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  • Writer's pictureMAREJ

Leif Dormsjo spearheads growth and innovation at Redgate

Executive Vice President, Mid-Atlantic Market Director expands

opportunities & forges new partnerships in the CRE landscape

What is your most notable project, deal or transaction?

I am particularly proud of my involvement with the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington, DC. I was responsible for overseeing the planning, design criteria, and procurement process of the project, which replaced a swing bridge from the 1950s and re-connected southeastern DC. to the Capitol Riverfront and Navy Yard areas. For me, this design-build project was about much more than just building a bridge. In completing the largest public infrastructure project in the District’s history, we connected vital communities together, provided intentionally bicycle, pedestrian and park access, and spurred $91 million of minority- and women-owned business development. It’s an incredible piece of architecture, which took a fabulous team effort to deliver.

How do you contribute to your company and/or the industry?

One thing that sets Redgate apart is the diverse, interdisciplinary backgrounds of its team members. Everyone brings different specialties, which gives us the opportunity to collaborate, share ideas, and offer input from what we’ve gathered in our own experiences and areas of interest.

I’ve been able to offer my infrastructure and policy experience to Redgate projects. After spending much of my career thus far in the public sector, I’m able to give more context in respect to public agencies, their functions and their constituents to my colleagues and clients. I also can offer clarification on any projects related to transit-oriented development, which is another area I’ve spent a great amount of time. It’s great to be able to tie in that expertise into our advisory practice.

Who or what has been the strongest influence in your career?

My current and former colleagues continue to be some of the most important influences in my career. I’ve learned that the people who were amazing colleagues when you were in your 20s are still doing amazing things when you’re in your 40s. They didn’t stop being great; they’ve continued to solve problems, act as leaders and be inspirational. That’s one of the many reasons I always do my best to stay connected to people I’ve worked closely with over the course of my career, even if we are in different places now.

These are also the people who remind you who you were when you worked together and can help you see how far you’ve come, how your focuses have evolved, and how you’ve grown from the mistakes you’ve made. Maintaining long-standing relationships gives you more self-awareness and can help you over the course of your career.

Tell us how and when you began your career in the profession you are in, about your current position, and why you chose the field/profession you are in today.

I began my career in the Baltimore Mayor’s Office with a focus on public works and transportation. I was there for two years, and then I got my Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School. After completing my Master’s, I went onto work for the Baltimore Department of Transportation and then the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), where I had held several roles such as Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor and, lastly, Deputy Secretary. Before joining Redgate, I also held executive roles in the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and in the private sector at Louis Berger.

Now, in my role at Redgate as Executive Vice President, I have a unique opportunity to be involved with the project sponsors and see development through an owner and investor perspective, which is a new experience compared to the public sector. It’s been a great opportunity to learn more about the real estate development world, while still bringing my previous experiences and focus on transit-oriented development in a fresh way.

What were some of your early goals and did anything happen to change them?

My focus has always been primarily in transportation-oriented development and infrastructure development. At the outset of my career, I knew I wanted to prioritize a wide aperture so I could see on a broad typology of projects. I’ve found this has paid off: there’s always something new to learn, and it’s nice to have a sense of how smaller pieces of the bigger puzzle fit together in harmony. I’ve also always intended to learn a lot from others, knowing that gaining specialized knowledge will help me understand different inputs in one project.

What is the funniest, most unique situation you have faced / conquered during your career? Or in your life?

In 2010, when the East Coast was hit with the back-to-back snowstorms well-known as “Snowmaggedon,” I was working in the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), and the state was running out of roadway salt. There had been so much snow, we were going through our salt supply too quickly, and we weren’t going to have enough to open the transportation network. The governor at the time, Gov. Martin O’Malley, appointed me “Salt Czar.” I was responsible for figuring out how we were going to get more salt. We ended up buying a whole ship’s worth of salt, which I did not know you could do until then. A ship came into Baltimore Harbor, made one stop to drop off the entire ship–worth of salt, and we had plenty of salt to fight the storm. That was certainly not something I anticipated while studying at Harvard.

What outside activities do you enjoy during your free time?

Any time that I can spend with my two sons, who are 3 and 5, is time I cherish. We enjoy doing things outside together – whether going to the park, hiking, taking them swimming, going to a butterfly field, all of those family activities are joyful moments.

What inspiring word of advice would you give to a young executive graduating from college today?

I typically give two pieces of advice to young people:

Read as much as you can about a wide range of subjects. People that have the best ideas, richest conversation, greatest ability to connect the dots, and typically rise the fastest within their organizations are the ones that are well-read. Curiosity is a good thing, and the best way to activate your mind is to read for purpose and pleasure.

Make an effort to connect with seasoned people. If you attend an event that you were particularly inspired by, approach the speaker at the end, and ask to have coffee with them. It takes a lot of courage, but you’d be surprised at how willing people are to offer their time. Maybe it gives you a new connection, maybe it leads you on a path towards mentorship, maybe you learn something – whatever it may be, you won’t regret putting yourself out there and connecting with someone you find inspirational.


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