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Office Manager/Executive Assistant Daniela Dani Tijan Celebrates 35 years’ with AGC of Washington


There are times when I think organizations resemble humans and in that vein I think Dani is the heart of the organization says Pat McGarry AGCs 2011 President of AGC of Dani Tijuan who was recently honored by the AGC Board for 35 years of service. She sets the tone for how the whole organization functions and feels. Her smiling glowing personality are reflected within everyone who is a part of the AGC. We couldn’t live without her.

Daniela Tijan (best known as Dani) grew up in the Seattle area attended Queen Anne High School then Seattle University for one year before transferring to and graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in education. During her college years Dani spent many summers working in the salmon canneries in Northern Alaska namely Bristol Bay Kodiak Island and Kenai Peninsula. According to Dani “It was a wonderful unique experience living and working alongside other college-aged students in the midst of an endless bounty of Alaska’s beauty.  And you did learn quickly to avoid the well respected grizzly bears!”

Dani currently resides on East Hill Kent with two cats JJ and Christy. Her mother still lives in Magnolia in the original home where Dani grew up with her dad (who passed away 28 years ago) sister Irena and brother Joe. Dani has a daughter Michelle who currently lives in the Los Angeles area recently graduating from Cal State Fullerton in Communications. Dani’s hobbies include cooking and traveling although her real passion is writing – mostly inspirational short poems. During her spare time Dani is working on a book based on her mother’s life sacrifices and struggles as a World War II child survivor in former Yugoslavia who along with her siblings was born into a wealthy family and became homeless by age 12 a refugee in Italy and finally U.S. immigrant to U.S. citizen.

Dani enjoys traveling and her favorite U.S city is Washington DC with its rich history. Her favorite European city? Paris tops her list.  Nothing compares to its uniqueness and its ornate monumental historical buildings — the Eiffel Tower Champs-Elysees Louvre – no words can adequately describe Paris she says.

When Dani first interviewed for what was to be a part-time temporary three-month accounting assistant position at AGC she was asked if she would consider working full-time after the three-month part-time period expired as AGC was considering making the position a permanent one. Her response was that she couldn’t guarantee she would stay – it would depend on how well she liked the job and if it was a good fit for both the association and her. When Dani got home late that afternoon she received a call from the Director of Accounting telling her that she was hired for the part-time position with the hope that she would stay on full-time — the director stated that she was hired because of her “honesty.” That statement had a profound impact on her and that’s how it all started – Dani became employed by AGC in 1976 and worked with Director of Accounting Eleanor Gruye as her assistant. Within the first year she also began working with then Executive Director Dick Bristow as his Executive Assistant. Per Dani Eleanor was one of those rare individuals who NEVER made a mistake “In the 17 years I worked with her I never saw Eleanor make a mistake.” Along with Dick Eleanor was Dani’s mentor and role model for many years.

In 1976 the Seattle Chapter AGC was comprised of only general contractor members and a separate association called the Northwest Construction Council was made up of subcontractor and associate members. Dani saw this as a period of tremendous growth for the AGC:

  • In 1980 the AGC Education Foundation was established with its own Executive Director;
  • In 1981 the Seattle Chapter opened a legislative office in Olympia;
  • In 1983 the Northwest Construction Council was dissolved and the Seattle Chapter opened its membership to subcontractor and associate members;
  • In 1986 Dani witnessed the consolidation of the Seattle and Tacoma chapters into the AGC of Washington. The Tacoma facility became the first district office (most recently relocating to Fife);
  • In 1990 the Bellingham district opened an office and Safety Team was born;
  • In 1991 AGC Group Retro was created; and
  • In 1993 a Yakima district office opens.

During Dani’s tenure at the AGC of Washington she states “I have had the pleasure and honor of working with 35 AGC presidents beginning with Don Glad in 1976 (not including past presidents from the Northwest Construction Council) as well as 5 Executive Directors – 6 – if you count Dick Bristow twice!”

At this point we all hope to hear Dani say something quite profound. After all working for such a distinguished outstanding association as ours and having worked closely with so many wonderful credentialed committed individuals for 35 years – don’t you expect to hear something profound?

In response to this expectation Dani wrote a poem and dedicated it to all of us. She jokingly remarks that this will be her first “printed” piece!

Remember when you were a young child and had no great need for reflection
Other than to look into a pond and see your self-reflection?
When life seemed as unending as air itself?
Little time needed to be spent looking backwards to yesterday
Remember when you enjoyed the present with great anticipation for tomorrow?
It’s ok to take a moment to reflect
But don’t be afraid to be that child again who looks forward with pure delight to a new tomorrow.

As we come to the end of this interview the rest is best said in Dani’s words: “I’ve never been one to ‘toot my own horn’ however 35 years’ service to one association really is significant – it can be more than one’s lifetime. Trying to encapsulate the essence of 35 years is not an easy task. Also not wanting to do too much reflecting let me simply say that I’m very fortunate AGC selected me as one of its team players back in 1976. It’s been an extremely rewarding experience for me personally and professionally. I’ve had the tremendous honor and privilege to work in an industry full of bright forward-thinking individuals; each one playing a significant role in making AGC of Washington what it is today – one of the best if not the best AGC chapters nationwide. I look forward to many more years at AGC working alongside our great staff who truly are the ‘best of the best’ in providing outstanding programs and services to you our members. One piece of advice a valued retired member gave me years ago was to ‘always keep your options open.’ Here’s to looking forward to a bright new tomorrow! And… When I do finally retire I’d like to think you’ll find me in a small bungalow by the sea happily writing life’s stories.”

In the 35 years shes been here she has become the brain-trust for the organization and the person we look to for the history of the AGC of Washington says David DHondt AGCs Executive Vice President. Shes a loyal and devoted employee who puts the members first.

Dani is one of those individuals you know from the first time you meet her that you are in the presence of someone special says Dick Bristow AGCs Director of Property and Membership. This was my impression on the day we hired her in 1976 and she has never proved me wrong.


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