It was nearly 1 p.m. on Monday before Jill Walker, co-owner of Maccini Construction Co., made it to her office at 2919 United Founders Tower Blvd.
Since Nov. 10 — and until two days after Christmas — Walker is maintaining a second, volunteer job at the Salvation Army command post downtown on NW 5.
She's overseeing the multitude of volunteers who every morning count the loose change dropped this holiday season into the Army's 58 red kettles across Oklahoma County.
“This is my third year to volunteer as counting chair, and I feel responsible,” Walker said. “That's the way I am: If I say yes to something, I'm all in.”
Though her two sons and daughter are grown, Walker also serves as treasurer of the concession stand at Casady School, from which all three graduated.
Both nonprofit efforts provide her a way to get out in the community and see people, Walker said. “When you own your own small company, work is all you do,” she said.
Maccini Construction employs eight, and has some $9 million in annual revenues, she said.
Walker, 59, sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about her personal and professional life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Can you tell us about your childhood?
A: I grew up in Peoria, Ill., which had a population of a couple hundred thousand; there was 660 in my senior class. My father, a sales manager for 7 Up Bottling Co., died of a heart attack when I was 13. It was the day after Christmas, and he'd only recently passed a clearance physical for a promotion at work.
After his death, my mother went to work for Dillard's, where she managed the hosiery department until six or nine most nights. I became a homemaker to my younger sister and older brother. That didn't leave much time for school activities. But I was a good student, a national merit scholar.
Q: Did your mom remarry?
A: Yes, four years later to my dad's boss and good friend, after a sudden heart attack claimed his wife. There were seven of us kids, ages 16 to 21, and even after our parents' deaths, we remain very close. I have a brother in Alaska, a sister in North Carolina, and the rest still are in Illinois. We all make an effort to get together every few years.
Q: And college?
A: I went to Illinois State University, where I majored in special education and minored in accounting. In high school, I'd volunteered at a blind school, and my plan was to teach blind students. I was touched when I realized many could see more without their sight than we sighted people could. But after I decided I didn't want to teach, and was told I'd have to live in a big metropolitan area to work in the diagnostics end of the field, I just quit college. I was 20 and thought I knew everything. I tried dental hygiene school, while working as a purchasing agent for the State of Illinois. But I didn't like that either.
Q: What brought you to Oklahoma?
A: My brother's best friend in high school had been stationed at Fort Sill before moving to Oklahoma City. My brother and his wife were coming out to join his friend on a 10-day camping trip in the Wichita Mountains, and suggested I come along. I saw my first buffalo, fell in the love with the Oklahoma sunshine and, a few months later, decided to move here. I roomed with my brother's friend until I found a job.
Q: How did you find your way into the construction industry?
A: In 1976. I was 22, and it was right after I moved here. Terry Neese personnel firm got me an interview with Boston-based Spaulding & Slye commercial real estate firm, and I kept making follow-up calls because I liked the two guys running the Oklahoma City operation — Bob Maccini and Chan Sweetser, who were in their mid- to late 20s. Finally, I was hired as the administrative assistant to their construction guy. It was during the oil boom, and we were working 12-hour days, seven days a week. Some of the estimators, many of them with construction management degrees, lacked the people skills to work with lawyers and doctors. And when they'd quit, their work ended up on my desk. I told my bosses they were going to have to start paying me what they paid them. They did and by age 23, I was working as assistant construction manager. Two years later, I followed Bob to another full-service development, construction and property management firm, where I worked until I joined him in 1982 as a minority partner in our own business, R.J. Maccini Construction Co.
Q: When did you strike out on your own?
A: In 1988, when Bob, after the oil bust, moved to California. I knocked off his initials, and kept the Maccini name. Since 1990, my partner has been Ron Rocke, who also serves as our president. We went to kindergarten together, and his wife and I were college roommates. Bob and I lured him from Illinois here in 1982. We wanted a go-getter and someone our age, who we could train in construction.
Q: You've been a single mom for 20 years, most of your career. How did you do it?
A: I've maintained a strong faith and was committed to keeping my children my priority. I took them to school and picked them up from school. I was blessed to have the help of a woman I call “Mom 2,” and consider her part of our extended family. She started caring for the kids when my first son was 5 weeks old, and her children were 8 and 11, and stayed with us 10 years until my daughter was 5.
Q: Does your company have a niche in the construction market?
A: In the '90s, our jobs included the Lazy E Arena and the Bricktown Brewery. But today, our specialty is interior remodels, though we've also done ground-up commercial and residential builds. Our remodeling work includes jobs at Integris, St. Anthony and downtown. Among our commercial builds are the 18th Street Studio Apartments and a new building for Casady's primary school. We've built two contemporary homes this past year, at Seventh and Ellis and in Nichols Hills. Both were on this year's annual AIA Architecture Tour.
• Position: Vice president and co-owner of Maccini Construction Co.
• Birth date: Nov. 17, 1953.
• Family: John Powell Walker Jr., 27, who works with his mom at Maccini; Grayson, 24, a seminary student who works for Campus Crusade in Austin; and Mackenzie, 22, who attends the University of Arkansas.
• Education: Studied special education and accounting three and a half years at Illinois State University.
• Community involvement: Church of the Servant, which she's served as a longtime member; the Salvation Army, she serves on the advisory board and in the auxiliary; and Casady School, a past longtime board member, she serves as treasurer of the school's parent-run concession stand.
• Pastimes: Cooking for family, friends and colleagues; and reading (favorite authors include theological writers Patsy Clairmont and Lisa