Most Admired CEO honoree: John Webre, Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture
March 15, 2022
From the March 15, 2022 issue of
Sacramento Business Journal.
By Danny King
We’re introducing you to our Most Admired CEOs for 2022. Honorees for this award program were nominated by Business Journal readers and staff and chosen through a vote of their peers. John Webre is a Distinguished Career honoree.
Longtime Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture CEO John Webre, who plans to retire in October, takes as much pride in his efforts to make the firm’s management more collaborative as he does in the firm’s steady growth since he took its helm in 1989.
“For the first half of my leadership and D+B, I used a very hierarchical approach, but I’ve since moved to a much more distributive style,” the 69-year-old Webre said. “It addresses a more contemporary way of how organizations behave. Everyone wants to understand their role in an organization, and understand the larger ‘why’ in the direction of the firm. They want a say in their future.”
Sacramento-based Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture’s future appears bright, as the 72-year-old firm has established itself as a skilled generalist that’s comfortable working on a wide variety of building types and with a wide range of clients.
Since Webre was appointed CEO, the firm has boosted its annual billings sixfold to $16 million, tripled its headcount to 48, and added a San Francisco office. The firm’s recent accomplishments include the completion of the 500,000-square-foot “Swing Space” office annex for the state of California and the $83 million SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity, which was rebuilt on the site of an old, contaminated power plant on the Sacramento River.
“It’s in the city’s gateway,” said Webre. “Having a prominent museum that looks hopeful at our front door is such a good thing.”
Webre’s fearlessness has served Dreyfuss + Blackford well, according to Peter Saucerman, who worked at the firm for a quarter-century before retiring in 2016.
“For as long as I’ve been in professional architecture, the press said that the midsize firm was dead. You had to be a boutique or custom house, and you couldn’t survive as a generalist,” said Saucerman. “John heard that, kind of laughed it off, and continued to be successful.”
“We’re design nerds that love the complex projects,” Webre added. “There isn’t a building size or type that we can’t work on.”
After moving from Cuba to New Orleans, Webre’s Cuban mother and American father moved the family around the world as his father designed and ran sugar plants, so it’s only natural that Webre and his wife, local sculptor Julie Didion, plan to travel frequently once Webre retires, on his 70th birthday, no less.
“The year before the pandemic, we did five passport trips,” Webre said. “I’m very comfortable in new environments, and I like to explore cultures deeply. Travel’s a big thing in our next chapter.”