Bricklayer Mohlis elected leader of Columbia-Pacific BCTC

John Mohlis has been elected executive secretary-treasurer of the Columbia-Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council.

Mohlis, business manager of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1 for the past 11 years, was elected Dec. 6 by acclamation. He has served as president of the CPBCTC since 1994.

Also elected without opposition were President Jim Pauley of Iron Workers Local 29; Vice President Mike Koler of Electrical Workers Local 48; Sergeant-at-Arms Herman Stonebraker of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290; and trustees Bruce Temple of Cement Masons Local 555, Dave Ritchey of Laborers Local 335 and Dave Town of Painters and Allied Trades Council 5.

All terms are for three years.

Mohlis, 49, was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa. He attended the University of Iowa for a year and a half before moving to Bozeman, Montana. He worked summers as a hod carrier and was a member of the Laborers Union. He also has a withdrawal card from the Teamsters, having worked one summer driving a water truck.

He completed a three-year bricklayer apprenticeship training program in Montana. He was active in the union there, having served as financial secretary for Bricklayers Local 5.

“I worked a lot of odd jobs growing up, and I found out early that working on union jobs paid better wages and had benefits. I wanted that,” Mohlis said.

In 1988, during a slow winter in Montana, Mohlis traveled to Oregon to work for Bromley Masonry on the Marion County Corrections facility in Salem. Instead of returning to the Treasure State after the job was completed, he moved his wife — whom he met in college — and young daughter to Oregon.

“Work was better in Portland and bricklayers lived better here,” he said.

Mohlis continued his union activity at Local 1. In May 1989 he was asked by then-Business Manager Jim McNannay to work full-time as a business agent.

“I was astonished. I hadn’t been there 15 months. I never dreamt I’d work for the union in a big city like Portland,” he said.

Mohlis discussed it with his wife and, after a few days of consideration, he accepted the post. “I knew right away I’d made the right decision,” he said.

McNannay retired as business manager in April 1994 and Mohlis was appointed to fill his unexpired term. He was elected outright in June and has been re-elected to the top office for four terms without opposition.

During his tenure, the 650-member local has gained market share in the brick, tile, terrazzo, marble and restoration industry in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Mohlis worked with leaders of the other “trowel trades” — Cement Masons Local 555 and Plasterers Local 82 — to establish a state-of-the-art training center and offices in Northeast Portland. Mohlis also helped institute a market recovery program for the union and a defined-contribution supplemental retirement plan for the membership.

Keith Wright, president and business agent for Bricklayers Local 1, has been appointed interim business manager to fill Mohlis’ unexpired term.

Mohlis lives in Redland, a small town outside of Oregon City. His wife Debbie and daughter Megan are elementary school teachers and members of the Oregon Education Association. His son Ben is a junior at Oregon City High School.

One of Mohlis’ first big assignments as executive secretary-treasurer of the CPBCTC was to sign a project labor agreement with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe on a $510 million casino resort in La Center, Wash. (See related story on Page 1.)

“My predecessor, Wally Mehrens, did a lot of the legwork on this, as did many other union trades officials, so I’m not taking any credit for it,” Mohlis said.

Last month, Mehrens, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, announced his retirement after 17 years as the council’s executive secretary-treasurer. He nominated Mohlis as his successor at the Dec. 6 meeting.

Mohlis said he will be “a big promoter” of the quality, craftsmanship and successes of union construction workers to owners, developers and contracting agencies. “I think it’s important to get in the door early, while projects are in their planning stages, to show these folks that it makes good business sense to use union contractors.”

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