Tribal member Phebi Grude graduates from construction inspection program

03.29.2012 Dean Rhodes People, Education

It was a cloudy and rainy afternoon, but in a conference room on the 10th floor of the Portland Building on Tuesday, March 20, the day could not have looked better to Tribal member Phebi Grude and the almost 30 friends, relatives and colleagues who packed the room for the ceremony.

All honors went to Grude for successful completion of a one-year course in the Public Works Construction Inspector training program with the city of Portland. She still has perhaps another year of on-the-job learning before becoming an inspector.

"We'll know when she's ready," said Inspection Supervisor Rick McCoy.

Many enter the program from the construction industry and start with much of the knowledge they'll need on the job.

The close-knit Construction Inspection unit brought Grude into the fold a year ago.  

Laurie Allen, vice president of NW Operations for CMTS, LLC, a consulting contractor providing staffing and other professional services to the industry, got the ball rolling with a presentation at the Portland office.

Portland Tribal office staffers Chris Garcia and Tribal member Jon George took it from there. Garcia is an Employment and Training specialist for the Tribe and George is a Vocational Rehabilitation specialist.

"When we told Phebi about the program," said George, "she said, 'I think I can do that.' And that was all the information we needed."

"It's been a good fit," said Garcia.

Both were on hand to mark Grude's success and celebrated the event with a Tribal blessing drum song.

Calling this "a very special occasion," Grude's daughter, Tribal member Brooke Chavez, presented her mother with flowers. "I'm so proud of her," she said.

Denise Stone, one of two aunts on hand for the ceremony, brought many to tears. "We've been through a lot in our family. We're so proud of her. We've been trying to know the right things to help her. We love you," she said to Grude. And then to the room, "Thank you all so much. You gave her something that we couldn't."

To become an inspector in Portland, a city that McCoy says, "Sets the standard," for the country, Grude is charged with learning "all of the fundamentals of doing the construction," McCoy said. And everybody continues learning on the job.

"When Phebi started," McCoy said, "she had a lot of personal issues, but she stepped up and decided she wanted to do it. She wanted to work overtime to see how things were done."

He described how attentively she watched the laying of pipe and wire when most other inspectors feel like, 'It's all you can do to stay awake.'

"When I saw that, I knew this was going to be a fit for her. Everybody is fighting over her because she does such a good job."

"You're not going to learn unless you have it in your heart," said Inspector Nadine Meyers. "You have to be creative, resourceful. Well, Phebi knows her stuff. She knows how to hold her ground with contractors. She's really a good asset. I wish she were on my team."

Grude had some apartment remodeling in her background and was a concrete laborer and finisher, but she never thought she had the background to be a building inspector.

"I was looking into the welding program," she said.

Today, she has a wide range of experiences to draw from, and of all the different jobs that one does as an inspector, Grude is drawn to working with the plans, she said. "Making sure it's a buildable project."

Grude has art in her background, too. She's got things she's made all over her home. "There's nothing that hasn't been art-ified in our house," she said.

She once planted succulents in shoes and boots for a succulent farm.

She used to smoke cigars, she said with a laugh.

And on a "Grimm" note, her daughter, Brooke, said she often had to do a parking space tango with the Portland television production that operates right by one of her jobs this last year.

After the certificate and acrylic keepsake presentations, the group shared a pink cake with frosting pictures on the top showing a vest, cap, boots and a tape measure.

Tools for the future.