Our longtime friend and once-again member of Team VPCS Marty Militano has a lot of stories to tell – not just about the schools and hospitals he’s helped deliver in his remarkable career but also about what it was like to work and play with “the Van Pelt boys” back when they were all just coming up. Hear more about Marty and some of the lessons he’s learned in this Q-and-A:

Q: What’s your original connection to the Van Pelts?

A: Mike and Mark and I go way back. Professionally, we worked together back when we were all just getting started in the construction business; before they opened VPCS. In fact, I have a great picture from a job trailer that shows Mike and me and toddler-sized Kelli [Van Pelt Jurgenson] – and now she and her brother Eric [Van Pelt] are the future leaders of this company. But Mike and Mark and I go back even farther than that. If you can believe this, [their dad] Fred was my Joe DiMaggio baseball coach when I was 18 years old. Mike and I were on that team together. We won the championship! 

Q: So you learned some of the famous Fred Van Pelt lessons of hard work and integrity from the master himself.

A: I did. First when he was my coach and then when he was my boss. Fred was the one who first hired me when I was just 20 years old. In fact, he gave a lot of people their starts in the construction business. He was a great mentor and really good to people. He was a no-nonsense guy; firm but fair. He’d always shoot square.

Q: What was your very first assignment with VPCS?

A: My first assignment here was for the company’s first client: California State University. I was the project manager for work we were doing at the California Maritime Academy in the late 1990s.

Q: What have you observed about how the company has evolved since then?

A: When they were starting out, Mike and Mark worked extremely hard and sacrificed a lot to get the company up and running. Once they got that first client (CSU), they just kept going; they never stopped grinding. They’re really good people who take care of their clients and their employees and that’s helped them tremendously. Now Kelli and Eric are gearing up to lead the company and they’ve both got the same character.

Q: Since your first stint with VPCS, your career has taken you to a lot of different places.

A: Yes it has. I’ve since worked for a few different big general contractors, so once my kids were grown I decided to open myself up to assignments in different places. I’ve worked in Colorado, Arizona, Texas and Nevada. After about 12 years of that, it was time to come back home to California. That’s when I reconnected with the Van Pelts, and here I am. I started my career with them, and my plan is to finish with them.

Q: What project is keeping you busy these days?

A: I’m in the San Diego area, working in Lemon Grove on that district’s work funded by Measure Q. It’s really a great program and the team here is amazing. Everyone from the owner to the general contractor to the Inspector of Record and of course our VPCS team, which is led by Kelli, who’s our principal-in-charge. We’re a very tight-knit group that works really well together. And we’re making great progress – we’re on track to have all the work done by the start of 2025, just as planned. It’s exciting for the Lemon Grove Unified community, because it’s been 60 years since the district has had a new school. I’m also honored to be part of the team that’s helping build the company’s Southern California presence. We’re always looking for opportunities to support other K-12 districts in this part of the state.

Q: Having grown up in the Bay Area, are you happily settled now in Southern California?

A: Oh yes. I’ve been in the San Diego area for about four years now and all four of my adult kids have also ended up here. I’ve got seven grandchildren now, ranging in age from just a few months to 13 years old – and there’s another one on the way. We’re all within about 15 miles of one another, so spending time with them is what I do whenever I’m not working. I’m at every little league game, dance recital, all of it.

Q: Have any of your kids followed you into the construction field?

A: Yes – my daughter has a general contracting business based here in the San Diego area. She’s also really involved in the local chapter of Women in Construction. And my son is a superintendent with a large local GC. So we all speak the same language and can swap stories about work. We’ll see if any of the grandkids end up following in our footsteps.

Q: Well, given the diversity of projects on your resume, you could probably teach them how to build almost anything.

A: I guess that’s true. I always think about a great Fred Van Pelt quote that he used to say all the time and that Mark still uses to this day. It sums up Fred’s philosophy about how to succeed in this business that Mark and Mike and everyone at VPCS has also embraced. Fred would say, “No job too big or too small, from Fido’s house to the Taj Mahal.” That’s the way we approach any opportunity around here; we treat every job like it’s the Taj Mahal.


June 24, 2024