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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
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@Work: O.R.D.

Sept. 2, 2007 — Ronald Rivas learned his way around a hammer and nail in New York City at the tender age of seven. Now, several decades later, he applies the tricks he learned from his uncle every day.
It was a circuitous route arriving at his present job as a busy construction contractor. O.R.D. has grown in increments since it came to be shortly after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Rivas originally came to the territory with an entirely different career. He worked in the then Social Welfare Department as a parent-involvement coordinator on all three islands.
"Gov. Cyril King brought me down in 1976 to be a supervisor in the daycare program," he says. "And this is where I met my wife, Dolores."
Sitting in a waterfront restaurant, Rivas attempts to relax for a minute, but it's just not in his nature. He mulls over life on St. Thomas in the construction trade, wearing his signature blue bandanna.
"Gotta gotta keep your head covered," he says. Looking down at his royal blue shirt with the white cyclone logo, he says, "That's how we got started," he says, "and I love blue."
Rivas thinks back to his early work with parents.
“The Head Start center where I worked was near Addelita Cancryn Junior High School,” he says. "That school has had well-publicized problems recruiting parents into the Parent Teacher Association.”
Rivas speaks with knowledge about getting parents to the table.
"You have to motivate them,” he says. “You have to know how to conduct meetings. Parents have fears when they come to these meetings — afraid they won't understand the teachers, mainly. You have to structure the meetings so they are brief, friendly and to the point."
Perhaps his background in social work influences his philosophy about his corporation. O.R.D. stands for Obedient Rapid Doers. Rivas answers to a four-member board of directors.
"They are people I've known for years, and I think we have a good working relationship," he says.
His business went full time after Hurricane Marilyn. "I'd been friends with Patrick Charles of Charley's Trucking for years, and I used to help him out with my background in construction,” Rivas says. “After the storm I went full-time on my own. We incorporated in 1996."
Since then, the corporation has branched out into other fields. It has work on all three islands, with a five-man team on each island, and also works with subcontractors.
"When I was a kid, my uncle would come over and he let me help him build things," Rivas says. "I've always had an interest in seeing how things work."
He’s an enterprising kind of guy, with seemingly endless energy. He can be seen from time to time stretching out in the early morning hours on the waterfront, preparing for a wakeup run.
Rivas no longer deals strictly with construction. The company has branched out into landscaping, highway work and solid waste treatment projects. Rivas takes a proprietary interest in the territory's appearance.
"I hate to see the overgrown roads,” he says. “It shows no pride.”
Rivas' concern is aesthetic and pragmatic: O.R.D. does a lot of contract work for the local government, both in public works and on school campuses.
He employs a range of people, influenced by his training in social work.
"We try to hire young men and help them to gain skills introduce them to more opportunities," he says. "They are paid employees. We teach them safety procedures, Hazmat (hazardous materials) training. I have senior people on staff, too, who have been with me for years. I pair up the seniors with their expertise with the younger employees, to learn on the job."
Like many in the community, Rivas laments the territory's lack of a vocational school. "We need that critically," he says. "It would help so many young people who either can't afford further schooling, or who simply want to learn a trade."
Rivas is a graduate of the unique S.S. John W. Brown and Metropolitan Vocational High School in New York, where he got his undergraduate training. "It's the only school in the states that trained its students on a ship," he says. "The ship is a restored Liberty Ship."
Rivas seeks out opportunities. O.R.D. is a member of the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which helps firms owned by minorities, women and other socially and economically disadvantaged people get Department of Transportation contracts. "We provide services, or sub-contract for road work," he says.
And Rivas has done his homework. O.R.D. belongs to the national Solid Waste Management Association, which sponsors annual conferences, and conducts training for solid waste professionals.
He works closely with the Waste Management Authority.
"We have an excellent relations with the authority," he says. "We've gotten lots of bids, which we submit in the competitive bidding process."
There are more treatment plants in the territory than many people realize, and they all need regular cleaning, Rivas says.
"We do an in-kind service for schools and for senior centers," he says. "For what it would cost, we give back to the community. There is a school curriculum now in solid waste management."
The more Rivas talks about his work, the more his energy spills out. He takes an obvious enjoyment in keeping busy and helping people. He is easy to talk to, with a ready smile. Behind that smile is a strong faith.
Rivas has faced personal tragedy in the last few years, losing his wife and his daughter.
"I get on my knees every morning to ask for help," he says. "I know that prayers we send out make it a lot easier to do the right thing."
To reach O.R.D., call 777-1694.
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