Joan Zepecki didn’t know much about construction when she was tapped to oversee a streetscaping project in Milwaukee’s Third Ward.
As a 25 year old who joined the Historic Third Ward Association as executive director in the late ‘80s, Zepecki was charged with overseeing a project that would overhaul streets and build parking structures in the district — and making sure lead contractor Hunzinger Construction met the city’s diverse-hiring goals.
Just before joining the association, Zepecki had left a graduate program in history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to work at a community group in the city’s Riverwest neighborhood. She found shepherding a construction project from start to finish was a relief after the uncertain worlds of local activism and academia. And in working closely with Hunzinger, she witnessed project managers’ respect for her contributions.
“I think the biggest thing is there’s a start, there’s a middle and an end in construction. You can drive by the project and say, ‘I was involved in that,’” she said. “After spending a few years in community organizing and academia, it seemed like there wasn’t a beginning, middle and end to anything.”
Zepecki left the Third Ward association in the mid-’90s to take a job overseeing Hunziner’s hiring goals and public affairs. The job largely required her to build relationships with minority- and women-owned contractors in the Milwaukee area in an attempt at meeting contracting and hiring goals on both public and private projects.
Zepecki’s work has helped Hunzinger reach those goals on some of Milwaukee’s most prominent projects, including Miller Park and the Wisconsin Center. More recently, the company exceeded its diverse-contracting goals on the $50 million American Family Amphitheater project on the Summerfest grounds and its hiring and subcontracting goals on the Milwaukee Bucks’ entertainment block and the demolition of the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
In her 26 years at Hunzinger, Zepecki has seen her employer award more than $410 million in contracts to minority- and women-owned contractors.
That’s in large part owing to the relationships Zepecki’s built with minority- and women-owned firms over the years — and Hunzinger’s commitment to having diversity on all its jobs.
As she’s grown in her role over the years, she has become only more certain that her work for Hunzinger is helping to fulfill the company’s motto: Do the right thing.
“The thing that’s been so great about working at Hunzinger is that I don’t have to lose sleep that we’re doing the right thing, because we are,” she said.