Sarah Lefebvre Headshot
The Associated General Contractors of Alaska logo
Mentoring invests in the future
By Sarah Lefebvre, President

he path to each Associated General Contractors, or AGC, of Alaska presidency is as unique as the remarkable individuals who have held this seat before me.

Even before the path to AGC presidency there was the path to construction, which is a story I will save for another time, only referencing my brother’s comment, “You’re going to own part of a construction company? But you don’t know how to build roads!”

I still haven’t actually sat in the equipment and “built” a road, but I am part of an incredible team of people that, with all of us doing our part, builds roads, airports, building sites, utilities, and so much more.

I became a minority owner at Exclusive Landscaping & Paving at the end of my second construction season, and it was sometime the following year that Phil Anderson, one of the majority owners, “voluntold” me that I would be spending some time on AGC projects, specifically the Build Up program. Phil was then moving through the executive board chairs, nearing his term as AGC president. It was around that time that he first told me that someday I, too, could and should be AGC president. This seemed an incredibly aspirational goal at the time, as I still didn’t know much about building roads, much less the ins and outs of AGC as an industry organization.

Phil orchestrated many amazing and intimidating opportunities to mentor and build me along the way, but planting that lofty goal in my mind more than twenty years ago was the best thing he could have done for me. How I perceived the structure of AGC—and my place in it—was forever changed by Phil’s comments. That vision shaped my interest, my involvement, my dedication, and my drive in how I approached both my work and my AGC engagement.

When I started in the industry, being involved in AGC was very challenging and intimidating for someone who was new to construction. As I write that, I am sure there are many who would say that the same may be true today. I do feel that we have become more inclusive in general, but we also have something that we didn’t have back then—the Construction Leadership Council, known as CLC.

AGC of Alaska dusted off an old idea originally known as the Young Contractors Association, and the Emerging Leaders was formed in 2014. Saigen Harris, with F&W Construction, was the driving force behind bringing that group to fruition and transitioning it to become CLC in 2016, aligning our efforts with the national AGC program. From our website: “The Construction Leadership Council of Alaska was formed to cultivate the future leaders of Alaska’s construction industry. This group is open to all employees of AGC members and non-members who are looking to further their personal and professional growth, while creating the types of connections that will sustain them throughout their careers.”

As Saigen told me recently, “It’s not for young people—it’s for anyone new to the industry and/or new to AGC. What it’s done for me professionally—I can’t say enough. It’s given me contact with people that I wouldn’t have known otherwise, because they are the people leading our industry. I can reach out to them.”

Saigen was elected to the contractor-at-large seat on the AGC Executive Board of Directors last year and is currently our treasurer—the best example of the full-circle benefits of such mentoring and opportunity. She specifically credited Jim St. George and John MacKinnon for their support and encouragement as she established the Emerging Leaders group.

CLC has been successful in the Anchorage area for seven years, thanks to the significant efforts of Saigen and many others, and is currently led by the great energy of Dax Lauwers, with Marsh & McLennan Agency. Shelby Mintken, Megan Stepovich, both of Colaska Inc., and Colten Wilkerson-Thiel with Brice, Inc. are working hard to follow the great model established in Anchorage and start a Fairbanks chapter. Unfortunately, their early efforts coincided with COVID-19, and growth has been slow.

I am sure you have noted the company names behind each CLC reference above. I do that because these are companies who are clearly investing in our future leaders, giving them either a shove or the encouragement to grow professionally and become the future leaders of AGC. I call upon those who currently hold positions of leadership in our member companies to continue Phil’s legacy and be mentors, facilitate mentoring, and grow the next generation of mentors. I ask each board member specifically to look within their organizations for the next Sarah, Saigen, or Dax and do what it takes to get them involved—and CLC would be a great place to start. I cannot stress enough the power of building our leaders over time and from within. Thank you, Phil, for having such a vision for me.