For this first in our Wall of Fame series, we are highlighting Tranquilino Villegas, who started his career in the mid 1980s. He has passionately served the trade for over 30 years and has worked on projects along the East Coast from Philadelphia to Miami. He has progressed through the industry, starting as a tender and currently as the General Superintendent for Telligent Masonry. In 2010, he was recognized nationally as the Associated Builders and Contractors Masonry Professional of the Year.
We’d like to thank Tranquilino for his dedication to the industry and willingness to share his story with our readers. Special thanks to Chris and Michael Pappas of Telligent Masonry for nominating Tranquilino and setting up this interview.
Masonry Magazine: How old were you when you started in the industry?
Tranquilino Villegas: I was 20 years old, when I started in the industry. I started working in this industry when I was hired at Telligent Masonry.
MM: Can you tell us about your background and how you got started?
TV: I’m originally from Mexico. I came to the US back in 1986. That’s when I started working here with Michael’s dad at [Telligent Masonry]. I’ve been with this company since 1986. I started from the bottom up.
When I started working I was hired to be a buggy driver. The foreman asked me if I knew how to drive a forklift. That was the only thing that I knew how to do, drive a forklift. So he taught me the trade, how to become a mason, then a foreman, and basically that’s how I picked it up.
Michael Pappas: So, he rose up from a laborer to a mason, to a sub-foreman to a foreman, to a superintendent to general superintendent of the company. We have about 500 employees today. When Tranquilino started, my grandfather was running the company. We’re a family company, and everyone who works for us for a long time becomes a part of the family. It’s how we treat them.
MM: Tell us what drew you to the masonry industry?
TV: When I came here I didn’t know much; I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But I had a friend in masonry that gave me the idea to work in this industry. I was unsure of my decision at first, but I grew to love the work and have grown passionate about it since then.
MM: What are some of your earliest memories at work?
TV: When I started here at the company, the foreman that was in charge of the job we were working on put a lot of interest in me, and taught me everything. The other guys were always pushing me around, saying I didn’t know anything. It’s always the same thing, the old guys seem like they never want the new guys to grow. They’re always pushing us around. If I had let them get to me I wouldn’t be where I am today.
MM: What’s kept you in the industry this long?
TV: You will learn something new every day. Every day there’s more and more in this trade that can be mastered, and you will love it. Everyday is different and I like the challenges.
You can be creative once you learn the trade. You can think logistically how you’re going to tackle projects and problems you may face. When you’re reading a drawing, you can think creatively on how to approach the problems.
MM: What is the hardest part of working in this industry?
TV: Time management when problems come up is tough. As time gets tighter and tighter, the problems seem to get harder. That makes it more difficult to solve them within a good amount of time. It can be a challenge to focus on multiple problems at once.
MM: What is your legacy?
TV: My children love what I do and want to be like me. My friends that I work with support me, and what I’ve accomplished thus far.
MP: I would say it’s a pretty strong legacy. One thing that is pretty remarkable is that Tranquilino is able to call other companies when we’re really busy and get other masons to come work for us. That ties into his legacy, because within our region he is well known. That’s why we can always reach out to other masons and get help whenever we need it.
MM: What does this work mean to your family?
TV: It means a lot to me, because this is my life. My children love what I do and want to also go into the trade. They’re going to school to work in this industry.
MM: Do you have any advice for people who are going into this field?
TV: Always look up to your peers for help so you can grow. Challenge yourself to grow and learn more about your craft and the industry.
MM: What does being recognized as someone who has done so much mean to you?
TV: It means everything. I’ve done well in everything I’ve worked for. It’s rewarding to know I’m recognized for the hard work I’ve done. I feel good about everything I’ve accomplished. I’ve made the people that have helped me proud.
Without the company, the help of all the guys, I wouldn’t be here. Sticking together is the reason we’re all still here.