Growth and Service: Freese and Nichols Celebrates 10 Years in Oklahoma City

Opening an Oklahoma City office 10 years ago helped launch Freese and Nichols’ journey to having a profile across the United States. And during that decade, the Oklahoma City team has played a pivotal role in broadening our reach in helping communities.

The History

Trish Hatley was picked to lead the the Oklahoma City office, which required juggling responsibilities between Texas and Oklahoma for several months until she relocated in May 2015.

The business plan for an Oklahoma City office developed when two Oklahoma opportunities converged with Freese and Nichols’ ambitions to establish national expertise. A longtime client moved to Edmond, Oklahoma, from the Dallas area in 2013, and the company landed a strategic opportunity to undertake a comprehensive transportation plan in Norman, Oklahoma.

Trish Hatley, an Oklahoma native with a background in transportation engineering and urban planning, was given the opportunity by the leadership team and her supervisor Larry Eckersley to spearhead Freese and Nichols’ expansion into Oklahoma. CEO Brian Coltharp, who was the water practice leader at the time, led the effort of putting a business plan together for the expansion.

Trish (now Executive Vice President of Operations) was picked to lead the Oklahoma City office, which required juggling responsibilities between Texas and Oklahoma for several months until she relocated in May 2015.

“The early days were challenging, with my efforts focused on building a local team and establishing a presence in the community,” Trish said. “During this time, I reconnected with Jennifer Wasinger, a childhood friend and would often meet with her to discuss the client landscape in Oklahoma City.”

Jennifer Wasinger was the first employee hired by Trish Hatley in the Oklahoma City office.

When Jennifer joined the new office as an account director, she proved instrumental in fostering local connections. Jennifer recalled that her first day included a pre-proposal meeting with the City of Oklahoma City for a large dam project. The office eventually won that project, and it was an indicator of the caliber of projects to come.

Jennifer said transitioning to Freese and Nichols allowed her to continue the kind of work she enjoys most.

“I loved what I was doing for state government, working with communities across Oklahoma to connect them with funding programs for water and sewer infrastructure. What I enjoyed most was visiting with clients and helping them solve their infrastructure problems all while building robust financing programs,” she said.

The Oklahoma City office has grown in multiple ways: For instance, Eric Waggoner, started as a summer intern then stayed; Clay Herndon and Brandon Huxford were the first to transfer from other locations; and Paul Green joined the company after retiring from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Now, the team is a key player in Oklahoma’s infrastructure development.

Overholser Dam created Lake Overholser in Oklahoma City. Our firm helped investigate a breach there in 1923 and is performing an engineering evaluation of the dam today.

Freese and Nichols’ long history of serving Oklahoma dates back to 1920, when our founder, Maj. John Hawley, designed a highway system for southern counties and opened an office in Durant. After the Oklahoma City flood of 1923, he was part of the team that investigated a breach of Overholser Dam and supervised the rebuilding of the City’s waterworks system. Now, more than a century later, our team is performing a comprehensive engineering evaluation of Overholser Dam.

You can read more about our history with the Overholser Dam in A Century in the Works: 100 Years of Progress in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The Future

“We have become a trusted advisor to many of our clients, thanks to the team’s commitment to quality work and building strong relationships” Trish said. “Anyone can do good engineering work, but being a trusted advisor is about understanding and addressing the unique challenges and opportunities each community faces.”

She foresees similar opportunities to assist with needs in Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas, where the firm continues to expand, and in Overland Park, Kansas, one of our newest offices.

“There’s tremendous growth and opportunities for Freese and Nichols to help those communities grow in a responsible way,” she said.

With a solid foundation in Oklahoma City and a clear vision for the future, Freese and Nichols is focused on nurturing existing relationships and building new ones, providing innovative solutions for our clients and helping communities grow in smart and sustainable ways.

Oklahoma City 10th Anniversary Celebration

The Oklahoma City office celebrated its 10th anniversary this year with food, family, and pickleball. Trish Hatley, the first employee in the Oklahoma City office, was surprised at the event with a commemorative plaque and short videos from company leaders, and more congratulating Trish and the OKC office for their hard work and dedication.