For his remarkable and perhaps unprecedented stretch of service to the industry John Frodesen was recently honored by the Laborers Pension Trust. Frodesen founder of Farwest Construction has served on the Pension Trust for 50 years – and as chairman for nearly all of those years.
But that’s not all: Frodesen joined on the Laborers Health Trust several years prior to the creation of the Pension Trust and has served continuously mostly as chair.
“Over fifty years ago AGC and the Laborers negotiated the start of the Health Trust and later the Pension Trust” recalls Frodesen. “They needed someone to serve and I was happy to do it. I enjoy it and have gotten along well with my Labor counterparts.”
David J. Letinich Business Manager for the Washington and Northern Idaho District Council of Laborers says that the respect is mutual. “Everyone has such respect for John’s dedication to the funds” Letinich says. “To be on the Trust Funds for so long uncompensated is amazing and to look out for the participants and the contractors that pay into it is highly commendable. All trustees – management and labor – understand the dedication it takes.”
AGC Director of Labor Relations Doug Peterson also serves with Frodesen on the Trusts. “As a trustee John has fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the Trust and he never loses that perspective” says Peterson. “New trustees sometimes tend to overreact but as a longtime trustee John realizes you’ve got to move deliberately especially with regard to investment plans. You need a long-term outlook and John has that. He’s very dedicated to the plans.”
Among other things the trustees select money manager set benefit levels and interact with the unions. AGC appointed Frodesen to the post and John – even at age 89 – plans to continue his active service.
Over the decades Frodesen has seen some changes. “We started with a nickel an hour for the Health and Welfare Trust” he says. “We didn’t spend any money for a year in order to let a surplus accumulate.”
Regarding the Pension Trust Frodesen recalls that a few years ago the government “stuck its nose in and decided we had too much surplus and we cut down on it by giving retirees a 13th check.” That combined with the recent market downturn sliced the size of the surplus. “But the trust is still doing well financially” Frodesen says. The Pension Trust meets the Pension Protection Act requirements to be certified as being in the “Green Zone”.
Frodesen was a member of Laborers Local 242 and got his start in the industry by working with his father a mason contractor.
We were just coming out of the depression then and the trades were going with six hour days to spread the work around. I started on a half shift – three hours – and took civil engineering at UW.
After serving in World War II Frodesen founded Farwest Construction in 1950. Farwest Construction focused on commercial and industrial construction and built many schools university buildings and hospitals. In 1965 Frodesen served as president of the then AGC Seattle Northwest Chapter.
Although Farwest is no longer engaged in construction the company built some buildings that it held on to and continues to lease – yet another example of the wise and long-term perspective of John Frodesen.
In photo David Letinich (right) presents a commemorative compass to John Frodesen an avid boater during the recent Western Washington Laborers-Employers Pension Trust meeting in Chelan.