Ten Minutes With Rachel Turnbull

By Wendy Wallace

Rachele Turnbull was one of a handful of women in her Oregon State classes while earning a degree is construction engineering management. After several years’ experience, she co-founded Clark Construction on Bainbridge Island in 2006. Her crews recently finished two multi-family residential projects, the Roost development in Lynwood Center and The Walk in Winslow. For Turnbull, cultivating company talent, male or female, is the most important element in developing business.

Does your company mostly work on Bainbridge Island?

We work from Port Townsend down to Tacoma, but we are still a small company, about 70 employ- ees. The majority of our work is on the island and in Kitsap County. We just finished a project in the University District. It was an apartment building for college housing, or what they call a SEDU, small efficiency dwelling units.

Are there green technologies that are evolving now that you’re really interested in?

We just finished a project that was a Living Building Challenge and is getting certified, the Loom House on Wing Point. There’s a lot in that program that leads to better construction and development, like the requirement of zero Red List items [chemicals designated as harmful to living creatures or the environment]. It’s the right thing to do but it’s a very difficult thing to do because it’s not the normal thing to do.

Were you always somebody building things with her hands?

Yes, definitely. My propensity was always toward engineering and mathematics. I used to love to take apart all the household appliances and rebuild them from the time I was
a small child. They would always work again, although I don’t know how well.

What was it like being one of so few women in your college classes?

The interesting thing was most women were at the top of the class and they were all really good at what they did. At our company, we have a large percentage of women in management as compared to most construction companies. I think that really has to do with me being the CEO. It’s just a fair, even opportunity for everybody.

Have you ever had issues with people taking you seriously as a female CEO?

I’ve never really experienced any negativity in the industry. The thing I tell other women is that being a woman in this industry is extremely advantageous. There aren’t very many women so they’re going to remember you. And the only disadvantage is there aren’t very many women, so they’re going to remember you.

Do you have any pet projects?

For me right now my pet project is the company itself and the people within it and creating a very different construction company from any others with employee ownership and generous benefits. It’s good for them and it’s good for us. All of our employees are on the trajectory for moving up if they want to. They can start in the field and move up through the ranks toward management. We love to have our employees grow into new roles. We provide a lot of learning and development. It’s really fun to see. It’s more about the people than it is about anything else.

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