By Mary Mone
Photos by Chris Swann
Always fascinated by challenges, Mark Gartman has traveled all over the United States and into Monterrey, Mexico, in search of renovations to tackle. After years working for his own business, Gartman now serves as the director of facilities and construction at Tyler Junior College.
What initially caught his interest in working at TJC 11 years ago was that it was, “a change from being in business for yourself,” Gartman said.
Specializing in renovating hotels, Gartman began his construction journey by owning a contracting business that started in 1992.
“Our services were mainly focused on the hotel industry and included carpentry, furniture, fixture, equipment installation, installation of doors, locks, tub surrounds and just about anything else you can find in a hotel,” Gartman said.
There are a lot of facets to his job at TJC, but among them, Gartman spoke about how he particularly enjoys the challenges, like renovating buildings that are about his age, and the hard-working team he directs and works with daily.
“The people I work with and around are just very dedicated to their jobs and to making TJC the best,” Gartman said.
Being the director of the facilities and construction, Gartman has varying responsibilities. His days are often long and full of activities from emailing and planning to jack hammering.
Beginning his day, he arrives on campus at 7 a.m and reviews and replies to emails. After finishing getting set up for the day, he heads over to the Rogers Palmer Performing Arts Center at 9 a.m. where he answers questions and is briefed on issues happening. The Rogers Palmer Performing Arts Center has been under construction since June 2019, and Gartman has been involved with this project and others from the beginning, such as the Wagstaff Gymnasium addition and remodel and the Earth and Space Science Center. Recalling the project, Gartman said it was such an, “epic project,” to update and replace the utilities around and for the science center, and only, “those that were here can tell tales of this project.”
Other projects he has been involved with are the Rogers Nursing and Health Sciences Center, Crossroads Hall and the Energy Center at TJC West.
“The Energy Center at TJC West was a very satisfying project,” Gartman said.
Not only is Gartman and his team responsible for accomplishing all of these big projects, they also complete minor renovations around campus, including Sledge and Claridge halls, multiple necessary large roofing projects and various upgrades and improvements in other buildings.
Though he has countless projects he has worked on, one Gartman is especially proud of is the Culinary Arts Center, which was completed last year, and had a lot of new technology and equipment installed.
According to tylerpaper.com, “the kitchens include workstations with grills, ovens, sinks, and everything else students need to cook. They also are set up with induction ranges, which can be taken out of the facility for catering events.”
While a lot of his work involves meetings, making plans and budgeting, Gartman does not shy away from hands-on work.
“Later this afternoon, I hope to slip away to a house we are demolishing and operate the concrete jack hammer for a while just as a break from the everyday hustle,” Gartman said.
With being in charge of such an influential department within the TJC community, it could be easy to get overwhelmed with all of the renovations. Gartman keeps his motivations as reminders of what makes the challenges he faces worth it.
“A big motivation for me is seeing the end result of something that I have influence in,” Gartman said. “Another is the folks and students here at TJC. Anything I do I want it to benefit them and TJC.”
Through the summer, while learning the new COVID-19 guidelines, the facilities and construction team was busy on campus focusing on the instructional buildings and dorms.
“We have morphed into a department that has service at the top of the list of the things we do,” Gartman said.
Although Gartman is a busy man, he “never takes shortcuts,” said Julie Newman, the operations coordinator of facilities and construction.
The facilities and construction team is always looking at ways to improve the campus for years to come, and Newman said when Gartman “builds something, he builds it to last.”