Duggan Digs in as Second-Generation Leader

posted on Friday, March 1, 2024 in Dealer News

Family and woman-owned McDermott Excavating delivers with support from Martin Equipment

Tara DugganFor Tara Duggan, 1978 was the year that started it all. Not only is it the year she was born, but it’s also the year her father Larry McDermott started their family’s business, McDermott Excavating. Today, Duggan leads the business into its second generation of family ownership in the town where she grew up, Dubuque, Iowa.

Located on the southwest side of town, McDermott Excavating specializes in commercial and institutional work, site work, utility installation and repairs – utilizing a team of 20 to keep everything up and running.

Duggan didn’t always see herself working for the family business. After graduating college with a degree in journalism, she moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where she covered everything from the 2002 Winter Olympics to economic impact reports and beyond. Soon after, she found her way into marketing. It wasn’t until her husband started a different business in construction that she got the itch to jump back into the industry.

“I realized it was really a great opportunity for my husband and I to work together,” Duggan said. “Within the industry, I get to work with others every day – within our own organization, our customers, our vendors, our subcontractors and more. We’re like-minded and all thrive on solving problems together, and I really like to be around people like that.”

One of those like-minded partners is Martin Equipment, McDermott’s long-term John Deere equipment dealer.

“McDermott Excavating and Martin Equipment have been partners for as long as I can remember,” Duggan said. “Everyone who works at Martin has always gone above and beyond to do what they can to help us succeed.”


Duggan relies on Martin Equipment to keep their full fleet of John Deere equipment up and running at full speed at all times.

“Our fleet is all John Deere, and we have equipment in every class,” Duggan said. “Right now, the favorite is the 60 with the engcon attachment to it.”

Along with their lineup of excavators, they have a 544 wheel loader and a handful of compact track loaders. They turn to Martin for quick access to parts and service to ensure maximized productivity and uptime.

“Martin Equipment provides almost every service possible to McDermott,” Duggan said. “From a service and maintenance side, they're always willing to pick up the phone and walk us through something. They love seeing John Deere equipment on our job sites, but they also really like to see us as a business do well.”

Duggan noted there are also some parallels as a female leader working with Martin Equipment’s president and owner, DeLene Martin Bane.

“The minute I met DeLene, I immediately knew that she was someone I wanted to partner with, and that was years ago,” Duggan said. “From a professional standpoint, I really admire her. I admire what she has done with Martin Equipment from a family perspective, her employees respect her.”

That admiration is reciprocated from Martin Bane. Forging relationships and trust within the industry is a key part of how both women lead their businesses.

“I think so highly of Tara,” Martin Bane said. “Not only for what she is doing while leading McDermott Excavating, but also her level of involvement within her community. She is committed to the Dubuque area and her team, which I greatly respect.”


Duggan has grown in her confidence as a leader over time. She reflects on the day in 2015 she officially bought the company from her father, who had nothing but confidence in her from the start.

“After my dad signed his paperwork at closing, he said he needed to go so he didn’t miss his tee time,” Duggan recalled. “I was nervous, but he said, ‘You have a good team, you’ll be fine,’ and he was right.”

Still, Duggan was a new leader for the company, and one of few females in leadership working in a historically male-dominated industry. Her company had a long history of success and a great reputation. With an amazing team by her side, she was determined to continue that success.

“I was new to the industry, and I was a female,” Duggan said. “I also had a very unique challenge in that many of our employees had worked here since I was a toddler, and I was now their boss. Fortunately for me, it's a great team of guys. When people start working here, they stay."

Great people are at the core of McDermott Excavating. Duggan knew how invaluable her team was from the start and always emphasized their importance.

“When I started, I made it clear that I wanted to learn from the guys who had been here for years,” she said. “Yes, I was the owner, but they were the experts.”

In the future, Duggan hopes the industry continues to grow and that more women choose construction to build successful careers. With a 14-year-old daughter at home, that’s even more important to her.

“As more women join the construction and excavating industry, I hope they’re known as contributing members of the industry, and not just as ‘women in the industry,’” Duggan said. “It’s really important to have female representation because it's another point of view, it's another perspective. Anytime you can get a new idea on the table for everyone to just consider, I think it benefits the whole industry.”