Amanda Gentle, Project Manager at Roman E&G Corp
Outstanding Women in Construction 2022 Finalist

Amanda GentleNo. 1 Must-Have: “A team — and that goes for every aspect of life. Having people who are there to support you in your work in the field, in the office and at home is everything.”

While pursuing a biology degree and working as a runway model, 19-year-old Amanda Gentle began work managing crews at Roman E&G, an electrical and gas engineering firm. With her eyes on a career in medicine, she had no intentions of staying in construction, but that changed. “I just loved the company I was with, and I loved the industry,” she said. “It’s different every day.”

Now project manager (PM), Gentle has been with Roman E&G Corp for 15 years. “I do everything long term,” she said. “I hate turnover.” And it’s difficult not to attribute Roman E&G’s extremely low turnover rate at least in part to Gentle’s close relationships and effective communication tactics. “I’ve always worked directly with the crews — scheduling, invoicing, communicating with supervisors to get the production in the field going and documented,” she said. The company began with only four or five crews, but that number is now up to 23. She is also the 24-hour emergency contact for Roman E&G. “Sometimes I take calls at 2 a.m. I can’t fix what I don’t know is wrong, so it’s always just been, ‘Call me,’” she said.

 

Initially, Roman E&G did only electrical and gas work, but in recent years, the company has been getting large volumes of water work, which is where Gentle has attuned her focus as PM and overseer of the water division. In 2014, after Hurricane Sandy obliterated New Jersey, Gentle headed up client Public Service Enterprise Group’s (PSE&G) Energy Strong Program, during which her crews rebuilt and upgraded the state’s infrastructure. “We went down every block, to every house. Everything was updated from lead to plastic. We did 129 miles of gas main installation in over 13,000 services to individual homes,” she said. “Right after, we partnered with PSE&G again to complete their Gas System Modernization Program.”

Then, in 2017, New Jersey’s governor passed a bill mandating that all lead service lines in the state be replaced within 10 years. Shortly after the mandate, the City of Newark (whose service lines had been found to be worse than those that caused the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, at points) reached out to Roman E&G with contracts to work on approximately 14,000 homes and 13,000 service lines, totaling around $101 million. Gentle was to head the project. “The safety and health of people drinking this water is important to me. It’s not like gas service or electrical. Obviously, no one wants their house to burn down, but these people are consuming, cooking with, feeding their families with this water. It really hits home for me.”

Eventually, the number of contracts awarded to Roman E&G by the city totaled 11, including an emergency contract to replace 4,398 service lines in nine months. Everything was finished within four years. “It was so successful,” she said. “At one point, we had 14 crews working, assisting the city in record-breaking numbers.” Gentle said this project is her greatest career achievement. The White House agreed. On February 11 of this year, following the City of Newark’s formal request, Gentle took part in a roundtable with U.S. Vice President (VP) Kamala Harris, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, New Jersey Senator Corey Booker, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, workers and Newark residents to discuss the historic funding in the bipartisan infrastructure law to remove and replace lead pipes.

During the discussion, Gentle noted that she sat at the table pregnant with her second child, concerned for the children who are suffering from lead poisoning due to consuming water from lead pipes. According to Gentle, the success of this project, which boasted exceptional funding, as well as communication between the city government and residents, “should continue to be a model for the rest of the country. And as a mother and a homeowner myself, it has been an honor to work with the city and the government ... to be making a difference.” VP Harris echoed Gentle’s sentiments, adding that lead pipes are a universal problem, but often only the rich can afford to have them replaced, which was combated through this bill and its resulting infrastructure project.

It is difficult to image a better image of female empowerment in the industry than a pregnant construction PM, speaking on behalf of those in need at a roundtable with the vice president and other high-ranking government officials. Yet, when asked if she has ever been marginalized as a woman in a mostly male field, Gentle said, “Of course. There are times I may be sitting with 15 people at a table, representing Roman, and I’m the only woman there. Then, I may talk for 15 minutes about something, and I see eye-rolling, or a male with a question on the topic will address my male supervisor rather than me.” Gentle’s advice for combating this assumption that a man knows more about construction than a woman, especially a former runway model like herself? “Really understand your job. Know the technical aspects of it. Don’t be afraid to go out into the field and physically see the work being done so that you have a true understanding of it.”