Pioneer Spotlight: Pete Davis
Pete Davis, director of UW-Platteville Facilities Management, first found his interest in the field while working as a student employee for the UW-Platteville Facilities Department. He is a 1994 graduate of UW-Platteville with a major in mechanical engineering. After spending several years working for the Wisconsin Department of Administration in Madison, Wis., he returned to UW-Platteville nine years ago. He has served as director of facilities management for nearly four years.
How did you become interested in both the engineering field and facilities management?
My parents always said I liked to take things apart when I was a child. I was always fascinated by how things work. That interested me in engineering. I started out in electrical engineering and then changed over to mechanical engineering. I had a good friend in college whose father was an HVAC engineer – heating, ventilation and air conditioning – and I got to know him and see what he did and I thought it sounded interesting. I was always interested in buildings and architecture, but I found early on that I didn’t necessarily want to be an architect, even though that was what I was thinking I wanted to be at one point in time. So I got interested in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning field and mechanical engineering. I had a student employment job here with facilities and the rest is history. I started working here and enjoyed the type of work we do, so I stayed on and kept doing it.
What is an overview of your role as director of facilities?
Facilities management is interesting because at every campus in the UW System, and any campus anywhere, the university physical plant director/facilities management director – that type of role, which both describe what I do – can be very different. Typically it always includes maintenance of buildings, grounds and custodial. At UW-Platteville, my department includes maintenance, facilities, and grounds, and it includes safety and risk management, sustainability, the central stores and receiving function, and our car fleet.
What is it like overseeing such a wide range of areas; is it challenging wearing different hats?
Somewhat, but a lot of it has to do with getting the best people to take care of those areas – which I do; we have a really great team. It makes it easier in that sense. I really like the variety. It’s one thing I found out about becoming a design engineer, when you’re looking at designing building systems every day; I found it’s not something I’m interested in. I did that for a time in Madison — just designed stuff, which was interesting to a point, but the ability to do a lot of different things is really interesting to me.
What are some of the larger projects you’ve been involved in on campus during your time here?
Some of the main ones I’ve been involved with since I’ve been back are the Ullsvik Hall remodeling, Engineering Hall construction and Southwest Hall construction – I was very involved in that building with Dennis Palmer, who retired from here a number of years ago. We oversaw the construction of Southwest Hall. We redid the Art Building in that time too, Bridgeway Commons, some work on Boebel Hall, and the addition on Williams Fieldhouse. There have been a number of projects and quite a few more to come.
You had a large role in the initial and ongoing response to the June 16 tornado; what has that experience been like?
A little surreal, really. When I found out about it at home, I knew we had a big storm. The power was out, I was sitting there with my family, and I get this call from Linda Mulroy-Bowden (director of Residence Life) telling me there are windows blown out of Bridgeway Commons. So I started calling people. You always want to ask for more than you need, so at first I called all my reports that deal with buildings, and my supervisor, Rob Cramer (vice chancellor for Administrative Services). I got in my car and headed down the hill and then got by Ed’s Café and thought oh my goodness, something happened here because Ed’s Café is blown apart and there are trees in the streets. Getting to campus and seeing the light standards at the stadium blown down was pretty dramatic. First and foremost we were worried about people in buildings and getting them out and to someplace safe.
We have terrific resources with our insurance adjustors, UW System Risk Management and our risk manager, Amy Spohn, who really know how to deal with these situations and start the reconstruction. We had the EOC (emergency operation center) operational and in place right away. There was also that initial assessment of what we had to do to put campus back together. The day after, we were already cleaning up debris and getting things cleaned up and getting contractors here to get it put back together.
It’s been an interesting experience. We did have a large hail storm here a number of years ago; a lot of the same team is here that was here for that, so we had that experience. Through the training that Scott Marquardt leads the campus through, we are well prepared for these types of events.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
This job is fun because it combines my love of architecture and buildings and it also combines working with great, interesting people and a lot of variety. It has all of these different things that makes it fun to come to work. It’s a lot of work; it’s a very stressful job, but all in all it can be very fun. It’s fun to watch things get built and see things come together.
Interview conducted by: Alison Parkins, University Information and Communications.
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