Rowan native enjoys working in Hawaii

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

SALISBURY — Pity Randy and Cheryl Grubb.
The Rowan County natives find themselves stuck in Hawaii while Randy oversees a $131 million construction project for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
They’re living in a fully furnished house on the island of Oahu, where Randy likes to say if you’re looking straight ahead you’re missing 75 percent of the view.
His morning commute takes him from one side of the island to the other. He passes waterfalls and travels over volcanoes. When his car emerges from a mountain tunnel, a sun-swept, breath-taking view greets him.
“That’s pretty cool,” he says.
Yes, you have to feel sorry for the Grubb couple, who will be stuck in this God-forsaken place at least through the end of 2012.
The Hawaiian assignment continues to build Grubb’s considerable construction resume, which includes Terminal 2 at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, a huge Environmental Protection Agency center in Research Triangle Park and historic Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C.
It also seems far removed from the Charles Street home in Spencer, where his parents, Cleo and Viola Grubb, still live. Randy and his brothers — Monty, Dan and Rob —once made it a high-spirited place.
Randy and Cheryl Foltz Grubb have known each other since elementary school and their days swimming at the Spencer pool. They became sweethearts at North Rowan High, where Randy played football and starred in the high hurdles in track. He also was salutatorian for the Class of 1977.
The couple married in 1981, two weeks after Randy finished at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and they spent the next eight years with the Army — three years at Fort Knox, Ky., and five years overseas in Germany.
At West Point, Grubb earned a degree in civil engineering with a focus on things structural, and he parlayed that academy and Army training into his career with national construction firms in the private sector.
“He’s such a high-energy, people person,” says Randy’s mother-in-law, Carol Cauble of Salisbury, recently returned from her own visit to Hawaii.
Grubb, senior project manager for Walsh Construction, actually has three major projects in Hawaii he’s looking after, but the sexiest is probably NOAA’s new Pacific Research Center, which will consolidate the agency’s eight scattered Oahu offices into one facility on historic Ford Island.
The project encompasses the renovation of two World War II hangars and connecting them with a new building in the center, creating 310,000 square feet of space.
The 30-acre campus will be home to more than 700 NOAA employees, working for the National Weather Service; the International Tsunami Information Center; the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center; the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service; and the National Marine Fisheries Service, Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Center, Marine and Aviation Operations.
Grubb’s office has a Dec. 7, 1941, photograph of the Ford Island hangars being strafed by Japanese bombers, while the battleships of Pearl Harbor burn in the background.
“Eerie,” Grubb says.
On NOAA’s Pacific Research Center project, Grubb has 15 on his staff and up to 200 subcontract employees. He works closely with Navy personnel, who are managers of the project for NOAA.
The center is being financed with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) dollars and will provide offices, a three-story sky-lit atrium, auditorium, fitness center, large cafeteria and conference rooms.
Because it will employ a sea-water air-conditioning system, a rainwater recycling system, photovoltaic panels and recycled building materials, the center no doubt will qualify as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) project.
Grubb also heads a staff of 10 for a General Services Adminstration construction project, which has up to 100 subcontract employees, and he leads a Tactical Equipment Maintenance Facility project, with eight on his staff and up to 50 subcontract workers.
Grubb, 52, remembers that his wife was meeting with a Rowan County friend at High Rock Lake the day his company offered him the chance to open the Hawaiian office and oversee the final phase of the Pacific Research Center.
Over the telephone, he explained to Cheryl that it was at least a two-year commitment and asked her to think it over carefully.
But with their last son graduating from college and the other well established, the couple came to a quick decision, especially after Cheryl realized they basically just had to pack their clothes and leave their Cary home under son Cameron’s supervision.
Instead of why, it became a question of why not, Randy says.
Grubb formerly worked for Clark Construction for 15 years in the Washington, D.C., northern Virginia and the Maryland area. His Washington projects included a blast-proof design for an FBI field office and a complete restoration of the 1924 Warner Theatre.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Grubb also worked on several construction projects for Homeland Security. The Grubbs moved to the Raleigh area for good around 2004, with Randy becoming a senior project manager for Archer Western Contractors, which is part of the Walsh Group.
Archer Western was chosen in February 2006 as the general contractor for the redevelopment of Terminal C at the Raleigh-Durham Airport, and Grubb became senior manager for the project.
Terminal C, which opened in June 1987, served as the Southeast hub for American Airlines, but the company closed its operations at RDU eight years later and leased some of the gates, holding rooms and office areas to Midway Airlines.
By August 2001, Midway declared bankruptcy, and RDU’s Airport Authority began looking at ways to redevelop the terminal.
It led to a $570 million project, which changed the name to Terminal 2. At 920,000 square feet, it was nearly three times the size of the original Terminal C.
Grubb notes that the project had to be built in phases, with the first phase opening Oct. 26, 2008; the second, Jan. 23, 2011.
Grubb considers it a landmark project in his career, but by December 2010, he and Cheryl already were in Hawaii.
Beyond his parents, Grubb says, four teachers at North Rowan High stood out during his school years. They included Jean Kennedy, Ralph Shatterly, Larry Thomason and Wayne Crowder.
He received a presidential appointment to West Point only after U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms had nominated him to the Naval Academy, which turned him down for poor vision.
Randy and Cheryl’s boys, Ben and Cameron, followed their father’s lead by studying construction management at East Carolina University. Ben is now working on a $1.4 billion airport terminal project in Los Angeles; Cameron is employed in the Raleigh area.
Back in Hawaii, Grubb says his typical days follow an 8 a.m.-5 p.m. schedule. When he’s not at work, he and Cheryl enjoy “phenomenal” walks on the beach or hikes in the mountains — “and the views that come from that,” he says. The island encompasses all environments in between, from jungle to desert.
“You can’t look at pictures or see it on a movie screen to understand and enjoy what this place is really like,” Grubb adds.
A nice thing Grubb has noticed about Aloha-spirit Hawaii is that no one seems to be in a hurry.
That’s a shame. You can’t help feeling sorry for Randy and Cheryl Grubb.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or