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Second Generation Builds on Company Founder’s Success

Wed July 02, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni

David Chenault and his sister, Starry Ratliff, now run the family business.

Possie B. Chenault, their father, recently passed away not long after the company’s 50-year anniversary. Their father had a strong work ethic, which he instilled in his children enabling them to carry on in the water and sewer utility industry.

Possie B. Chenault Inc., located in Bumpass, Va., is a business, but it also is a family tradition. David Chenault is now president and his son, David Jr., is a vice president. Starry Ratliff is the secretary and treasurer for the company. There’s a nephew, Gary Chenault Jr., who is a superintendent.

“We feel fortunate for the opportunity for my brother and I to continue on with the company,” Starry said.

Initially, Possie was in the business of building, primarily residential work. There were problems, however, in finding other companies to install septic systems and drain fields on the residential lots. With no other options available, Possie bought a backhoe. At that point, Possie’s vision for the company changed — he discovered that he enjoyed dirt work.

According to Starry, Possie’s daughter, her father wasn’t afraid to try new things. His philosophy was: “If someone can do it, so can I.”

By 1988, Possie was installing water and sewer lines for different localities. Now, the company’s niche is water and sewer utility work, and there are approximately 20 employed at Chenault.

In addition to water and sewer work, Chenault performs installation and repairs for storm drainage systems and small pump stations. Chenault also installs and replaces brick pavers and works on brick and concrete walkways. Furthermore, the company has the ability to perform its own asphalt work when needed.

Starry said the company’s customer base is largely municipalities. They have worked with Henrico and Hanover counties and have an annual storm drainage contract with the city of Richmond. In Chesterfield County, Chenault has jobs not only with the town but also has contracts with private developers for work on small commercial sites.

Over the years, Chenault has accumulated five Takeuchi TL150 rubber track loaders, the first of which was purchased four years ago. All five were acquired from the Ashland, Va., location of White Oak Equipment Inc. Ricky Edwards, sales representative, orchestrated the deals.

When the company bought the Takeuchis, David Chenault said they were adding to the company’s existing fleet. The loaders perform a variety of tasks for Chenault, including unloading pipe and moving dirt and stone. The equipment also comes in handy for ditch work and backfilling.

“When we bought them, they were new to the market,” said David Chenault.

Some selling points were that White Oak Equipment, in particular, carried the manufacturer, and the TL150s were the largest that Takeuchi made at that time.

As David reflects on his father’s life, his admiration for Possie is unmistakable. “Tough as nails” is how David described Possie. “I wish I had half the willpower he had. Nothing seemed to get him down — he was always going forward.”

When Possie B. Chenault passed away at the age of 80, he left a remarkable impact on his children and a great foundation for them to continue to build upon.

“He would eat, breath and sleep the company,” Starry said. “He gave us the foundation of a good business.” CEG

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