Jessie Gamble grew up around construction locally, so she truly understands and appreciates the work local builders do.
Her father built and installed cabinets, plus did other fine craftsmanship. Her grandfather also did cabinetry and carpentry, and later built commercial buildings. Growing up in Carbonado, where she again lives, she remembers both pointing out projects they worked on as the family traveled around South Sound.
She enjoys hearing members of the Master Builders Association of Pierce County — of which Gamble is now the executive officer — do the same today.
“There’s a lot that I love about this job, but one of my favorite things is the members telling the stories or pointing out places that they had worked in, sharing those experiences,” Gamble said. “I never get tired of hearing that.”
Gamble, 27, was officially named executive officer in January after several months as interim EO while she was the association’s director of government affairs. She joined the association in 2018 after graduating from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in political science and government in 2017, after which she worked six months as campaign manager for then state Rep. Morgan Irwin’s successful election.
Established in 1945, the Master Builders Association of Pierce County represents the housing and the residential construction industry as the voice of more than 850 builders, remodelers, and industry professionals employing more than 10,000 people in Pierce County.
“She has a passion for the industry — it’s not just a job,” said Master Builders President Dan Garber, owner of Federal Way-based Redline Services Group, which specializes in home remodeling. “She has a passion for the industry itself and trying to see: How can we make families better in Pierce County? How can we make the area better? How can we help the community and be a community partner?”
Gamble already has been instrumental in advancing a youth skills program partnership, for example, to help raise the profile of the construction trades among high school students and the significant job opportunities available there. The association has partnered with the Pierce County Skills Center construction trades program, which provides hands-on teaching to high school juniors and seniors along with curriculum taught by industry professionals. Garber recently committed to hiring someone out of the program at a starting salary of about $60,000, plus medical and dental benefits.
“These are the things that Jessie’s brought forward, of looking at things a little bit differently,” Garber said.
She had to begin by hiring five new people on the association’s staff of seven, which includes her.
“She’s hired a team of individuals that are young, hungry, and excited to take that next step, moving forward with the organization and bring some fresh ideas, understandings of the way business is done today versus the way it was done in the past,” Garber said. “I’m excited to see where we are five years from now.”
South Sound Business spoke with Gamble by phone before meeting her for photos in mid-May at the Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity house the association is sponsoring in Tacoma’s Fern Hill community on South 88th Street. Association members, Skills Center students, and others have worked on or contributed supplies for the five-bedroom, two-bath, 1,300-square-foot home, which is scheduled to be completed this month for a couple and their four young girls.
It’s definitely been busy, but a good opportunity to rebuild the team. With the transition, we had some folks that … had some really good opportunities … for work, so this last four months or so has really been dedicated to rebuilding the team and creating an environment that fits the vision of where I think that the Master Builders can go, where our board wants to go.
We definitely want to have a larger public presence and be more of a household name. … A lot of folks in the industry know who we are, but when we talk about and pride ourselves in membership being Master Builders, a lot of the folks that are getting their home remodeled by a Master Builder or buying a Master Builder house … they don’t quite understand the value on the face of what our members are talking about, what standard we hold ourselves to, what the networking aspect looks like, what the Master Builders advocates for in terms of housing attainability, or workforce development opportunities. We want to … promote the good work we’re doing.
In terms of other aspects of our vision, obviously we want to see our association grow … but to make our association look like the industry we’re trying to represent, the building industry. There’s a big push with our membership committee this year to really focus on … a diversity initiative, folks that are not quite at our tables, and … we want to represent and to understand different perspectives … to enrich the dialogue that we’re having within, in our outreach efforts, and just how we approach different issues. We’re focusing … a lot more on workforce development and fostering partnerships with the Pierce County Skills Center (which named the association its 2022 Partner of the Year). We’re excited about this opportunity, kind of defying and breaking down that stigma of what it means for a student in high school to go into the trades versus college.
We lobby locally, from Pierce County all the way down to a jurisdiction the size of Buckley. We … keep tabs on our state association, the Building Industry Association of Washington, that’s their realm to focus on the state, and we supplement (BIAW) and our members will testify as needed. … We have a really strong advocacy background when it comes to promoting regulations and fee reductions, and just helping elected officials be cognizant of the impacts on housing … and along with that, also promoting good ideas that we take from other jurisdictions that might exist in Pierce County, or even King County to Snohomish County, and promoting good ideas here that will better help the housing- supply crisis and better address it.
Absolutely. I think we’re thousands of units short in terms of what we need, what types of households are forming. We cannot build homes fast enough, which is putting cost pressure on the existing homes that are in the stock; we are seeing record lows of available inventory. … With the lack of supply, you see that downward pressure where folks are not having those upper-mobility opportunities, where they move from a renter position. (Instead), they down-rent and they hold on to a unit where they can’t move up and buy, or you have folks in maybe entry-level housing that are not able to continue to move up that ladder, and it just puts more pressure on the folks downwards to the point where it absolutely contributes to the homelessness crisis that we’re seeing as well.
All the above and … another layer of what we see a lot of our jurisdictional partners experiencing is just staffing shortages. … That kind of clogs up the permitting system. And it’s not for lack of trying. To get the talent in the room and then to have the talent that they hire be up to speed and really understand the jurisdiction and the different rules and confines that they work within … it’s another aspect that kind of contributes to the timeliness of getting permits out in time.
Really strengthening and leveraging the expertise of our members to help better support community partners. What that looks like right now: We are sponsoring a Habitat for Humanity home. … We want to continue to have those opportunities that we leverage the goodwill of our members and their talent, their expertise, and what they do for work to help out our community partners that might be focusing on different aspects of the homeownership model, or the housing community that our members don’t quite focus on but with their talents can help with.
The other thing I’d like to see us really do well (as it relates to the Skills Center) is understanding where we can have our members step up and be guest speakers for students that are interested in working in the trades or to have job-site tours. … We (would like to celebrate) the decision they are making to go into the trades (much as students are celebrated for a college signing or college sports commitment). … We want to have the same type of opportunity. They sign a letter of intent to work with one of our members, they put on the ball cap, they meet the owner. We want to show them that you are just as celebrated, you are just as validated, and the career choice you are making is going to be one that is going to be an incredible opportunity for you. … We want to give them the same fanfare and show them that what you’re doing is just as important.
I understand the urgency of what our members are doing, the implications, because this is something we’ve grown up around; it’s something that our family had depended on. Once you make that connection — and especially now (as executive officer) … I see the full gamut of all that our members do … all of the issues that they’re trying to navigate, all of the challenges that they’re trying to overcome, different ways that they’re trying to better the industry. They’re part of our association … they show up to our meetings, they show up to our committees, our board because they care, because they’re passionate about it. And they know full well they’re building homes, they’re building communities, and they’re here because they want to make a difference. … It’s not just a job; they’re here because they want to go that extra mile to promote the community aspect of what they’re doing, to better the industry that they’re working in, if not just for them, but for the next generation.
Yes. My husband and I about a year ago … (after renting in Bonney Lake) bought a home out there, and we’ve been working on a lot of projects there.
He’s an engineer at T-Mobile, and he’s also a volunteer firefighter on the side for Carbonado and is going through fire academy to expand his knowledge.
We are definitely outdoors people. We like hiking, hunting, fishing, camping. Right now, the fire academy takes up a lot of his time. I am training to summit Mount Rainier, which takes up my weekends on the other side. So we’re both busy. My summit date is going to be, weather permitting, July 2. … It’s nice to, from Carbonado, just walk 15 minutes and be deep in the woods and be lost in your own thoughts.
It’s been nice to have something on the horizon to specifically train for. … I was supposed to go last year … during the second heat wave and the mountain had been just falling apart … huge rockslides, landslides on the route we were going. It wasn’t deemed safe. … Last year, my training, I really fell in love with backpacking. It’s strenuous, but about a mile or two in, I kind of lose myself, and I’m all about it. … Mountaineering … takes you to places most people don’t go. … Growing up in Carbonado, 15 minutes outside the national park and always in the shadow of the mountain, it was always on my bucket list to know what that mountain looks like from the top. I wanted to always be able to look at Rainier and know exactly what the world looks like from that point of view.
I’m a really productive person, (and) the secret to my success is I don’t own a TV. When people talk about this movie, that show, what are you bingeing? Nothing. And when not doing that, I find a lot of time to hike, be outdoors, play guitar, read. … I’m in a karate class; I do all this extra stuff because, eliminating (TV) from my life, I found it to be a total game changer in how productive I am and how I can dedicate my time better.
When we moved into our new house … we gave away our TV in that moving process and haven’t had one since, so a full year.
I’m not anything spectacular; I’m like a campfire guitarist. I can sit down and play a song.
No, and I highly recommend it to all folks. … We have a tablet, and if there’s a show that we really liked, we’ll maybe watch it. But again, it’s not the center point of any room; it’s not something that we feel like, well, I’ve got nothing going on, let’s watch TV. We’re doing other things.
This article originally appeared in the July-August 2022 issue of our sister publication South Sound Business.
John Stearns is a staff writer.
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Jessie Gamble grew up around construction locally, so she truly understands and appreciates the work local builders do.