Her personal travels, spanning 38 states and 30 national parks, parallel her professional journey: exploring new terrains and pioneering solutions for GHA.

Mei Zhu, P.E., CFM, LEED AP

DIRECTOR OF WATER RESOURCES

As the Director of Facilities and Utilities Management, Michael Grinnell brings more than two decades of management experience in the public works sector to GHA. A skilled woodworker, Michael's dedication to this craft reflects the same commitment and precision he brings to his role at GHA. When he's not devising innovative solutions or immersed in a woodworking project, he's often found fishing with his grandkids, cherishing the simple joys of life.

Michael Grinnell

DIR. OF FACILITIES AND UTILITIES MGMT.

Michael Warner, P.E., CFM, joined GHA in January 2021, bringing with him 36 years of experience, including Executive Director of the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission. Outside of work, Michael's passion for skiing is a reflection of his approach to new challenges at GHA. Having skied at 47 resorts worldwide, he attacks the moguls with the same fearless enthusiasm he brings to his professional pursuits, demonstrating GHA's commitment to exceed industry standards.

Michael Warner, P.E., CFM

PRINCIPAL

Todd Gordon, P.E., began his journey with GHA as a Municipal Engineer in January 2000 and has since risen to his current role as CEO. An avid basketball player with a lifelong love for the game, Todd's drive on the court mirrors his professional trajectory from Municipal Engineer to CEO. This passion has shaped his competitive nature and strategic thinking, leading GHA to continued success and recognition in the industry.

Todd Gordon, P.E.

C.E.O.

Valerie Pawlak, CPA, has been a dedicated member of the GHA team for 13 years, contributing her expertise as the Director of Finance. Valerie is an avid adventurer with a passion for camping and backpacking. She has already conquered 280 of the 567 miles of the Colorado Trail, a testament to her love for exploration and the great outdoors. Valerie's commitment to precision and attention to detail shine through in her work, ensuring smooth financial operations and efficient administration at GHA.

Valerie Pawlak, CPA

DIRECTOR OF FINANCE

Walter E. Graft, P.E., Principal, began his journey with GHA in 1989. Over the span of 34 years, Walter has played a pivotal role in shaping the engineering solutions at GHA, pushing the boundaries of innovation. Having set foot in 26 different countries, he aims to double that number in the next decade, a testament to his boundless curiosity and drive, qualities he mirrors in his professional contributions to GHA.

Walter Graft, P.E.

PRINCIPAL


Our Culture

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

GHA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee brings us a strategic roadmap and initiatives that clarify our vision, and enhance strategy, processes and practices around culture and DEI. We partnered with Ethos Talent in November of 2020 to help promote DEI initiatives, education, organizational development and change management.

More about Diversity and Inclusion

Community Involvement

04-20-24 Adopt A Highway

We are committed to providing opportunities for philanthropic activities that align with the company’s mission, vision, and core values, and provide the means to assure the moral health of the company through philanthropy, fund development, and socially responsible efforts.

More about Community Involvement

Scholarships and
Educational Guidance

From the beginning, GHA has considered it an honor to assist young people in moving forward with their educational goals by proving opportunities to ease the financial burden.

GHA Supports Youth Conservation Corps Summer Conservation Program
GHA is a financial and experiential supporter of the YCC Program in association with Lake County Forest Preserves. This program has touched GHA directly, with a former program participant becoming a member of our Leadership. GHA’s Emerging Professionals Network recently hosted a day of education for the group at our Vernon Hills office that we hope will be remembered into the future of the students’ continuing growth. Youth Conservation Corps.

GHA Supports Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep – Corporate Work Study Program
Since 2004, GHA has participated in the Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) through Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep in Waukegan, IL. Through the CWSP program, high school students gain valuable experience that reinforces critical thinking and organizational skills that encourage success in college and throughout their lives. cristoreystmartin.org/corporate-work-study-program.

GHA Supports Students’ Future Success – City Colleges of Chicago Black Equity and Excellence Scholarships
GHA proudly supports the City Colleges of Chicago Foundation Black Equity and Excellence Scholarship Fund. GHA donated scholarship opportunities to STEM-focused, African American candidates in the technical and engineering field. sevenstrong.ccc.edu/black-excellence.

GHA Supports Students’ Future Success – College of Lake County Foundation Scholarships
GHA proudly supports the College of Lake County Foundation and has donated scholarship opportunities for engineering and CAD drafting students. clcillinois.edu/paying-for-college/financial-aid/types-of-financial-aid/clc-foundation-scholarships

GHA Supports – Habitat for Humanity
GHA staff gathered to lend a hand for Habitat for Humanity Lake County, enjoying every minute of it. This organization has been providing opportunities that allow people like us to give our time and energy to help families achieve the strength, stability and independence they need to build a better life.

http://www.habitatlc.org/

GHA Supports – Northern Illinois Food Bank
Our first “Grilling for Groceries” event this summer benefitted from the combination of the food donation provided by GHA, the funds collected from our participants, additional GHA employee owner donations, and generous matching donations. This will be able to help provide groceries to our some of our hungry neighbors in need. The Northern Illinois Food Bank serves in thirteen counties with dignity, equity, and convenience, providing approximately 250,000 meals a day. Annually, they helped provide over 100 million meals locally.

https://solvehungertoday.org/

GHA Supports – Feed My Starving Children
GHA has been a long term supporter of the Feed My Starving Children organization. Staff groups gather at FMSC to prepare packages of food to be distributed worldwide to those in need. We take great pleasure in both sharing our personal time for this excellent cause and having a great time too.

www.fmsc.org/

GHA Supports – Cancer Wellness Center’s Stepping Up to Wellness Run/Walk
For several years, GHA has been a proud sponsor of the Cancer Wellness Center’s Stepping Up to Wellness Run/Walk, and we are excited to support the Cancer Wellness Center (CWC) again in 2021.The CWC provides programs and services designed to educate participants, develop coping strategies, strengthen their support network for free due to the kindness and generosity of program supporters.

www.cancerwellness.org/get-involved/fundraising-events/run-walk/


Community Involvement

Community Involvement: Creating a Positive Impact

Members of the GHA team serve as Board Members or Trustees for various local government agencies. We actively promote leadership within our team, encouraging them to contribute to the communities where we operate. Each year, our employees dedicate numerous hours to community service, exemplifying our commitment to civic responsibility and engagement.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering

GHA has supported and hosted ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’ events to local students. We hope to inspire girls’ future, so they learn they have a place in engineering. Students participated at GHA’s corporate headquarters in engineering-related activities, shared their knowledge, and were introduced to engineering mentors! For more information, visit discovere.org

04-20-24 Adopt A Highway

Lake County Adopt-a-Highway

Twice a year, GHA team members and their families unite for our Adopt-A-Highway initiative, dedicating their time to enhancing the cleanliness and safety of our local highways. We’re grateful to the Lake County Division of Transportation for their ongoing support. This effort reflects our commitment to maintaining and improving our local environments. Visit LakeCountyIL.gov for more.

Friends of the Chicago River

The GHA team collaborates with the Friends of the Chicago River at North Park in Lincolnshire. Our team members participate in preserving our rivers and deepening our connection with the natural environment. Our efforts aim to ensure this remarkable natural resource stays clean for future generations and the diverse wildlife that inhabits it. For more information, visit ChicagoRiver.org.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

GHA hosts an annual Grilling for St. Jude’s event. Our team members unite to grill a selection of delightful dishes, all with the purpose of supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This esteemed institution is pivotal in combating childhood diseases, and our ongoing efforts resonate with its mission. We take pride in contributing to such a significant cause. For more on the transformative work of St. Jude’s, visit stjude.org

Cancer Wellness Center Annual Walk

GHA consistently supports the Cancer Wellness Center’s Stepping up to Wellness Run/Walk. This event epitomizes our dedication to promoting health and wellness in the community. Our team actively participates, championing the cause and raising awareness for cancer wellness. Through our involvement, we aim to amplify the message of resilience, hope, and collective strength. For more information visit cancerwellness.org

Northern Illinois Food Bank

GHA proudly partners with the Northern Illinois Food Bank. Our dedicated team volunteers to pack and sort food, aiding families across Northern Illinois. This collaboration reflects our dedication to community engagement and our resolve to address food insecurity. We remain focused on contributing to meaningful community initiatives. For more information about the NIFB, visit their site: solvehungertoday.org