Celebrating Women in Construction Week:

Building a More Inclusive Future

As we kick off the 26th Annual Women in Construction Week, we turn our attention to remarkable women who are not only making strides in the construction industry but are leading the way on significant projects in the community.

One such example is the St. Francis City Hall and Fire Department project. The women at the helm are City Administrator Kate Thunstrom, Senior Project Manager Deb Aldrich of Stahl Construction, and Project Architect Ginnie Schneider of Brunton Architects and Engineers.

St. Francis Team

Together, they are overseeing the design and construction of the new 35,000 square foot facility, providing a new civic center for the City of St. Francis, and setting the standard for the downtown corridor.

“This project has been a long time in the making,” said Kate Thunstrom. “I’ve seen it build from discussions had [in the nineties], to where we are today.”

Once complete in fall 2024, the new building will feature the city council chambers, new fire station, training and conference rooms, a fitness room, fire bunks and day rooms, apparatus bays, a public plaza, and ample parking—all in one convenient location.

“Right now, we are operating out of buildings that were not designed for their intent. We will soon have efficiencies and improved safety to meet our staff’s needs. In turn, we can better meet the needs of the residents and the community.”

Project Architect Ginnie Schneider specializes in municipal design and shares “there are a lot of benefits to combining City Hall and the Fire Department under one roof. It is going to improve operations in a lot of ways and benefit the community.”

“The entire team worked closely with city council to be good stewards of community funds while improving efficiencies for the city. This has been noticed by the public, and we are grateful to help provide that assistance.”

The reaction from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. “People stop by regularly and bring their grandkids. They want to take pictures on site,” says Senior Project Manager Deb Aldrich. “They’re watching the different components of the project as it comes together and they’re very excited.”

“It’s so much fun to see how interested the contractors are,” said Public Works Director Paul Carpenter. “They want to be here, and they want to get the job done. They have a unique opportunity to build something in St. Francis that is going to stand for 50 plus years, and they are putting their mark on it.”

“Our whole team is on the same page of caring about what we do and making sure St. Francis gets the best product they possibly can,” said Superintendent Jeremy Belsheim. The same goes for the subcontracting partners. “We need them to succeed, so we try to help them and work together. That is what makes a project successful.”

“Working with Brunton and Stahl has been amazing,” said Public Works Director Paul Carpenter. “Everything this team does is vetted so well. They make the owner’s job really easy, and I appreciate working with that type of professionalism.”

Keys to the Future

This year’s Women in Construction Week theme, “Keys to the Future,” celebrates the strength and knowledge of women and the vital role they play in shaping the future of the construction industry.

Women bring diverse perspectives, skills, and talents. “Increasing the representation and participation of women in construction benefits the industry by showcasing a more inclusive, productive, and competitive workforce,” said Aldrich.

The advice Aldrich would give to women interested in construction is explore your options. “There are so many distinct roles in the industry, and there is something for you. Whether it is working with your hands as a carpenter or electrician or serving as a project manager—opportunities are endless.”

Project Architect Ginnie Schneider shares, “I have always been drawn to unique buildings. Buildings that stir emotion or offer a new experience. That is possible because of architecture, and the diverse perspectives of the design team. I love getting to work with new teams and new projects on a daily basis, it’s highly rewarding.”

Thunstrom adds, “I have worked in male dominated industries my entire life. The advice I would give to any woman in any career is stay positive, keep your head up, and take challenges as growth. And learn from everything you do.”

“You cannot think about the male dominated industry as your challenge,” says Thunstrom. “Your challenge is to do your job the best you can. To take a leadership role and be the best leader you can be.”

As we reflect on Women in Construction Week, we are incredibly proud of the strides women have made in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry. Their accomplishments are a testament to resilience and dedication, and we look forward to seeing how the industry continues to be shaped by future leaders.

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