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Staff Stories—Larry DaVico: The Sea Buoy

When he took a job on a dredge boat in 1973, Larry DaVico had no idea it would be the end of his medical career and the beginning of nearly half a century in the maritime industry. With 13 years at Manson and more than 47 in the maritime industry, Larry has a wealth of experience and wisdom to share. As Manson’s contracts administrator for the dredging department, Larry has seen how Manson and the marine construction and dredging industry at large have changed over the years.

The "Sea Buoy" Larry DaVico enjoying a cup of coffee on a busy work day.

Larry found his way to a career in the industry partly by accident. He had decided to take a semester off from the pre-med program at Louisiana State University to earn money to pay for his studies. His stepfather, then an electrical engineer at Raytheon, helped Larry get a job as a deckhand on one of the dredges. He didn’t know then that this would be the first of a slew of positions he would hold in the marine industry over the next 47 years.

After only two months, the dredge captain heard that Larry had some college experience and was a bit of a math whiz, so he moved him to the survey crew. Since then he has worked in almost every job there is: running crews and tugboats, operating small cranes, organizing crews as a superintendent, and taking the lead as a project manager to name a few. Suffice to say, he did not return to his pre-med studies, and he says he has “never looked back.”

When asked about his favorite role he has held during his illustrious career, Larry says that highlights for him have been training new people, engaging with the Client, and building relationships. As a survey manager, Larry says he is proud to have seen a few of his trainees move into upper management. William House, Manson dredging estimator, say Larry is widely known as “The Sea Buoy – keeping everyone on the right path and moving forward. He clearly exudes the characteristics of a true leader on a day-to-day basis.”

Working in surveying is also where he began his legacy of building relationships with clients. Larry fondly recalls getting into debates with clients over dredge quantities. Being able to be diplomatic while fighting for the interests of the Company is a valuable skill, and Larry recognizes it as a combination of the enjoyment of engaging in negotiations, the experience of being thrown into the deep end of the pool at an early age, developing a habit of communication, and simply having a “knack” for client relations.

Besides building work relationships, Larry has some experience with personal relationship building as well. Larry and his wife of 34 years, Sandy, met when they were both working at Bean Dredging, the company where Larry spent his first 14 years learning the ropes of the dredging business. She was a main frame computer programmer and he was a project manager.

William, who has worked closely with Larry these past 13 years at Manson, recounts how Manson colleagues used to think it was “funny to see Larry walk and talk, as he does, during most of his phone conversations with clients. Yet, this is just a reminder of how much of a field guy he once was as he always stays on the move. I think at one time he was wearing out a pair of tennis shoes once a year while walking in the parking lots, carrying on day-to-day operations decisions while on the phone with clients.”

Elaborating on his ability to work with clients, Larry points out the importance of the person-to-person phone call. “I don’t care what you are doing, communication is the key to success,” he says. “If there are any complexities in an email, always follow up with a phone call and then truly listen to what the person on the other end has to say.” Another sage piece of advice that Larry has been known to dish out to those starting out at Manson is to listen and ask questions. “I always say that there are no stupid questions, but, if there were stupid questions, they would be much easier to handle than stupid mistakes. So ask lots of questions.”

With an unbridled passion for advancing the culture and ethics programs at Manson as a regional ethics advisor, Larry also remembers how things were done in the past. His experience allows him the ability to look back and clearly see the great strides made in the industry through the years. Larry recalls how, when he first started at Manson in 2007, he wasn’t in the habit of reporting every single safety incident. Marc Stearns, then-Company vice president and Gulf and East Coast area manager, hammered into him that he needed to report every single thing, as insignificant as it may seem. Marc said, “You do the right thing all the time every time. If you have a minor incident or accident, you tell the Client, every time.”

"You do the right thing all the time, every time ... if you have a minor accident or accident, you tell the Client, every time."

Larry also recalls how safety in the Industry has vastly changed. When he first started out “it was the Wild West. People got hurt, but it was part of doing business … it was just the way it was. All of that has really changed.” Manson is clearly a leader in areas of ethics and safety according to Larry. He knows people who have left other companies to work at Manson due to the Company’s exceptional safety and ethics reputation. “Safety, safety values, ethics, ethics values. Manson is a cut above,” he says.

Before Larry started working at Manson, he had the opportunity to work on projects with some of Manson’s luminaries such as Henry Schorr and Dave Howard. He met Henry Schorr in 1980 on a dredging project in Colombia, South America – in the middle of La Guajira (a huge coastal desert)! They were working for different companies but got to know each other and became friends. Later on, Larry credits Henry for opening the door for him to make the leap over to Manson where he started as assistant operations manager working with Dave Howard. Prior to working with Dave at Manson, Larry and Dave first met while working together on a Maryland beach re-nourishment project as a joint venture in the mid-1980s. At the time, Dave was the project manager for Great Lakes Dredge and Dock and Larry was the project manager for Weeks Marine.

Like negotiating with the Army Corps of Engineers over dredge quantities, Larry clearly likes a challenge. For the past two years, Larry has been the reigning champion of Manson’s Movember Step Challenge. Movember is a series of charitable events held to raise awareness and funds for men’s health. Held every November, Manson’s Step Challenge is a competition between Manson’s employees and regional offices to see who can take the most steps to raise money – and competition is fierce. Larry says he wanted to show that “us older Mansonites are not washed up … I showed ‘em!” He certainly did with over one million steps last year.

When Larry isn’t building relationships and whipping budding Mansonites into shape, he can be found taking care of his 2004 Z06 C-5 Corvette that he loves to show off and sport around to weekend car shows. His passion for sports cars started when he worked with his stepfather on a 1963 Sunbeam Alpine as a kid and his first car of his own was a 1965 Sunbeam Alpine. His door is always open to talk about cars, and he helps people in the community work on their own as much as possible.

From his start as a deckhand moving through the ranks, Larry says he has enjoyed every moment of his time in the industry and at Manson. “It was great to be out on the water with a great bunch of people.”

The relationships Larry has built with multiple clients throughout the years of his career have been instrumental in the way we at Manson perform our day-to-day operations, as well as positively impacting personnel and projects, says William House. “He has a tremendous amount of knowledge in our markets, gained from working up through the ranks while remaining humble enough to acknowledge talent and promote that talent.”

In just three short years, Larry plans on retiring from Manson, giving him the silver anniversary milestone of 50 years of industry experience. Manson is honored to have him for the last leg of his career path. “If there’s any place I want to be as I complete my career,” Larry says, “this is it.”

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