Commemorating the Career of Mark Bargman, Superintendent
Whittier, CA – December 20, 2019 – Mark Bargman, superintendent, who was recently recognized as employee of the month in August of 2019, has retired after 43 years of building excellence at Oltmans Construction Co. Mark began as a first-period apprentice with Oltmans in December of 1977, right out of high school.
Mark told us, “In 1977, a first-period apprentice made $4.02 an hour. My boss said to me a month later that nobody can live off that, so he gave me another dollar.” Mark Bargman is known to be tough but well-respected by owners and carpenters alike – his leadership will truly be missed.
How did you hear about Oltmans Construction?
My dad, who worked for AJ Kirkwood, worked with one of the superintendents at Oltmans, Mike Stately. At the time, construction was pretty much an industry anyone could get into and make good money in right away. My first project was in Santa Fe Springs. My job was to grab nails, saw blades, or whatever to keep the journeymen fed with material while they worked. From that point, it took me about four years to get my journeyman’s card. After that, my first job as a superintendent was in 1987, on H&L Tooth in Montebello.
Some of the most memorable projects I’ve worked on since included Gateway Pointe, Corona Summit – where I learned a lot from John Schwind – and the QVC project at Meredith International Centre by the Ontario Airport.
What was Oltmans like back in the 70s?
Looser, like a lot looser. The main office was on Monterey Pass Road in Monterey Park, and the good thing about back then was that you just moved from job to job. There was a lot of work and tilt-up technology was fairly new.
The process of framing the walls on the floor and lifting them up was pretty new, so when I first started, we were doing a ton of concrete tilt-ups. We learned as we went, but there was some training. I did my training right here at the Carpenter’s Training Center. In fact, I was the last group to go through that particular program–we studied from books back then instead of doing hands-on training. I did all eight stages of the apprenticeship in three and a half years.
How did you get your nickname, “Sparky”?
Well, one of the reasons I got my nickname was because I was going to be an electrician. Tom Augustine knew that, so he started calling me Sparky. It didn’t really work out. I was already making good money and I had a family. Construction has been good to me and Oltmans has treated me very well.
How would people describe you as a Superintendent?
Probably, an a-hole…to be PC about it. I am a direct person, so I am going to tell you what I think. I always tell my guys, always look professional. It is important to keep the job clean and do the right thing even if it may hurt the budget. I don’t want to go to a meeting five years from now and hear, ’Well, why was this, like this?’ You don’t want to finish a project and, six months later, have to figure out why something got so screwed up. One of the things I always say is,
That and, ‘Don’t go digging into the street on a Friday afternoon. Just don’t do it, because nothing good can come of it.’
A lot of the guys that have worked with me appreciated that I was direct. You have to maintain some kind of control as a superintendent. There are a lot of egos in construction, since it’s a male-dominated industry, so, if somebody thinks that they can get something over on you, or they think that you don’t care, even for a second, then you’ve lost what you’ve gained. That’s why reminding someone to put their hard hat on, put their vest on, or wear their safety glasses, matters to me. All of those things are part of the control. The next time you come driving around, they’re going to think, ‘I don’t want him on my back again so I am going to do what I was supposed to.’
How does it feel to be such a well-respected mentor? Did you have to train someone to take the reins before you retired?
I always try to impart as much knowledge as I can; teach folks what I think is right and wrong, and how to manage people. I was training Marcos Perini when I left, to take over the Torrance Commerce Center project. It’s very easy to start a job, but it’s very difficult to finish. I know he’ll do well.
Other guys who are now above me, like Ed Sorbel, Rodney Bunting, and Joe Pike, all worked for me at one point in their careers. And I learned something with each one of them. I think the fact that a lot of the guys that I have worked with are children of previous Oltmans employees, like Vince Ruesch, Alonzo Hernandez, and Brian Green, means that they were willing to follow in their father’s footsteps. It shows that Oltmans has a good mentor program, and that we want to pass on our knowledge. I think the folks who have grown within the company know what we do and how we do it.
What do you miss most about working everyday?
I miss the guys. I miss speaking Spanish to the crew. I am a little out of practice, but I was decent at it. And I will miss seeing good people succeed. Some of these guys were marginalized or had some trouble early on in their lives, so it is powerful to see them come around and succeed.
I remember working with Oliver “Windy” Hunt, on the Corona Summit project. He left to go on vacation for a week in North Carolina to see his mom. When he came back, I remember him coming up to me crying. He said, ‘I can’t believe you paid me for the week that I was gone.’ I told him, ‘Well, you’re great help, and I appreciate you.’ He told me that no one had ever done that for him before. I always try to take care of the guys. If they know they’re being taken care of, they will stick around and do a good job.
What can Oltmans do to give back to our field team?
I see that Oltmans is trying get the field and office together. I think it is really great and we need it. Now there is a mix between the two, and every little thing that you give the guys to make them feel included is a step forward, and they are so grateful. One thing that we need to do is more training. We just had an OSHA 30-hr training which is great because it means that those guys can oversee the job and the superintendent doesn’t have to be there every Saturday.
I think leadership training is also important. I think if we created some kind of standard of how to do things everyone will get better. Take job close-outs, for example. I don’t really know what the team needs at the end of a job. Right now, I give the project manager the permit cards, the marked-up drawings, the book of RFIs, and whatever close-out papers I have, but there should be a package that tells me exactly what I need when I exit a job. That type of training is what I see as a beneficial opportunity for Oltmans. They’re getting the OSHA and safety training, which is great; now, they need leadership skills, too.
What are your plans for retirement?
My wife and I have two grown kids and two grandkids. My son is a beer distributer for Samuel Adams or Boston Beer, and my daughter works for DPR in human resources. We also have two residences, one in San Clemente and one in Arizona. The one in Arizona is pretty rural, so I do a lot of work on it. We also have a boat, so we go out on the water and do quite a bit of Jeeping. Just family stuff.
Mainly, I want to find out what God has in store for me next. I’m trying to figure out where God wants me and what it is that I will be successful doing. I don’t want to get into a ministry or service that makes me feel like I am in over my head. Plus, I don’t think my wife is ready to move to Borneo and become a missionary, so I’ll have to wait and see. For now, we’re planning on going to Israel this year for vacation. We would really like to see Jerusalem, the oldest city in the world. Three of the world’s biggest religions originate from there, so it has to be incredible.
“Mark Bargman is one of our most seasoned superintendents and has committed his expertise to Oltmans Construction Co. for over forty years. He has a passion for teaching our guys and our younger forces were fortunate to get to work under a leader like Mark. We wish you the best in your retirement, you will be missed.”
Joe Pike, Senior Director, Field Operations