A red target visual with "Target Zero" in large letters. "No incidents. No injuries" in smaller letters.

Lets take a moment to reflect on the “impossibles” in history that are now a reality; electricity, putting a man on the moon, cell phones, vehicles that are more advanced than the first Mercury 1 capsule, and the list goes on. Sure, these are all technology based, but there was a common mindset that needed to be overcome to accomplish these monumental achievements; the mindset that it’s impossible.

I’ve been carrying the torch and beating the drum of Zero Injuries for 12 years, and I’m still marching on.  It’s all about aligning in a belief system that we won’t tolerate any injuries. If we are not striving for zero injuries, then we are saying that injuries are ok, that they’re acceptable, which is absolutely not okay.

Before the second Industrial Revolution of the early 1900’s, it was acceptable to consider that you could die to earn a paycheck. People were viewed as tools to generate revenue, they weren’t viewed as living, breathing human beings with feelings, emotions, abilities, families…value. There weren’t any employee protections then, there were labor laws, but padding a handshake with officials made them turn a blind eye to the poor conditions that employees were working in and the hazards they were unnecessarily being exposed to. One in every 686 people died at work in 1900, truly disturbing.

In the US, we no longer view a paycheck as something to die for.  You don’t have to risk your life to support yourself and your family. We have OSHA (enacted in 1970) and firm federal, state, and local labor laws that serve to protect workers, and thereby eradicate the mindset that people have no value other than making money off them. With these entities in place, the fatality rate for 2022 was 1 for every 32,600. We’ve made great strides, but we need to keep striving for the zero mark; and it’s only achievable if we believe that it can be a reality.

If we all take a moment to realize that we can’t tolerate or accept that injuries are unavoidable, we can all make a difference. If we take time to firmly stand and say, “no one is going to get hurt on my project”, then we are already working toward the goal of zero injuries. Through teamwork, collaboration, and dedication, we can make zero injuries a reality, because I believe that it’s already a possibility, we just have to make it so.

Starting off 2024 with a BANG as we were notified on January 9th that O’Brien’s build team was selected by the City of Astoria as the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CMGC) for the Astoria Public Library Renovation project. This will be our first major project in downtown Astoria as well as our first CMGC collaboration with Hennebery Eddy Architects.

Led by Astoria-native Derek Salo as Project Manager teamed with David Weathers as Superintendent, this dynamic duo carried the interview with themes that we are LOCAL, EXPERIENCED, and COLLABORATIVE.

Speaking of collaboration, our marketing team developed the “project placemat” shown above to help guide and focus the 1-hour interview. We used the placemat to respond directly to the questions we had been provided in advance and to summarize key aspects of our team, relevant experience, and ongoing support of coastal communities here in Oregon.

It is great to kick off the New Year with this big win! Preconstruction begins immediately and the build is scheduled to start in September of this year. 

Visit for your free Lincoln City Art Trail Digital Passport, which features this colorful mural at The North Haven, as well as other artful discoveries for both residents and visitors in this charming coastal community.

Located adjacent to what is arguably billed as THE WORLD’S SHORTEST RIVER, our current project renovating The North Haven is interesting for its colorful exterior art wall, and for providing our team with the challenges of transforming the building’s use and its physical environment.

Built originally as The Inn at Lincoln City at D River, this 57-room hospitality gem was purchased by a community-minded developer who turned it into temporary housing for people displaced by the 2021 fires at the nearby town of Otis. Now that the temporary use is no longer needed, O’Brien is converting the former hotel into condominiums with a complete building gut and remodel, new framing to repair weathering issues, and new living units replacing the former hotel lobby.

O’Brien Superintendent Dakota Weathers said that due to the building envelope’s poor condition, the team had to tear off and replace one entire exterior wall, while simultaneously constructing new gravity walls for the project’s demolition and reconstruction. “We had to build a whole deck system put up to the joists and then build walls to support the next floor up above so that we could rip out and replace the rotten wood,” Dakota explained.

However, our team is not making any changes to the building’s most unique exterior feature, its vibrantly colored mural which depicts two octopi swimming towards each other, tentacles outstretched. The mural was created within a 47-hour time span by artists Goonie Wolfe, Anthony Ortega and TME Crew. Anthony Ortega is a fine artist and tattoo artist based out of Reno, Nevada with a heavy background in large-scale art installations.

Derek and Family in front of their house under construction
Derek and Family with their new house
Derek and Family on the site of their new house

Q&A with Derek

I was running the family ranch for about a decade when I decided I wanted to do something new. Construction was always in the back of my mind, and before I knew it, I had signed up for a Construction Management Certification at the University of Washington. I was searching high and low to get my foot in the door somewhere and was about to move back to Portland when I received a call back from O’Brien for an interview. I haven’t looked back since.

There’s nothing I enjoy more about my job than interfacing with clients and peers. Working collectively to problem solve and provide a product that you can see come to life before your eyes is what I live for. I work best with a little pressure on me as well, which doesn’t hurt.

When I started at O’Brien, Keeley told me I could take this career as far as I wanted. That became a reality when I was given the opportunity to move from Project Engineer to Project Manager in the middle of O’Brien’s largest project to date. It was the most challenging yet rewarding time in my life. It’s incredible to see what you can accomplish when the team around you believes in you and provides the support you need. That project finished 3 months early, under budget and ended up winning a DJC Best Project award as well as a Trimble Viewpoint Most Outstanding Project award. I was then invited to speak about the project at the 2022 Trimble conference in Las Vegas.

I work out of the Cannon Beach Office. I was born and raised 30 minutes north in Astoria. My wife and I love living at the Oregon Coast and raising our family here, so having the opportunity to work locally and build on the coast at a company like O’Brien is a dream come true.

We love the coffee shop below our office in Cannon Beach, Insomnia Coffee! You can also find us every Sunday at the Big O Saloon in Olney for taco Sunday and a cold beverage.

Everybody has a story and everybody has some value to add.

We broke ground and are self building our dream house on our 20 acre compound.

Come in with an open mind and don’t be afraid to be challenged. Incredible things happen when you work hard and challenge the status quo.

Oregon’s Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program (SRGP) is a competitive grant program that provides state funds for seismic rehabilitation of fire stations, police stations, K-12 schools, community colleges, hospital buildings and other public facilities.

Here at O’Brien, we know that these often-unseen structural improvements pay public safety dividends by increasing building capabilities to resist earthquake forces and reducing risks to Oregonians using critical public buildings. The performance level requirement of SRGP projects is life-safety for the building occupants with continuity of the facilities’ operations as an essential consideration. The requirement of these emergency services building improvements is immediate occupancy for continued operation of such facilities following a seismic event here in Oregon.

Our build team has completed and is currently working on several seismic rehabilitations for Oregon educational facilities and fire departments funded under the SRGP. To date, our SRGP projects have been delivered as O’Brien CM/GC projects, with negotiated GMP’s.

As an organization focused on continuous improvement, here are some lessons learned on our SRGP-funded projects:

  • Bring open communication, transparency, and collaboration to the project owner and entire team.
  • Work effectively with structural engineers serving as the prime consultant to help make team decisions that maximize project value in both first costs and lifecycle costs.
  • Creatively employ the SRGP scope and budget to achieve added value and to help our clients meet other goals for their facilities.
  • Prioritize community communication and safety in buildings that serve year-round public functions, and are at least partially occupied during construction.

O’Brien’s build team members have expressed interest and enthusiasm for working on more SRGP projects in 2024 and beyond. We are excited to report that we are actively tracking and will be pursuing several more 2024 SRGP projects in our various office locations here in Oregon.

A Stephanie Phillips baseball card which includes a photo and stats of some achievements in her 10 years at O'Brien.
The Unofficial Stephanie Phillips Baseball Card
*some stats not officially verified; estimates are very close ; -)
Stephanie on a bridge in front of a pond at the Portland Japanese Garden
The Incredible Stephanie Phillips
A group photo featuring Stephanie Phillips and a few team members from the Portland Office.
A group photo featuring Stephanie Phillips and a few team members from the Portland Office.

Q&A with Stephanie

I pursued higher education with the goal of becoming a teacher, attaining a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Initially hired by Keeley and his wife McKenzie as a nanny for their two children, my role gradually expanded within the company as the children matured. Transitioning from handling credit card receipts and running errands, I eventually assumed the position of Operations Coordinator, marking an unforeseen and transformative entry into this industry.

I cherish the diversity in my job, where one day I could be welcoming a new team member during onboarding, and the next day, I find myself in the field, spreading cheer among the crew. The unique aspect of my role in both human resources and marketing allows me the privilege of interacting with every member of the company.

It was my ten-year anniversary with the company. I love that I have been a part of the company since the beginning and have helped it transform into the company it is now.

I work at multiple offices, but my main office is the downtown Portland office. This is where I was born and raised. I love being close to family and to all of the fun events in Portland.

The springtime tulip festival in Woodburn is absolutely stunning, and during Christmas, the Oregon Zoo transforms into a magical spectacle with its captivating light decorations. The Portland Japanese Garden is a breathtaking experience in the fall, adorned with the most enchanting array of colors. Additionally, exploring the diverse and delicious restaurants around our office in NW Portland is always a culinary delight.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Ask for help from others that have more experience or knowledge in areas you aren’t strong in yet.

I absolutely love traveling—it’s my ultimate passion. Exploring new places and immersing myself in different cultures is what I live for. From a cross-country road trip and adventures in Las Vegas to the enchantment of Disneyland, my next destination is the Dominican Republic, just 8 days away.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Starting at a new company and getting the hang of their processes and technology can be tough and overwhelming. No question is too trivial. If you need assistance, just reach out.