Arizona Contractor & Community
CEO Kathey Wagner announces plan to retire; company launches search for successor
Arizona-based civil engineering firm EPS Group, Inc. announced the retirement of Chief Executive Officer Kathey Wagner. The company has launched a search for her replacement; Wagner will remain CEO until the board names her successor.
Wagner began working in the AEC industry as a business strategist in 2014. She started working with Mesa, Arizona-based EPS Group, Inc. in 2018 and was appointed CEO by the board in 2019. During what was undeniably one of the most challenging business cycles in history, she helped the company quickly pivot to a remote environment with a focus on developing new revenue streams. With her leadership the company added over a hundred new associates, expanded geographically outside of Arizona, set new financial records, and is on pace to become a Top 5 firm in the Southwest by 2025.
In recognition of these achievements, in 2021 EPS Group Inc. was named ENR’s Southwest Design Firm of the Year, and AZ Business and AZRE magazines named Wagner as one of the Most Influential Women in Arizona. The recognition continues to roll in, as Wagner was recently named a 2023 Outstanding Women in Business by the Phoenix Business Journal. She cites collaboration with her board and leadership team as key to her accomplishments.
“I am grateful for the relationships built with this great company and am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to serve as CEO,” said Wagner. “I am proud of what our team has accomplished during the transitional phase of building a bigger future together.”
The first person to serve in the role of CEO for EPS Group, Wagner was charged with the mission to restructure and evolve the organization from a state-based company to a regional leader. With the introduction of the C-Suite, EPS Group Firm Principals accelerated their pursuit of new opportunities and shifted their focus to strengthening client relationships. The new strategic direction combined with the blend of multi-discipline expertise fueled the successful pursuit of larger-scale projects in multiple departments.
During her tenure, Wagner also successfully implemented a formal leadership development program to help position the company for current and future success. Her leadership philosophy, "our team is the secret sauce,” helped her define the company’s culture, “I am EPS,” and informed the co-creation of the Career Paths and Profiles program with her leadership team. In addition, she led the design of an early identification and development program for key associates interested in ownership, and successfully launched the Path to Ownership Program in 2022 in collaboration with her board.
“The timing of my departure aligns with my original commitment to the board, and we have actively included leadership succession into our strategic plan,” Wagner added. “Our Board and Shareholders are outstanding humans and leaders. The strategy we have developed is first class, and the structure is designed for future expansion in our quest to become the No. 1 design firm in the Southwest.”
Wagner attended Adams State University in Alamosa, CO on an athletic scholarship. She was a member of the volleyball and track and field teams, as well as the university orchestra. She managed her time wisely and graduated with a double major in Education and Business in 1987. Wagner moved to Phoenix in 1994 and enjoyed a successful 20-year career in the Insurance & Financial Services industry. She then launched her own strategy firm in midtown Phoenix in 2011.
As a lifelong entrepreneur and community developer, she strives to create stronger neighborhoods and connected communities in support of locally-owned businesses and non-profits. While growing her own firm, she also launched a certified B-Corporation to connect the community with local businesses in the greater downtown “850” zip corridor. Gifted to Downtown Phoenix, Inc, this organization is now part of their volunteer platform.
Wagner actively serves on the Phoenix Community Alliance Board of Directors, volunteers for Keep Phoenix Beautiful and has been an integral part of the Carmody Foundation’s Annual Art for Good Project. In addition, she has connected EPS Group associates with the Human Services Campus’ Thirst-Aid campaign to provide water for community members experiencing homelessness, as well as St. Mary’s Food Bank and Save the Family organizations.