Mr. Lewis “Nick” Melton was the co-founder of Vaughn & Melton Consulting Engineers Inc., which is located in Middlesboro, Kentucky. Mr. Melton is a native of Barbourville, KY and attended college at the University of Kentucky where he earned his B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1963 while working on a Kentucky Department of Highway Scholarship. In 1966 Mr. Melton was working with Crowder and Associates in Columbus, Indiana when he recruited Mr. Robert W. Vaughn to join him at that company. In 1967 the two gentlemen started their company in Middlesboro, Kentucky. Middlesboro was chosen in part for the small city environment and the opportunity to offer engineering services that were not currently available in the surrounding rural areas. Together they formed what is recognized as the first licensed engineering firm in Kentucky, something that the Vaughn & Melton Consulting Engineers still holds as a source of great pride.
In 1969 V&M received their first project with the Kentucky Department of Highways. This project was a joint venture with another consulting firm to design a 16-mile portion of a four-lane roadway from Bowling Green to Owensboro, Kentucky. That first highway project helped to spur expansion of V&M into the transportation realm and helped the company to continue growth. In 1981 V&M began to offer expanded bridge design services and further expanded their operations in other states.
Perhaps the project that Mr. Melton is most commonly associated with in the Commonwealth is his role in assisting FHWA in the contract administration of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel. The construction of this project spanned over eleven years and incorporated numerous contracts, some of which were unique contracting mechanisms at the time they were used. After completion of the tunnel, Mr. Melton led a team to develop a proposal for operation and maintenance of the tunnel. V&M won the contract and created a separate entity, Tunnel Management Inc., to perform the work.
Some other highlights of Mr. Melton’s career include:
- Project Manager for Design and Inspection Services for the Owensboro Parkway
- Principal in Charge of Design and provided inspection services for the Double A Highway
- President of the Middlesboro Chamber of Commerce in the early 1970’s
- Director on the Board of the National Bank (now State Bank)
- Selected by the Governor to be on the board for Engineers and Land Surveyors for an eight-year term and served as president of this board during this tenure
- Served on National Council of Engineer Examiners
- Directed the Tunnel Operation Management entity from its inception
- Past Board Member of the Pritchard Committee for Academic Excellence
V&M now has fifteen offices in five states with 300 employees. Mr. Melton has “retired” from V&M but is still an advocate for the firm. When asked about the transition from ownership that allowed him to retire, Mr. Melton stated “Vaughn & Melton Consulting Engineers isn’t ‘Vaughn & Melton’. It’s all of the people. We felt like that it was important that they have a place. If you sell to somebody they may take your contracts and go off and leave your people sitting on the side of the street. We felt like the people that got us there deserved an opportunity to continue. We chose the ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) as the way of passing our ownership to our people rather than passing it on to someone else.”
Mr. Melton has been married to Linda Melton since 1962 and has three children – Robert, Linda, and Sara – along with six grandchildren and one great grandchild. Mr. Melton currently has residences in both Middlesboro, KY and Lexington, KY. Mr. Melton is an avid Kentucky basketball fan and never misses a home Wildcats game. He is also an avid Lexington Legends fan and maintains season tickets.