In 1980, Cathy McGarry was hired at Gage Brothers Concrete as a secretary.
Now, 40 years later, McGarry is celebrating her time with the company — even if it doesn’t have the same name, and she has a new title.
During her 16 years working at Gage Brothers, McGarry moved up the ranks to dispatcher, an unofficial title of “assistant manager,” and eventually becoming manager in 1996.
“I’ve worn many hats through the 40 years,” McGarry said. “(I’ve) always done whatever needs to be done.”
Some of the tasks that McGarry has done in her various roles include being in charge of the bills, accounting and organizing the labor for the men and everyone else in the business.
Four years after becoming manager, Gage Brothers Concrete was bought out by Jensen Rock and Sand in 2000.
Even though the business changed hands, McGarry’s title didn’t. As a whole, there wasn’t much staff turnover during the transition, according to Jensen Rock and Sand President Kenny Jensen.
“There are guys that are still with me from when I was with Gage Brothers,” McGarry said. “That says a lot.”
That has to do with the culture the company has created, according to both McGarry and Jensen.
“We’re a true family-orientated company, period. That’s how we operate, our people aren’t employees, they are part of my family and I get emotional talking about that,” he said. “She creates that culture in the office, too.”
Not only has McGarry created the culture around the office, she has also been an important face of the company, according to Jensen.
“She’s an integral part of the success of this facility,” Jensen said. When she came into our family, she helped us achieve even higher goals. It’s been a good journey.”
While McGarry holds the title of manager, she doesn’t have an office — she did have an opportunity to have one, but she didn’t take it.
“That’s how humble of a person she is,” Jensen said. “I built this (building addition) back here for her office. She decided to go back out there (lobby), so we turned it into a conference room.”
According to McGarry, having an office just doesn’t fit her personality.
Being around the office and in the middle of things is more McGarry’s style, Jensen said.
Around the office, McGarry has a few nicknames.
“They call me ‘Mom,’ ‘Ma,’ all the boys,” Jensen said.
She’s even earned the nickname “The Queen Bee of Concrete,” and she has a tattoo to prove it. That nickname came after a continuous pour job for a concrete silo in Mellette went awry.
“(The) contractor out of Montevideo, Minnesota, prefaced the whole pour and he said ‘If you ever have a problem, let me know, we can always slow down.’ Low and behold, we did,” McGarry said.
According to McGarry, a bird flew into the power plant on South Fifth Street, shutting the company down.
“We got everything going where we could batch out of a couple different plants and kept things going,” McGarry said.
During the 40 years she’s worked in the industry, she has seen some changes first-hand. Jensen Rock and Sand has gotten bigger trucks, new equipment, an office expansion and an asphalt plant. Concrete trucks have increased the amount of concrete they can hold. and the business had added more trucks.
McGarry was instrumental in replacing equipment, the office expansion, getting new trucks, and an asphalt plant.
“She helped us grow here in Aberdeen,” Jensen said.
While the industry is ever-changing one thing hasn’t — she has always felt respected in the workplace.
“All of these guys have accepted me, because I put my pants on the same way everyone else does. They’ve always been courteous,” McGarry said.
“There’s some construction verbiage that goes around everyone once in a while, but I grew up in it, so I don’t know anything other than these guys, as far as business. They’ve all treated me well.”
Although McGarry is a minority by being a female in a male-oriented field like construction, she has been able to connect with a couple other females in the business throughout the state of South Dakota.
“I’ve had a couple gals that are in the ready-mix industry, and shared stories with them,” McGarry said.
Three years ago, AliceAnn Krantz, another woman in the industry from Dell Rapids, was elected president of the South Dakota Ready Mix Concrete Association Board of Directors.
McGarry has also been on the South Dakota Ready Mix Concrete Association Board of Directors periodically throughout her 40-year career, and is currently the treasurer for the next three years.
“Most of the time, the only gal that’s been on the board has been myself (and her), but we do have another girl who’s within AliceAnn’s company that does our books,” McGarry said.
Even though it’s been 40 years at the same company, McGarry said she isn’t ready for retirement — yet.
“People ask me how long I’ve been here and I tell them and they say ‘Aren’t you ready to retire?’ and I say ‘No, I started when I was 12, oh 21, turn it around,” McGarry said.
Even though she will turn 61 in December, Jensen hopes she continues to stay with the company.
“She’s still got another good 10 years in her,” he said with a laugh. “She’s not leaving before I am, and I’m not leaving.”
Throughout her 40 years at the company, McGarry has certainly left her mark — with Gage Brothers Concrete and Jensen Rock and Sand.
“She’s been instrumental for the success of our company. You can’t find good people like that, it’s hard. Loyal people that will come to work for everybody, not just herself, but involves everyone. It’s a family, and we treat it that way,” Jensen said.