A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

“This is Joe.” The Epitome of a Construction Man

“This is Joe.”  That is the way Joe Vaughn answered the phone, whether it was a customer, a captain or a carpenter calling.  Joe, who founded Vaughn Construction, died January 16, 2014 at age 70.  He was as genuine and authentic a man as you will ever know.  Big and imposing, blunt and straightforward, smart and decisive and, above all, caring and witty, were his hallmarks.  He was the epitome of a construction man, the absolute “best of breed” of builders.

Joe was from the field and for the field.  He had started in the industry at age 12 and served as a carpenter, ironworker, laborer, engineer and superintendent, before becoming an operations manager and ultimately an owner/CEO.  He created a builders’ culture at Vaughn.  He respected field craftsman and revered field superintendents.  The Vaughn lobby is full of candid pictures of superintendents in action at their jobsites.  And at his service in the St Thomas High School Assembly Hall, converted to a chapel to handle the huge crowd, it was poignant, moving and so fitting, that his casket was carried in by six superintendents in their Vaughn field shirts.  He was their hero and they were his.

Joe’s beliefs and values about the importance of field work and field people can serve as a timely and guiding beacon for all us, as we confront the skilled worker shortage.  His passing can raise the questions, “Have we lost sight of the fundamental fact that we are paid as contractors to put work in place in the field?”  And in this age of technology, with all of its “wow” factors (BIM, iPads, mobile apps), and in this time of new delivery systems, with all their promise (3-P; IPD), “Have we, as an industry, become distracted from the fact that we are paid, first and foremost, to build, and to manage as a derivative activity of the building process?”  We need to use Joe’s life as a lesson to get refocused on creating career craft workers and field superintendents to execute our primary mission.

Joe’s legacy is being preserved and expanded by his sons, Tom, Bill and Mike, and by Vaughn Construction’s leadership role with C3 (Construction Career Collaborative).  He is a rare and remarkable leader whose life validated his motto, “Do it once and do it right”.  We will miss him.


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