Jim Gardner: A Sound Structure
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
OAKLAND — After more than 20 years doing structural work, Jim Gardner has established himself as an expert in his field. However, the foundation of his professional expertise didn’t form overnight; rather, it was something he built up gradually. “After college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I worked a bunch of different jobs, including firefighter, swim instructor and river rafting guide,” he recounts. “When my mother moved to the Bay Area from Southern California and bought a house, I offered to fix it up for her. I’ve always been handy, but I’d never done any real construction work at that point, so I just dove in and learned as I went along.”
Jim enjoyed working on his mother’s house so much that when he was finished, he started his own handyman business. “While working as a handyman, I progressively took on new projects and expanded my skill set,” he says. “After spending a year or so working with a contractor, I got my own contractor’s license in 1983. In the mid-’90s, I did my first foundation project and fell in love with structural work, which is my specialty today. I liked the heavy duty aspect of it, with all the heavy machinery, but I also appreciated how critical a building’s structure is. After all, it’s what holds everything else up.”
Today, as owner of Jim Gardner Construction Inc., Jim says his favorite part of his job is solving problems. “I like taking on challenging projects and figuring out solutions. Sometimes I’ll be looking at a situation, scratching my head, and suddenly there’s this ‘A-ha’ moment and I see what’s needed. It’s very satisfying to find a solution to a problem and then implement it for the client.”
A resident of Piedmont (where he lives with his wife, Lisa, and their two daughters), Jim spends his time outside of work on a variety of pastimes. “I enjoy outdoor activities like camping, fishing and hiking, as well as traveling with my family. My daughters are both involved in sports, so we do a fair amount of traveling to out-of-town games and competitions. Speaking of sports, I’m a diehard Golden State Warriors fan—I never miss a game. And, of course, as a UC Berkeley alum, I also root for the Cal Berkeley football and basketball teams.”
When asked about a professional philosophy, Jim espouses the importance of communication. “Contractors have a reputation for being dishonest, but I think a lot of that stems from poor communication,” he explains. “When there’s confusion around the scope of the work and expectations are unclear, it can lead to a lot of problems. I try to avoid that by spending time communicating with my clients and making sure we’re all on the same page. I think that goes a long way toward securing a positive outcome.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Jim says he’d head for the hills. “It’s always been my dream to buy a place up in the mountains, so that would probably be my first priority. I’d also go on some trips and do some of the things I haven’t had much time for over the years.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What was your first job?
A: As a teenager, I had a summer job at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. I did model building for some of the space probes they were working on. It felt pretty cool having security clearance to get into a NASA facility.
Q: Are you a dog person or a cat person?
A: It’s funny, I’m kind of both. I used to be a cat person, but then we got a dog, so it’s hard for me to choose now.
Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Scott’s Seafood Grill & Bar in Oakland.
Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I collect rocks and tools.
Q: If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go?
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A: Either Tahiti or Fiji—basically, somewhere that has a beach and is far away.