Stellar, a Jacksonville-based design, engineering, construction and mechanical services firm, has named Brian Kappele as chief executive officer, effective Jan. 1, 2023. 

Kappele, who most recently served as president/chief operating officer under CEO Mike Santarone, began his career at Stellar in 1997 as an intern in the company’s food and beverage group. After graduating from the University of Florida Rinker School of Building Construction the following year, he accepted a full-time position as an onsite assistant project manager, taking on various roles and responsibilities throughout the first 10 years of his career. In 2009, Kappele was promoted to vice president, responsible for all operations in the food and beverage division, and then in 2019, was promoted to president/COO. 

Mike Santarone will transition to the role of executive chairman on Stellar's board of directors. Santarone joined Stellar as a field engineer in 1986, overseeing the Epping Forest mansion renovation and residential development project. He was named division vice president of the food and beverage group in 2000, was promoted to executive vice president in 2005 and became Stellar’s third president in 2012.

Santarone has represented Stellar on several boards and committees over the years, including the Jacksonville Civic Council, UF Rinker School of Building Construction's industry advisory board, Jacksonville University business/engineering advisory board, Flagler College board of trustees and UF Health Jacksonville board. He was also a past board chairman for the Sulzbacher Center. Santarone will continue to serve the community in such endeavors in his new role.

"This strategic phased transition of leadership was set in motion in 2019 with the promotions of Mike to CEO and Brian to president/COO," says Stellar Chairman Ron Foster Jr. "They've worked together closely in the three years since, including navigating the complexities of the pandemic and global shifts in the construction industry. I am confident Stellar will flourish under Brian’s leadership."