Holger Fuerst, Engineering Manager, MacKay & Somps Civil Engineers, Representing the Building Industry Association (BIA)

Business Caucus

Holger Fuerst

Educational background

I grew up in a Navy family in Germany. There, I graduated with my “Abitur” after 13th grade. (Back then, Germany had an additional year of high schooling compared to the traditional school system in the United States). For five of those early schooling years, I lived in and went to school in Washington, DC where my dad was stationed at the time. After graduating high school, I came back to the United States to go to college at the University of the Pacific (UoP) in Stockton, CA from which I graduated with two bachelor degrees in Civil Engineering and Engineering Management and a minor in math. During my time at UoP, I played Division 1 basketball on a full-ride scholarship. Following college, I entered the engineering consulting profession and got my professional engineering license (P.E.).

Professional experience

I have been employed in private sector engineering consulting in the Sacramento region for almost 32 years with a primary focus on entitlement engineering and processing of large-scale communities/master-planned communities.

Favorite work-related project so far 

Given that entitlement processing of large-scale master-planned communities in California will typically take 10+ years, there is no such thing as “instant gratification” with such projects. It is thus the small victories along the way that make it all worthwhile for me as a consultant. And the fact that it takes a team of consultants, each experts in their own fields, to make it all happen is extremely gratifying. As an engineer, I find that working in a very dynamic team environment under a constantly changing regulatory framework can be very challenging, but keeps it interesting and rewarding. I get to work side-by-side with any and all parties involved in the entitlement process, from numerous other consultants, to investors, developers, builders, various stakeholders, and staff from regulatory agencies, including policy makers at various levels—never a dull moment.

History with the Water Forum

Having worked with Jim Ray for over 20 years, I couldn’t help but get exposed to the Water Forum and its impact on local water agencies’ ability to implement capital improvements. Long-term water supply reliability is a critical component of being able to meet the regional housing demand for years to come and, as such, has always been a key part of my work.

Why it is important to be involved in the Water Forum

(See above response.)

Most valuable lesson learned (or advice) when it comes to coming to agreement

Mutual respect, listening and understanding, and a willingness to compromise are key to reaching agreement on contentious issues.

What’s unique about the American River region

Everything…  Its history, its biodiversity, its location (running through the heart of this region), its recreational value, its value as a critical water supply source….  It truly represents the uniqueness of the Sacramento region.

Favorite location and/or activity on the lower American River

My wife and I are very active, outdoorsy types that love to boat, fish, and scuba-dive. As part of our local dive club activities, we participate in the annual Great American River Cleanup where we as divers float down the river and pick up as much trash off the bottom as we can. It’s definitely a worthwhile activity.

But one of my favorite activities on the lower American River has got to be a “salmon snorkel” that we’ve done several times with our dive club. During the peak of the fall salmon run, we would enter the river just below the salmon gate below Hazel Ave. wearing our wetsuits and snorkel gear. Then we’d float head first down-river while coming face-to-face with numerous salmon. Definitely a unique experience.

Secret talent

Not sure that there’s anything ‘secret’ about my history playing basketball at the highest international level, but in 1987 and 1988 I got to join the German National Team and play in international tournaments all over the world prior to the ’88 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Unfortunately, our team did not qualify for the medal rounds. These days, I’m learning to kite surf—a ton of fun, but not so easy to learn when your body tells you that it’s not as young anymore as you want it to be.  ?

Personal motto

Work hard-play hard, and keep a healthy balance in life.