Kraus-Anderson General Superintendent Brian Turnquist retired in May. Below are his remarks given at his retirement party providing insight into 42 years working in the construction field.
Thank you all for coming. It’s a little strange up here not being the presenter but being presented. Forty-two years seems like forever, but in reality, it went by quite quickly. First, I’d like to introduce my wife, Chris, also of 42 years, who’s been my rock, never complaining when I had to run back to work or go out of town, understanding that that’s where the paycheck comes from. And next my daughter, Brianna. Her husband, Ben unfortunately couldn’t be here. And my grandkids Lily, Mason and Lincoln. Then my son Jon and his wife Jasman and their son Owen.
I’m a firm believer in the premise of being at the right place at the right time or wrong place at the wrong time. It’s like when you meet your spouse for the first time. Right place at the right time. And then that would help determine where you will live and buy a house, how many kids you have and so on. The reason I bring this up is that I’d like to give a few quick snapshots of my life with KA. I’m going to be throwing a few names out that many may not recognize, but most of the retired KA family will, so please bear with me.
I graduated from high school in the Vietnam era, and if not for a neighbor’s suggestion to go to TVI (St. Paul College) to take up a trade as a carpenter, I would sure have gotten mixed up in the war. Right place at the right time.
In 1972 I was working for a small fixture company installing shelving and signage in a K-Mart that KA had built. A gentlman by the name of Bill Orr was doing the punchlist for KA. We would sit together at lunch and talk. He asked me what I had planned when I finished there. I didn’t know so he gave me his number to call when I was done. I got married, went on our honeymoon, and then called Bill. He got me started with KA. Right place at the right time. I had just finished my apprenticeship. My first partner was John Dahl. For those who don’t know John, he became general superintendent for Minneapolis South office.
Flash forward five years. Right place at the right time. I was working at Humboldt High in West St. Paul. Herb Hanson, general superintendent at the time, told me to jump in his truck ’cause we’re going for a ride. He took me up to Superior, Wisconsin. Said he needed someone to build an addition to the sewage treatment plant. The excavation was in progress. I was introduced, at the meeting, as the superintendent that would be running the project. I’d never even been a foreman. I got a truck when we got back and loaded it up with tools, instruments and a set of drawings. I looked at those drawings for three days and I couldn’t tell what was north, south, east or west. They slowly became clear and Sid Dahlin, Barry’s dad, was working on a Normandy Inn in Duluth. We traded manpower and he also gave me a foreman. I had asked Herb the length of the project and he told me six months. When I finally got the schedule the project was a YEAR and six months. I had a tool shed for an office, no furnace or air conditioner, and it gets cold on Lake Superior. In the morning I would throw a propane heater into the shack unti the dial on the rotary phone would turn. The good old days.
From 1977 to 1990, I ran 32 projects from large to small. One of the small ones was a Burger King. I remember it well because the project manager didn’t want to pay for a phone. I had to always have a pocket full of dimes and would walk across the street to a gas station to make my calls. Technology was a lot different then. I did get a cell phone on one project for a short time. I was supposed to use it until the phone lines came in. It was the size of a small brief case and had alligator clips that you had to attach to your truck battery to use. I gave it back because I got tired of lifting the hood on my truck.
One other project I thought I’d mention was in 1986, called Greenhaven Apartments. The project manager’s name was Al Gerhardt. If I remember right, we had two RFI’s — one on broken anchor bolts and one on receptacle elevations above the electric baseboard. Al, I think we came in on time and under budget.
Flash forward to 1991. Right place at the right time. I started working at the MAC. I was there for 12+ years and worked on 50+ projects, large and small. Most of those years I worked under Craig Francois, a premonition of things to come. We had some exciting moments, but for the most, I enjoyed my time spent there.
In 2003 I was working in Rock Island, Illinois on Modern Woodman, with Camille Helou, when I received the invite to interview for the general superintendent position because Larry Peters was retiring. I told Camille I wasn’t interested but he said to “go ahead and interview. You don’t have to take the job.” Well, after much arm twisting, I accepted the position. I’m still trying to decide whether it was the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time.
When I took over for Larry he left me with about 25 superintendents. The recession hit us pretty hard and we dropped to about 10. The recession was ending when we merged into two offices. I went to 35 superintendents. I tried my best to get my arms around everyone and treat everyone fair. We’ve gone through good times and bad, the good trying to find enough people and the bad, feeling the pain for the guys and gals of not enough work.
I would like to thank everyone in the field who gives their all every day, for KA. Projects are a lot more complicated now than they were years ago and keeping up with new technology sometimes is a real stretch. I would especially like to thank those superintendents that volunteered to work on projects out of town. A lot of time I think it was done as a favor to me. It’s not just the commitment to the job but the sacrifice to your families.
What can I say about the office. Both offices. I have met so many people through the last 11 years. I know it’s always said but it’s true, it’s the people I will miss. Some are very special to me, you know who you are.
I want to thank Jim Bergren and Chris Larkin, general superintendents from Circle Pines office. We were able to start the process of working as one, sharing both ideas and manpower.
A special thanks to Dan Braaten. Besides just being a friend, he’s been my rock in the office, my go-to guy. If I passed an issue off to him, no matter what the task he would always take care of it. He is such an asset to KA and I know Rick will find this to be true. But Rick, the thing to watch out for are those little side projects that he volunteers for. You are automatically included. The little things usually become bigger things.
A special thanks to both Al and Craig for their support and for always having an open door. And to Bruce and the Engelsma family for being my second family for the last 42+ years. And thanks again to all of you who came to send me off.