By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS
Drivers through Tucumcari may have noticed South First Street is getting gutted. They may even know why (to install storm drains). But perhaps there’s a question that still preys on their minds — exactly who is digging up the streets?
Albuquerque-based A.S. Horner is the company’s name, and the workers came to town with a pile of blueprints and a 13-member management crew.
Here are some of their stories.
When Juana Macias started with A.S. Horner in May, she was immediately assigned to Tucumcari. When she first got to town, she said her new workspace was a leveled off parking lot and a nearly empty trailer.
“I walked up to the crew and said ‘Hello guys, I’m the secretary,’” Macias said.
“It was a big challenge at the beginning. We didn’t even have a copier. We had to hook up computers. The workforce center helped us a lot, letting us use their copier and helping us hire Tucumcari workers.”
With a crew of 70 to keep track of, Macias said the job title that fits her best is field operations manager. In addition to manning the radio at the South First Street trailer base, she handles all time cards, makes sure the staff is paid on time and is in charge of public awareness — that is, letting area folks know if they will have to be without utilities due to construction.
She also attends safety meetings and can often be seen on the work site in her vest, boots and hat.
“I like that,” Macias said. “When you’re out there you’re part of the gang. It’s very different than wearing executive suits.”
Originally hailing from an executive secretary career and born and raised in El Paso, Macias said a difficult aspect of the job on a traveling construction crew is missing her father and siblings in Texas.
“It’s a five-hour drive and I go there when we have three-day weekends,” she said. “I’m also learning to enjoy Tucumcari,” she said, adding she frequents the nearby lakes.
And she is never quite too far from family, as two of her brothers are on the management crew.
The lead man
Jesus “Chuco” Macias also hails from El Paso. Yes, he misses his hometown — he even said “Chuco” means “El Paso.” But he also said, “I’m single, available — and where are all the women in this town?”
Macias’ job as lead man puts him second in command, answering to the foreman.
When asked about his favorite part of the job he said, “I get to tell people what to do. No, seriously, I like building things,” Macias said, adding he grew up with Tonka trucks.
He also said the best part of any construction job is “What we leave behind” — meaning whatever they built, not lost or forgotten tools.
Originally from the refrigerator/air conditioning trade, Macias got into road work 10 years ago through his father, who he said was an A.S. Horner employee for more than 30 years.
Macias said he enjoys working out of town. “I meet all sorts of different people, get to see different cultures. I’m from the city; I like Tucumcari because it’s pretty mellow,” he said.
When he can’t go see his family, he said he brings them to him.
“I tell them come check out Tucumcari; come on a vacation to Ute Lake and Conchas,” he said. And they do.
With a wife and two kids in Bosque Farms, Shawn LeClair said he often misses them — but they have adapted to his traveling job.
“When we first got married, my wife hated that I was always gone. Now she is so used to it, she hates it when I’m home for more than three days,” he joked.
LeClair said he does speak to his family daily and, when he can’t travel the several hours to see them they come to him.
“We rent an extra room at the Redwood Lodge and spend the weekend together,” he said, adding most of the crew is doubled up in the rooms to save money.
In addition to being away from family, LeClair said the most difficult part of construction is getting the job done on time.
”The challenge is keeping the schedule, keeping everybody in the same direction,” he said. “Most have worked with other companies and know what they’re doing,” he said of the crew they’ve hired in Tucumcari. “There’s a couple of younger guys who seem to be really good — but I tell them to get out of construction work. It’s a hard living; there are easier ways to make a living.”
LeClair, of course, said he would not have it any other way. It’s what he knew for years with past jobs in Wyoming and traveling the nation with Granite Construction for more than seven years and now with Horner for six.
“I can’t say I like it all,” LeClair said, adding there is one thing that keeps him thrilled.
“When I travel through the United States, I can point at things and say ‘We built that.’”