SAN JOSE – This could be an American dream story you’ve heard before.
There’s a guy who starts at the bottom on a paving crew, and through hard work, rises to the top of field management.
John Garcia’s story is that, plus more.
It’s about a solid guy with a heart for heavy civil construction, respected by his peers and project owners, who fosters dogs with his wife and enjoys the scenery of a train ride through the Rocky Mountains.
He continually works to better himself and his craft teams and serves as a leader people want to follow.
“I had to start working and figure it out on my own after high school,” the 57-year-old said. “I had the work ethic and I had some connections to construction.”
He spent two years in the Santa Clara canneries prior to graduating from Archbishop Mitty High School in 1980.
After high school John went straight to work at West Valley Construction.
During his time at West Valley, he moved to Nevada for three years as an underground laborer laying pipe for a Nevada Bell utilities project.
From there, he drove trucks at Stevens Creek Quarry, delivering water and equipment to job sites, until he met someone at Matteis Bros. who offered to double his pay from $11 to $22 an hour – great money for the time.
John stayed at Matteis Bros. for about seven years and expanded his skills by learning to operate the company’s heavy equipment, including the paver and roller.
Around 1993, a former Matteis foreman, John Sweeney, told him Graniterock’s construction team, then called Pavex, was hiring laborers for its two paving crews.
John showed up where they were working at the old Ford Motor plant in Milpitas and quickly figured out all his previous field experience had led to Graniterock.
This is where he wanted to stay, both for the work and the culture.
He’ll always remember the phone call one evening after dinner from Bruce Woolpert, Graniterock’s late CEO, who called John at home to talk about the company sponsoring his daughter’s softball team.
That personal touch went a long way in securing John’s loyalty to the company all these years.
“What I’ve learned through the years is that Graniterock truly cares about their employees,” he said. “No other company gives you these kinds of opportunities for training and management. At other companies, you’re just a number.”
John spent his first seven years at Graniterock as a laborer with a rake or shovel in hand, until he asked to be moved to other areas of the company to expand his skills.
During that time, he was part of the team building haul roads at the A.R. Wilson Quarry in Aromas, the 2,000-acre heart of Graniterock.
“I wanted to be able to do it all,” he said. “I wanted to be able to do any job. Everything I did, I did 150 percent.”
Graniterock gave John the chance to work with its grading and underground teams, and the company invested in his leadership by sending John to classes and pairing him with business leaders for mentorship and training.
He became the crew’s lead guy while assigned to projects at San Francisco International Airport, where he demonstrated talent for managing the craft teams, thoughtfully planning for their materials and equipment needs and getting along well with upper management, subcontractors and the owner.
He worked as a field supervisor at SFO before transitioning to area superintendent of Graniterock’s construction teams in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 2014, he advanced to superintendent of private works, where he works closely with general contractors.
“John is tireless in his hard work,” said Paul Cianciarulo, Graniterock’s safety director. “He is also a teacher of construction to others at Graniterock. He’s one of those people who makes everyone around him a better person and professional. Me included.”
As area superintendent, John can oversee 6-10 active jobs at one time, working closely with dispatchers to juggle craft teams and equipment for each site.
As well, he’s in constant contact with each job’s project management team and aims to be a collaborative partner.
“Projects can change so much,” he said. “I can have it all planned out weeks in advance and something can change that afternoon. We’re constantly moving and shifting people to get the work done.”
Unlike some of his bosses in the past, John doesn’t hesitate to tell his team when they’re doing a good job.
He’s also not afraid to hold people accountable.
“My management style has changed over the years in that it’s 70 percent listening now and 30 percent talking,” he explained. “Not everything is by consensus, but when people are included in the decision-making you get more out of them.”
John and his wife Lori have four grown children, with their first grandchild due any day. Counted in the family are their five chihuahuas.