Awards were presented to 10 skilled tradesmen at the 4th Annual Master Craftsmen... Builders of America Ceremony on Thursday, October 1. The program is part of the Featherbone Communiversity Master Series Program in partnership with Lanier Technical College.
2015 Master Craftsmen Award Recipients:
Tracy Phillips/ Sitework
Tracy Phillips has spent the last 32 years in the craft of sitework. At a young age, Tracy knew he wanted to be self-employed and enjoyed the outdoors. To start his career, Tracy purchased a front-end loader and began doing small jobs. Project size increased over the years, and he has performed sitework for the Walton County Hospital, the Pickens County Hospital, several Forsyth County Schools, and Dawson County Schools. Very often Tracy is the contractor of choice for new school construction in Northeast Georgia. Tracy frequently performs grading services for churches at reduced costs. Examples of his mastery of the trade and is the grading and drainage pipe work for the Atlanta Motorsports Park and the grading of the Northside Forsyth Hospital Campus. For the Atlanta Motorsports Park, Tracy had the vision to place a two mile road course racetrack in the mountainous terrain of Dawson County, while working with difficult topography to create a venue that has brought economic development and growth to North Georgia. He has also worked on multiple golf courses and over 400 poultry houses. Tracy has the ability to look at a site plan and visualize the completed project. This is an outstanding talent and one that sets him apart. Tracy remains current with new technology, new equipment, and new processes through manufacturer’s seminars and workshops. Tracy realizes the need to keep his equipment moving earth while constantly meeting the specifications of the site plan, and he utilizes a robust preventive equipment maintenance plan to ensure he has minimal downtime. Tracy is adept at scheduling manpower and equipment for the most efficient completion of the project.
Michael Carew /Stone / Masonry
Michael Carew began his career in 1996. The quality of his workmanship is evident as he always “over builds” the infrastructure, footings and foundations, and mixes Portland cement for a stronger bond. He always practices workplace safety and requires the same of his employees. Building on a firm foundation is Biblical for Michael – “a foolish man builds on sand and a wise man builds on rock.” Michael has built over 100 waterfalls and ponds and countless outdoor fireplaces, as well as many other types of stone and masonry structures. He is most proud of jobs when he is the designer, developer, and installer. Michael always puts the technical requirements into a job to ensure the work will remain beautiful for many years to come. While Michael is a very skilled craftsman, he gets his greatest satisfaction by exceeding the customer’s expectation. Michael has developed the ability and skill to match a job to the economical ability of the customer. He has also has developed the skill to install synthetic materials in a manner that looks like natural materials. This allows him to bring his talents to a broader client base. Michael’s adage is that the best way to be productive is to perform a job correctly the first time. Michael has trained his employees to view their work with the same critical eye that he uses. This minimizes the costly need to redo work. In keeping with the current trends, Michael has become adept at designing, developing, and installing outdoor living centers, fireplaces, extensive patios, seating benches, and BBQ centers.
Steve Shaw/ Plumber
Steve Shaw is a graduate of North Georgia Technical College with a degree in plumbing. Following graduation, he began working in the trade in 1987 and two years later expanded into septic systems. Steve has always gone above and beyond to take care of customers by working all hours – even going out one Christmas Day to work on a drain system for a family in need. He strives to learn and advance in his field, and has built his business by giving 110% in all that he does. While always professional in his work and business, he is also very caring about his customers. Steve’s famous quote is, “If you don’t want to fix it right, I won’t do the job!” Steve is hands-on in his work and ensures all work is properly completed doing whatever is demanded no matter how messy or complicated the job might be. Wife of 31 years, Angie Shaw says, “I have never met anyone as compassionate, hard working, giving, dedicated, loyal and devoted. All of these traits and more make Steve the perfect candidate for this award.” Angie has had the honor of working along side of her husband for 28 years. While learning and growing, they have made many friends, such as Dr. Carroll Turner. They feel blessed to work in the North Georgia area while raising a family. In addition to running a business, Steve has also taken the position of Commissioner District 2 Lumpkin County. He is always giving back to the community that he feels has supported him and his family through the years.
Bob Cornett/ HVAC
Bob Cornett began practiced HVAC work 45 years, in 1970. Bob exemplifies integrity and quality of workmanship in his new construction projects. He places solid construction techniques as a top priority. Examples are his implementation of an efficient amount of duct work and additional return duct-size supply ductwork to match unit tonnage. He always pulls a vacuum on new system before start-up and always thoroughly plans a system before any constructions begins. Bob does not advertise his work, and does not have to. His work speaks for itself. He was recognized by a Gainesville Times poll as a favorite HVAC technician in the community. He installed the refrigeration systems for Leon Farmer warehouses and many other large projects. Bob always tries to use equipment made in the USA, and his main goal is to satisfy the needs of his customers. Bob stays current through Professional Continuing Education. He stays productive by planning service calls in order to be efficient with time. He always focuses on keeping the inside of an AC system clean, cleans condensing coils is part of a normal service call, and provides an extended warranty. He routinely ensures the customer gets the maximum warranty on parts. He does what it take the customers comfortable, provides top quality service, and after work is complete – most customers become his friend.
Ira Woodard/ Electrician
Ira Woodard wired first house at age 13! He has been in the trade full-time for 42 years. Ira’s craftsmanship shows in all phases of residential wiring, from rough-in to final fixture installation. For Ira, neatness of work always counts, including the work that will eventually be covered up by the sheet rock. Ira is sought by many general contractors because of his quality of work, efficiency, and the fact that his work always passes code requirements during inspections. While Ira enjoys all aspects of electrical wiring, lighting is his specialty. Ira works closely with interior designers on projects to ensure lighting has the proper accents and is often consulted on the design and look of the lightening fixture. He also works closely with cabinet makers to ensure functionality and ensures that the lighting matches the overall design of the home. He sets himself apart from other electricians by always planning for extra capacity and staying abreast of code and government regulation. Ira’s mantra is “You get what you pay for. Quality comes first!”
Elmer Hopper /Residential Builder
Elmer Hopper has been in the construction industry for 38 years. He started working with his Dad installing septic tanks and moved on from there. He initially built small homes and grew to larger homes, keeping up with various styles and trends. Elmer has built hundreds of houses across Northeast Georgia. In addition to home construction, Elmer has also developed entire subdivisions. Because of his ability to build and maintain strong relationships, he has used many of the same contractors throughout the years. Elmer exemplifies the rewards of master craftsmanship and his houses have been referred to as “another Elmer Hopper masterpiece.” Elmer has the innate ability to look at a prospective building site and know what style of home and exterior design will best fit the site and how to situate the home to maximize its curb appeal. In addition to his ability to visualize the finished home before any grading is performed, Elmer can fully communicate his vision to customers. This is one of many reasons why he has a long list of happy and satisfied customers. Because of the product he produces and attention to detail, Elmer sets himself apart from many residential builders. Many would utilize his quality building services again, and usually gain a strong bond and friendship with him from their experience. Most of his work is in the high quality development of Chateau Elan. Elmer is one of only a very few that have been consistently building in the development for almost 20 years.
Jerry Chambers /Machinist / Toolmaker
Jerry Chambers, a 1971 graduate of Lanier Technical College, has been in the machining field for 46 years. Jerry was inspired to pursue machining as a career while in high school and met Fred Frady, Lanier Tech’s machine tool instructor, during a career day at North Hall High School. While Jerry is an accomplished machinist, mold maker, and tool maker, his greatest skill lies in his ability design and build fixtures. He is known as a go-to guy when it comes to designing and building fixtures and is a very skilled CNC Programmer. At his current company, Nordson Corp., Jerry is involved in all aspects of equipment design and manufacture and his vast experience provides ideas that allow for the manufacturing of high quality equipment at the lowest cost possible. Jerry loves to spread his knowledge, and a highlight of his career is mentoring to technical school graduates. Jerry considers it an honor to pass his knowledge on to those following in his footsteps. Today Jerry is considered an expert CNC programmer, and he has been able to bridge this knowledge into the area of manufacturing automation. Jerry worked with two engineers to develop a glue applicator that was patented and he is listed as one of the creators. Jerry was able to apply his machining knowledge to design some of the critical features of the part and his was able to use his knowledge to provide for a design that was economical to manufacture.
Aaron Wortman /Welder / Fabricator
Aaron Wortman has been employed by Marel Stork since 2011 and has worked in the trade for 24 years. He exemplifies integrity and quality of workmanship through his ability to be very flexible in his talents. Not only does he weld, he also operates the company’s press brake, drills, and has worked in assembly as well. Aaron has played a pivotal role in learning the products in Marel Stork’s Des Moines facility as the plant closes and relocates to Gainesville. He sets himself apart with his talent in welding and fabricating pressure vessels and piping. While Aaron is a master in the trade with a wealth of knowledge, he is always willing to teach others what he knows and share his wisdom in the industry. He has a positive attitude and has the ability to find solutions to problems. He is committed to productivity and recently redesigned his work area to avoid the company having to purchase and install a second crane – saving money, time and production. Aaron has evolved as a craftsman through his mastery of working in other areas as well as helping implement new product lines. He is one of the most productive welders in the industry and continually produces the highest quality.
Don Morgan / Carpenter
Don Morgan began his work in carpentry over 34 years ago. As co-owner of Weiler and Morgan Construction, he offers complete remodeling services and custom home construction from design concept to completion. A highlight of the mastery of his trade is in a custom build home on Lake Hartwell that was built to hurricane standards. The home includes high quality detailed custom cabinets, 10,000 liner feet of joint tongue and groove on walls with no butt joints – and all mitered! Don loves to take a customer’s unique vision and bring it into reality through woodwork. A hands-on craftsman, Don is also an expert at tile work, and he often does skilled work that would normally take two separate craftsmen. While he has a traditional master craftsman mentality and ability, he uses modern technology to get the best product performance. For example, he uses the Schluter system in showers to improve waterproofing before laying intricate tile work. Don attends product training, like the Sikkens class, where he became P3 certified. His ability to do tile work with his carpentry skills allows him to integrate wood features and tile ones into a seamless unified look that is as functional as it is beautiful.
Harold Kilgore / Specialty Construction / Septic Systems
Harold Kilgore began his trade as a teenager by helping his father install septic systems. He has been in the business full time since 1980. Harold exemplifies integrity, quality of workmanship, creativity in all of his projects. One project in particular that highlights Harold’s craftsmanship and determination was the installation of a septic system on a building lot in Forsyth County. The lot had been deemed impossible to build upon. Being and individual that does not back away from a challenge, Harold moved forward. He used his creative talents and problem-solving skills to advocate for the land owner. The project took about a year JUST to get all the necessary permits. In the end, Harold installed a system that to this day is still fully functional. Needless to say, the land owner is very happy that he was able to build a house on his dream lot. Harold has been very innovative in designing and installing septic systems, even where it may seem impossible, and he has the capacity to install 20 different systems based on the topography of the land. Harold was featured in “Onsite Installer” magazine highlighting his talents and quality of workmanship. He is respected in the industry as one that can accomplish the impossible, finding new and innovative ways to install systems in the most challenging of circumstances. His years’ of experience has allowed him to develop a very efficient technique with his equipment. In addition, he surrounds himself with good people and good products, then claims, “Productivity and quality takes care of itself.”
The 2015 Master Craftsmen program was sponsored by Carroll Daniel Construction Company, Georgia Power, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Lawson Air Conditioning & Plumbing, Sullivan & Forbes, Tracy Tesmer Design/Remodeling, and the Warren Featherbone Foundation.