#WCUPresidentialShadow: A Day in the Life of Jerry Daudert, Project Work Force Foreman

Work Force Video

During his 20-plus years as an active member of the Carpenters' Union, Jerry Daudert never knew what each week would bring. He might head out on a general construction job on Monday and Tuesday, then do interior trim projects the rest of the week. He worked on day-long tasks and also tackled year-long assignments, such as framing out office space in Philadelphia's Comcast Center.

For the last 18 months, Daudert has contributed his carpentry and project management skills to West Chester University. And, much like during his tenure as a union carpenter, he never knows what each work day will bring. Daudert was hired to head up a new initiative called Project Work Force. This construction team strives to be agile and responsive to facility needs so that students, employees and visitors can make full use of WCU's 2.5 million-plus square feet of living, working, study and recreational spaces.

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From left, Jack Morris, Project Work Force team member; WCU President Chris Fiorentino and Jerry Daudert, Project Work Force foreman.

I've heard good things about Daudert and his team from Jim Lewis, associate vice president for Facilities. Project Work Force performs small to medium-size, short-term construction projects that formerly were assigned to outside vendors. One of the downsides of the old way of doing things was that when an issue cropped up - say a pipe was unexpectedly discovered behind a wall under demolition - a different vendor had to be called in to get the project back on track. (Surprises like this aren't uncommon in older campus buildings.) Project Work Force was created to work with existing Facilities units to save the University time and money and it has accomplished both of these things.

I've always enjoyed working on home repair and do-it-yourself projects. Over the years, I've made shelves, patched drywall, and installed tile flooring. So I was curious to witness Jerry and his team in action, and see how I could help. On a recent Friday afternoon, after a week of nonstop meetings in Harrisburg, I laced up my work boots and set off to meet the Project Work Force team in their quarters at 201 Carter Drive.

Country music wafted from Daudert's small office as his crew gathered in their work room. Team members include Jason Nguyen, who is assigned to general construction and painting work; Juan Astudillo, "a whiz at masonry," says Daudert; Robert Williams, the most experienced team member; and Jack Morris, an eager "student of the game," as Daudert describes him.

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Daudert divvied up his team and sent them to jobs across campus, reserving Morris and me for a drywall project in the University's former upholstery shop, located just across the parking lot in Central Receiving. Our task was to carve this space in two — half to become storage space for a variety of ADA-compliant furniture, as well as Commencement podiums and paraphernalia. The other half was to become the new work space for Jeff Lilley, a maintenance repair specialist II who once worked on race car engines for NASCAR. Here at WCU, he fixes everything from vacuum cleaners to ride-on floor scrubbers "the size of VW Bugs." He said he needed a larger space to do his job right and was excited to be moving out of cramped quarters. Lilley was counting on me - and the rest of the Project Work Force team - to get his work room completed as soon as possible.

The pressure was on, but I was ready. Fortunately, Daudert had completed some prep work on this space earlier in the week, including putting in some of the steel framing. Our task this Friday afternoon would be to set up the rest of the framing and then hang all the drywall, which is a bit like hanging wallpaper - that is, if each 4 by 8 sheet of wallpaper weighed about 55 pounds. Drywall isn't only heavy, it's cumbersome to carry and can break easily. To be successful at installing it, you need to pay attention to what you're doing, work well with the rest of your team, and be ready for a good workout.

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We started by scoring the first piece of drywall - in other words, we measured out the length we needed and cut the drywall with a utility knife, using a T-square as a straightedge. Then, we hoisted the drywall off the workbench and set it in position. Daudert equipped me with a drywall drill, which, unlike a regular drill or cordless screwdriver, gives you the precise depth control needed for trouble-free fastening.

Well, almost trouble-free. Daduert was a patient foreman and Morris a helpful co-worker, and once I got the hang of it, the three of us were working like a well-oiled machine. Morris scored the drywall at a work bench and carried each section to Daudert and me, so we could lock it into position before I screwed it into place.

Project Work Force has completed more than 60 jobs since its inception in 2016, from quick and simple tasks like concrete foundations for the Quad's Adirondack chairs to months-long projects such as office renovations in Ehinger Hall Annex in the summer of 2017. Other projects have included major refurbishments to the swim team and football locker rooms, new flooring in the library's Special Collections, a statue installation, and new light posts at Tanglewood.

"I was ready for a change of pace," says Daudert, when asked about his decision to join West Chester University. "I've assembled a great team and we work very well together. In the 18 months that Project Work Force has been in existence, we haven't missed a deadline."

"It's nice working at WCU and getting to see that my work has an impact on the students and their success," he adds. "The football and swim teach coaches let us know how much the players appreciate their new locker rooms."

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WCU President Chris Fiorentino meets with the Project Work Force team, from left: Jack Morris, Robert Williams, Jason Nguyen, Juan Astudillo and Jerry Daudert (foreman).

Beyond getting the job done on time and under budget, Daudert is a stickler for customer follow up. "In every case, I go back to the site after the job is done and talk to the people using the space to make sure the work met their expectations," he says.

Although Daudert's responsibilities take him all over campus, he has yet to bump into his oldest daughter, Kelly Ann, while out and about. Kelly Ann is a WCU sophomore majoring in psychology and minoring in studio art. "And a Dean's List student," he notes proudly. He picks up a framed photo on his desk and shows off the rest of the family - his wife, Susan; son Jeremiah, a high school senior; and daughter Maggie, a high school sophomore.

Daudert puts in long hours at WCU - including overtime when needed to meet deadlines - but in his off hours he likes nothing better than spending time with his family, playing golf a few times a month, and watching his beloved Eagles play. "We'll start as early as we need to on a Sunday so that we know we'll be done by kick off," he says.

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