After getting out of the Army in 1987, Tim Southern needed to find a career, so he started working for the only company that seemed to be hiring in Waynesboro at the time, Brown & Root. He was hired as a pipefitter helper and started taking night classes on everything from hydronics and pneumatics to welding and plumbing.
Tim’s career path in the construction industry took him along the industrial piping route, and he spent several years with Brown & Root as a pipefitter, welder, foreman, and then general foreman. His 20+ years of experience were beneficial when he started with L.A. Lacy in 2008 as a welding foreman. The company needed someone to help break into the industrial world, and Tim was quickly promoted to welding superintendent. He started contacting companies that had special piping or broiler jobs and would handle the estimating, bidding, and scheduling.
Tim is now the Projects Manager, Special Projects at L.A. Lacy, and he has developed a group that focuses on new customer development and industrial applications. The group works with plants like Continental Automotive in Culpepper, which is the only plant on the East Coast that makes the anti-breaking assembly for new automobiles.
“I go in and help design cooling, acid water, and other piping systems, and then we work together as a team to install them,” said Tim. “With special projects, our main goal is to finish every project early and make money.”
Tim credits the group’s successes to the people who work with him, including Mike Gump, Richard Brown, and his pipefitters and welders. Their accomplishments are one of the reasons why Tim is involved with area trade and high schools. He likes to handpick the people who he thinks have a good work ethic, bring them on board, and teach them everything he knows.
“Tim Wheeler and I brought Nelson County High School seniors in and set up simulations for soldering copper pipe, welding steel pipe, putting up hangers, and measuring pipe. We ended up hiring two of the students, and they turned out to be good, hardworking employees. They’re hungry, and they’re eager,” Tim said.
While he wishes he went to college, Tim wants high school students to know that it’s OK if college isn’t for them and that they can make a living in the construction industry if they’re patient and work hard.
“If you work in this area, a good pipefitter or welder can make $25 – $30/hr,” said Tim. “You need to be patient, listen to every person you work with, and try to learn something new every day.”
Tim is also very involved in the safety side of the industry and achieved his OSHA 500 certification so he could teach OSHA 30 and OSHA 10. It’s important to him that people understand what could go wrong on a job site.
“It would only take one death to ruin a company, but you can’t look at it that way. You have to look at it as ruining a family,” Tim said. “If you allow someone to do something unsafe, you’ll have to live with knowing that you put someone in harm’s way without proper training.”
Not only is Tim passionate about keeping the men and women in the trades safe, but he is also a committed mentor and loves watching people move up the ladder and make a name for themselves. If you asked him what his biggest work-related accomplishment is, he’d say it’s not what he’s built, it’s the opportunity to train people like Mike Gump, who joined L.A. Lacy in 2008. Mike didn’t have any welding or pipefitting experience when Tim hired him, but now he’s a Pipefitting/Welding Superintendent and a valuable employee.
Tim hopes people coming into or considering the trades will hear success stories like Mike’s, and the misconception that construction workers are all “burly old men who are rough as a cob” will start to change. He says in the end, everyone is here to do a job and do it well.
As Tim continues down his career path in the construction industry, his next goal is to become a Certified Project Manager. When he isn’t working hard at L.A. Lacy, Tim is traveling to his grandson’s baseball games, having fun and helping children in need as a Shriner, and spending time with his wife.
L.A. Lacy roots itself in nearly a century of service to the Central Virginia construction market. Since 1922, the company has offered a comprehensive range of mechanical and plumbing services to the surrounding community. Lacy’s customer-oriented approach and successful project history have established the company as a trusted resource for new construction, renovation, and specialty work. Its experience and expertise encompass a wide range of scopes, magnitudes, and intricacies for projects in various environments and conditions.
If you’d like to learn more about a career in construction with L.A. Lacy, please visit lalacy.com/careers.
For more information about The Branch Group, please visit branchgroup.com.