Wendy Cohen has been named president and CEO of Kitchell, assuming leadership of one of the largest employee-owned building companies in the Southwest United States. Cohen is the fifth CEO in the company’s 73-year history and the first woman in the role, according to a press release shared with Construction Dive last week.
Cohen moves into the role vacated by Jim Swanson, who has retired from Kitchell after 15 years in the top role. During his tenure, Swanson was focused on establishing a succession strategy at each of Kitchell’s operating companies.
Cohen was tapped as a potential successor based on her leadership of Sacramento, California-based Kitchell CEM, Kitchell’s construction management company, where she has served as president since 2020.
“Wendy is passionate about building leaders and the construction industry,” said Swanson. “She has played a pivotal role in growing our presence in California, is committed to innovation and leads by example.”
With primary offices in Arizona, California and Texas, Kitchell’s footprint spans 14 states and is comprised of more than 1,000 employee-owners. Its work includes sectors such as healthcare, hospitality, multifamily housing and education. Its operating companies are:
- Kitchell Contractors Inc.
- Kitchell Development Co.
- Kitchell CEM.
- American Refrigeration Supplies.
During her nearly 30 years in the building industry, Cohen has worked as a general contractor, construction manager, consultant and owner. She joined Kitchell in 2013 and has led large projects for clients such as UC San Diego, MiraCosta Community College District and Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Works.
Cohen also played an instrumental role in securing Kitchell’s work with the single-largest state building project in the history of Sacramento: the Richards Boulevard Office Complex.
“Having the perspective of the last three decades helps me appreciate how rapidly the industry has changed in just the past few years,” Cohen told Construction Dive. “I am excited about developing a strategy and culture — alongside all our employee-owners — that allows us to adapt, innovate and lead change in all our markets and services.”
Cohen serves on the board of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council and is the co-founder of the Hard Hat Scholars program in partnership with Square Root Academy. The 16-week program introduces high school students to the architecture, engineering and construction industry.
Prior to joining Kitchell, Cohen was director of facilities planning and construction with Palomar Health, leading a $1 billion acute care hospital program in San Diego. She attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where she studied civil engineering and completed the Stanford University Graduate School of Business LEAD program.