Layton Legends, is a feature spotlighting superintendents, project managers, foremen and other Layton leaders who keep jobsites running and clients coming back for more.
What follows are paraphrased excerpts of the attached video, an interview with Layton Construction’s Sr. Superintendent Dell Willes by Sana Quadri. We encourage all to watch the video and understand the legacy left by Dell and others like him.
So when did you start working with Layton?
My first day with Layton Construction was October 19th, 1981. I remember the project, it was a double-T concrete office and manufacturing facility in Spanish Fork, Utah. And it was the first time that I had the opportunity to meet Alan Layton Sr.
What drew you to construction?
I have always enjoyed being able to build and create things and to see things, ideas and concepts, come to life through construction.
What are some of your earliest memories at Layton?
I remember Christmas parties that maybe had 50 people in attendance, something different than today’s Christmas parties. I remember laying out concrete slabs and trying to stay out of Alan Sr.’s way – so he didn’t run over me. He was actively involved in all we were doing in those days. I remember him hand delivering payroll every week out to the trades people. That was unique. And I remember the old orange trucks that the company used to provide for us. I was glad that they changed to white.
What are some of your favorite projects?
That is a challenging, difficult question to answer. There have been so many. I suppose if I had to narrow it down to just a handful, those that would come to mind would be… the Eccles Theater, the Huntsman Cancer Treatment Hospital, USTAR Technology Building, the Rio Tinto Soccer Stadium, and of course, U.S. Steel Geneva Works Continuous Caster project that I had the opportunity to work on.
What do you love about your work?
Obviously I enjoy the nuts and bolts. I enjoy putting things together. I really enjoy to see dreams and concepts come to reality through putting structures together. But I suppose what I really love about what I do is being able to see people’s reaction when they first walk into the Eccles Theater. To see people’s reactions with dropped jaws and eyes wide open when they walk through on a tour of the performing arts theater and complex at UVU. I love that part of what I do. I love to be able to watch professional sporting events in a stadium that I was able to be a part of in creating. But I think what I really love is being able to stand in the lobby of the Huntsman Cancer Treatment Hospital with a friend and seeing their expression, not in awe of the structure, but the hope that they have. That’s what I really love.
What project or task generated significant personal growth?
Well, I would hope that my experiences are a continuation of growth. I would hope that I grow every day. I’d hope that I learn something every day. Thinking about the projects that have helped me along that process, I think about the LaVell Edwards Football Stadium. Adding two end-zones and a press box during one off-season. That took just a monumental effort to make that happen. I think about the Continuous Caster and people who thought we couldn’t do it. They didn’t think that we could build it. But we did. And I think about the Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake. We demolished nearly half of a city block and then rebuilt it with another contractor building over the top of us, cantilevering their structure over us. Certainly, that was a learning and growing experience for me.
What lessons have you learned along the way?
Well, there’s been many. I’ve learned that there’s two sides to every story. I’ve learned that we need to develop relationships, and those are important. I’ve learned that we need to be understanding with people that we work with. And we need to be able to come together to be able to come to resolution with what can be sometimes very difficult issues. And I’ve learned that there are a lot of talented people around us, especially in our company. So many resources that we should be taking advantage of. Great resources at Layton Construction.
How has your job changed over the years?
It may be easier to say what’s not changed. Let’s start with technology. No cellphones, in the early years. No computers, no iPads, we didn’t have any of those things. Technology has come so far. We now have hyperlinked drawings that make our jobs so much easier. Those are some of the changes here in our own company. I remember no safety professionals and now we have over 30 safety professionals. Tremendous changes that have happened over the years.
So, how has Layton impacted your family?
My wife, my five children, and my 19 grandchildren have certainly been beneficiaries of my employment here at Layton Construction. I have had three sons who have worked for the company. Two of them didn’t stay very long, but I believe that their experiences here with the company helped them in their professions. I have a son, Brett, who has been a superintendent here at the company for over 25 years. Now for me, to see him embrace those opportunities and to be successful with them is more important than my own work. So yes, we have benefitted by the association with the company. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something that is important to me on a personal level which is security and financial security for my family that the company has provided over the years.
What would you tell someone that was considering a career in construction?
I would tell them to try to get employed with Layton Construction to begin with.
And I would tell them to work hard. I would tell them to develop a plan of what they want to do. I would suggest to them that they let those who supervise what they do, let them know what their plan is and then work hard, make yourself available for the opportunities that will come their way. And it is a great industry, it can be
a wonderful career. And I would suggest those who have interest in it, to certainly pursue that in the construction industry.
Do you mind telling us a little bit more about your experience specifically with performing arts centers?
I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great people on some difficult projects. The performing arts theaters are a little bit of a different structure. There are so many things, that the public does not see, that goes into making a theater successful. Yes, there are many high-end finishes and they are beautiful structures, but there is so much more that goes into them. I enjoy being able to get into some of the details that are a part of the performing arts theater world. And being a part of that is an opportunity. I was able, at the UVU Noorda
Center for the Performing Arts, to go and watch a performance. Jason Alexander came. Some of you will remember him as George Costanza on the Seinfeld episodes. And I’ve got to tell you, what a wonderful performance he put on. Enriching people’s lives, giving them the chance to enjoy humor, culture, music, it was a great opportunity to be a part of the performing arts world.
Tell me a little bit about your family and what you like to do for fun.
As I mentioned, we have five children. We have 19 grandchildren, one of them is by way of adoption, married my granddaughter, you see. We count him as one of our grandchildren. We love to get together a couple of times a month. And enjoy a day together, have a meal, and just enjoy being together. We like to travel; we like to go to different places. There are few places on our bucket list we are working towards getting. So, we like to be together. We have a lot in common, I mentioned that three of them are involved in the construction industry. So, there are a lot of common things we can talk about. And so, when we can get everyone together as a group, there are 31 of us that we have to find a seat for at the dinner table. We have a lot of fun and enjoy being together.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Well, it has been a great opportunity to work at Layton Construction. I appreciate and feel honored to be a part of this new rollout program. Not sure that I qualify as a “Legend.” There are some others that I think do. So it’s a great privilege and I appreciate being recognized. But we need to remember we don’t do anything on our own. And the company has made all of these things available for me. And its been a lot of fun. I have a lot of people ask me and those who may be watching this have asked me when I’m going to retire. And many of you have heard of my response relating to true living legend, Larry Dansie. As so I suppose I would answer that question to you in this way: I am more concerned with getting through my new employee probationary period than I am about retirement.