Making the Grade
For the last nine years, Garrett Hood has been a recognizable name in masonry circles. As a high school junior, Hood won the 2001 national masonry contest for secondary students, sponsored by SkillsUSA, along with the North Carolina State Fair masonry competition sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Labor. In early-2002, Hood won the North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association contest for apprentice masons, and the organization named him their Masonry Apprentice of the Year. His accomplishments were featured in a number of masonry trade publications.
|Shown (in blue) are Garrett Hood and his tender, Kevin Hallman, in action at the 2008 Spec Mix Bricklayer 500.
Hood returned to the SkillsUSA competition in 2002 as a high school senior with every intention of earning an unprecedented second-straight championship, but he placed second.
How did he feel about that? "I'd have rather won," he says. "I was pretty upset, actually, and then, pretty down. The point totals (between first and second place) were really close. The only thing I could ever figure was that my joints on one side were just a little tighter than on the other."
Fortunately, Hood has reason to move beyond the disappointment of 2002. He recently won the 2008 Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 in Las Vegas. Not only did he earn the title of "World's Best Bricklayer," but also he posted the highest brick count in the history of the event: 791 bricks in 60 minutes. At age 23, this was his first attempt at the Bricklayer 500 contest!
Hood bested second-place winner Mike Boll of St. Charles, Ill., who was last year's Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 winner. With his mason tender, McGee Brothers Co. superintendent Kevin Hallman, Hood competed Jan. 23 in this professional bricklaying contest against 15 multi-state, regional winners and four contestants from England and Canada. The timed contest is based on the most brick laid while meeting strictly defined quality standards.
Competitors competed for more than $150,000 in cash and prizes before a crowd of 4,500 spectators. Hood won the grand prize, a 2008 Ford F-250 XLT Super Duty Crew Cab 4X4, $5,000 in cash and numerous sponsor prizes.
To secure his spot for the national event, Hood laid 820 bricks at the regional qualifying round in Peachland, N.C., becoming the first North Carolina native to compete in the national contest.
Poised for success
Todd Hartsell, Hood's masonry instructor at Central Cabarrus High School in Concord, N.C., once predicted, "[Hood] is a fine young man with a level head. It's obvious he's a fine mason, too. He has a bright future ahead of him."
While in high school, Hood began employment with McGee Brothers of Monroe, N.C., working Saturdays and any days off from school. Following graduation, he began working full-time. Six months later, Hood was promoted to assistant foreman. Only one year after graduating high school, Hood was a foreman, running his own crew.
In January 2007, Hood was made a supervisor of four crews and 26 employees. He supervises primarily residential masonry construction, working with brick, block and stone, and he does occasional commercial work. He finds himself on jobsites 50 percent of the time, when he is not in the office.
With just one level between him and the company owners, Hood is content in his responsibilities with McGee Brothers. "I'm staying where I am," he says. "This is a good company to work for."
And, owner Sam McGee thinks well of Hood's work and contributions to the company. "A few years ago, we made it a company goal to recruit to the company a higher level of employee, that is, higher intelligence, higher education level and greater ambition. Garrett is the epitome of that," he says. "Garrett is our shining star. We can always count on him to do an outstanding job. As a result, he's moved rapidly through our ranks."
As he finished high school, Hood decided to abandon his lone hobby, motocross racing. "It was hard to give it up, but the injuries, like a broken jaw, were adding up," Hood once said, "and, they were creating days that I had to miss from work. I couldn't do that anymore."
Today, Hood only admits to taking time off once a year, when he goes fishing with his buddies in the Outer Banks.
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