As a child, my dad taught me the importance of knowing the world around me. He taught me how to identify trees and plants. He taught me about beekeeping. He tried to teach me gardening, but it didn’t stick. He taught me it was not acceptable to look down on others. He taught me to not run from a fight and that being truthful and keeping your integrity was how you lived.
My mother taught me that anything worth doing, was worth doing right. She taught me the value of education and of being a productive member of my community. As opposed to my dad, she taught me to never fight, but, never, ever back down if you knew you were right. My children taught me about the Grace of God.
I graduated from Sevier County High School with the class of 1969. My class ranking was 11 out of 196. My ACT score placed me in the top 10% in the nation that year and also put me in the Carson-Newman College Honors Program. I graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy with Minor hours in Religion, Political Science, Psychology, and Art. During school, I worked in the college post office, college maintenance, and picked up dry cleaning for Holt Dry Cleaning. During the summers and outside school hours, I worked for McKinnon Bridge Company, New Jersey Zinc Mines, and Blalock Construction. Work was as much a part of my education as was attending class.
In 1975, I met John Kinkead who mentored me in carpentry and wood frame construction. I worked and learned with him until his death in 1983. John taught that anyone could cut and nail a piece of wood, but to be a carpenter, you needed to know the nature of wood: which wood to use where and the strengths of different grains. He sorted his lumber when it was delivered to the job. Each piece had a use depending on its characteristics. Shingles went on in accordance to the way rainwater travelled down a slope and stairs were cut so that they were easy to climb and never broke your stride or made you stumble. John taught me that there was always a solution to any problem.
Construction also furnished me my education in management and leadership. Building a house from the ground up or remodeling a hundred-year-old house is intensive management training. Ordering and scheduling materials, labor, and subcontractors is a matter of close management.
Dealing with employees and subcontractors, I learned that leadership is the ability to point your people toward a common goal that includes timely execution with maximum efficiency and quality execution. It does not come from bullying or trickery, but from the force of character that you present and the respect that your workers feel toward you.
In the 1980’s I entered commercial construction and started building retail outlets in shopping malls. I built 46 consecutive retail outlets in shopping malls, in twenty different states across the Northeast and the Midwest. During that process, I supervised multiple subcontractors and union carpenters on each store. All the jobs were finished on time and with no call-backs.
To work in the mall industry as a supervisor, I qualified for Journeyman status (now inactive) with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.
Later, when I went back in business for myself, I earned a BC Commercial/Industrial/Residential contractor’s license from the State of Tennessee (also, now inactive).