The 2010 Distinguished Alumni of Edmonds Community College, carpenter John Littel and accountant Becky Mackenstadt, both identified their career paths in high school, obtained education to advance in their chosen field, made connections in their professions, found rewarding lifelong work, and — best of all — they love their jobs.
The Distinguished Alumni will be honored by the Edmonds Community College Foundation 6-8 p.m., Thurs., Feb. 3 in the Black Box Theatre, Edmonds Community College, 20000 68th Ave. W, Lynnwood. To attend the ceremony, call 425.640.1274 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When John Littel drives around Seattle with his daughter they don’t get far before she asks, “Dad, is there anything in this town that you haven’t built?”
Projects he has worked on include Qwest Field, the Sea-Tac Airport expansion, Sound Transit Light Rail and a number of buildings downtown.
Out of high school, Littel knew he wanted to follow in the family tradition and become a carpenter. He began work at age 17 and now, at age 55, has plans to continue building into retirement.
“I love the work,” he said.
Littel began taking classes at Edmonds Community College in the mid-80s. He owned a small construction business at the time and was originally interested in a couple of energy management classes. Then he found the construction management program. While running his business, he took classes twice a week at night and completed all of the core construction management classes.
“The majority of small businesses fail not because people don’t know how to do the work, but because they don’t know how to run a business,” Littel said. “At Edmonds Community College, I learned bidding, estimating, scheduling — how to organize my work. It took me to another level. The mentoring I received led me to start bidding work in commercial projects and public works. I used the education to grow my business and evolve it.”
Later, he returned to the college to complete the two-year Associate of Technical Arts in Construction Management.
Today, Littel works as the political and legislative director for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters representing 25,000 carpenters in five states. He was recognized by Governor Gregoire for his eight years of service on the Correctional Industries Board, which oversees inmate labor and work training programs in Washington state prisons. He served as the board chair from 2007-2010.
He currently serves as the board chair of the Seattle Housing Authority, which provides affordable housing assistance to more than 16,000 families in Seattle, and he is helping to lead plans for a $300 million, 10-year redevelopment of Yesler Terrace, a low-income housing project.
At Edmonds Community College, Littel serves on the advisory committee for the college’s construction management program and he helped the college start its pre-apprenticeship Construction Industry Training program.
“We’re recruiting the next generation. This is a great industry that gives you the potential to have a successful career as a craftsperson, a project engineer, a building inspector, or the owner of a construction company,” he said.
Now what about retirement? Littel has plans to keep building. He’ll turn his attention to furniture and guitars.
“Guitar-making — that’s my encore career,” he said. “I have a cabinet shop next to my house, and a nice retirement to look forward to. The college has been a touchstone for me.”
His advice to new students: “Work hard, stay focused, and get the degree. It will open a lot of doors.”