Lee Freese Excellence in Mentoring Award: David Buzan

Congratulations to David Buzan, Environmental Scientist in Freese and Nichols’ Austin office, for receiving the company’s Lee B. Freese Mentoring Award for his dedication to fostering guidance through the organization.

David has been a mentor and example of professionalism for many of his team members and colleagues throughout his career. His deep technical expertise, interest in developing junior staff into leaders, and dedication to clients have created lasting impact for those around him, both for internal staff and clients.

Before joining Freese and Nichols as a consulting biologist, David held leadership positions at Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), where he retired from in 2006. He was instrumental in the state’s understanding of bay and estuary freshwater inflow requirements that influenced legislation. Now, although David is retired from the state, his work style is as if he is fresh out of college, routinely learning new techniques and methods, staying up to date with continued trainings, and embracing new technologies that improve project delivery and client services — all directly aligned with the firm’s LEADS values of continuous improvement and innovation.

As a mentor, David helps develop leadership skills for his younger team members, instilling everything from field data collection and report generation to billing and monthly reports, to the importance of “meeting management” or “meeting facilitation,” to presentation skills. In some instances, David’s clientele is now directly working with younger staff that he trained to serve in project management roles for several projects. Additionally, David assigns projects by taking into consideration team member interests, opportunities to develop skill sets and making new connections with internal and external clients. One Environmental Science team member, Tam Tran, said, “We tend to work our hardest and put out quality product knowing David is there to support us.”

David’s dedication to clients is clear. David regularly investigates and learns new techniques or technologies to help his clients. Moreover, not only will David work long, irregular hours to get the job done, he has been known to outwork those half his age, regularly snorkeling for mussel surveys, kayaking for data collection, and leading many field efforts.

This award is named after Lee Freese (1935-2022), who was a Freese and Nichols Vice President and Principal. Lee served as a mentor to numerous employees, guiding them in their professional and personal development and equipping them to become leaders themselves. Lee said the key to mentoring is knowing when someone is ready to take on more responsibility, giving it to them and then doing what it takes to help them succeed. This assistance, he said, may mean stepping in and offering help or stepping back and letting them be resourceful. More about Lee.