By Katey Springle Lempka
In our ongoing series of RCI member profiles, we highlight Paul M. Mitchell, Jr., RRO, RRC, CDT. Mitchell is an emeritus member who has been with RCI since 1988, and had his RRC since 1990. Mitchell was employed by Tremco in Beachwood, OH, most recently managing capital roof replacement and preventative maintenance programs for subsidiary companies of RPM International. He was on the Board of Trustees for NRCA’s Roofing Alliance for Progress and was on the founding boards of SPRI and the Roofing Council of RMA. He was on the board of the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing and helped develop and promote RoofPoint. He recently retired and is traveling the world via motorcycle with his wife, Linda. We caught up with him between adventures for a phone interview.
Can you give me a brief overview of what you did in your day-to-day job?
For the last ten years, I assisted in managing the 600+ building inventory of RPM International. Each day was different with specific challenges, and that was really on a 24/7 cycle, because of the global responsibilities. All of these projects were related to roofing, glazing, and waterproofing.
What was your favorite part of your job?
It was being involved in something new, challenging, and offering more than one alternative as a solution.
What was your least favorite part of the job?
Initially, most of the projects were underfunded, and over a period of time, I was able to show the reason why projects needed more capital funding.
How did you end up professionally where you are today?
I’ve had many mentors in my career, and not to name drop, but Dick Fricklas was a personal friend, as was Bob Lyons. I enjoyed being a lecturer for RIEI, and Bob mentored me into the consultant field of the roofing industry.
Can you tell me a little about your involvement with RCI?
In the early days, I was on one of the focus groups as to how RCI should serve its membership. I met many of the individuals who became the future region directors and presidents. Their knowledge was a challenge for me to grow every day.
Can you tell me about an interesting challenge you’ve encountered in your work, and how you overcame it?
I was part of a design team for a new K-8 school managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The location was an Air Force base in Okinawa. The major issue was that the budget was decreased by over $10 million, and they wanted the same performance out of all the components and systems of the building. Past super typhoons had recorded winds of over 215 miles per hour, and the typical roofing system was protected by a poured concrete slab. In the end and after actual sleepless nights, I concluded that this part of the project could not be sacrificed to the budget. It was a difficult decision, but Mother Nature reigns supreme. I made the recommendation that they needed more funding to employ the original design. I was not involved from there.
What kind of technology do you use on the job?
My immediate answer is common sense. However, in my early days, I carried a liquid nitrogen dewar and now-obsolete infrared cameras. I used nuclear and capacitance moisture meters, and took hundreds, if not thousands of cores through my career. And even today, I take core samples for asbestos analysis. One of the newest technologies is drone thermography, integrated with high-speed digital photographs and video. This system is superior for surveying large campuses, hospital complexes, and military installations. We look for thermal differences that indicate moisture in the insulation. Every anomaly is investigated to be sure it is not a moisture-related roofing defect.
How much and in what way did environmental concerns affect your work?
Environmental issues really have surfaced within the last decade. I was involved with R&D projects that addressed “chemicals of concern” with respect to environmental and personal exposure. Finding an acceptable middle ground for system performance, weighed against important environmental issues, is the goal.
What drives you?
A New England Yankee upbringing. Resourcefulness, personal responsibility, and a strong family life were the pillars of my personal development through education and throughought my professional career.
What will you do now that you’re not on the job?
I’ve been planning for retirement for a number of years, and now realize I’ve had a number of projects stacked up waiting for this new stage of my life. I have an avid interest in photography, international travel, adventure motorcycling, antique furniture restoration, and spending more time with my five grandchildren in Northern Virginia and Colorado.
What is one thing most of our readers probably don’t know about you?
I’m an FCC-licensed Amateur Extra class radio operator. I’ve talked to researchers in Antarctica, and developed wanderlust for traveling to meet some of the people I’ve communicated with. A future plan will be to volunteer with local metro and county organizations to assist government entities with communications if necessary during storms or other disruptive events.
If money were no object, how would you spend your time?
Now that I’m retired, I’ve had thoughts of teaching in the industry. There are new programs now being developed by the NRCA and Roofing Alliance.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with RCI’s members?
Yes. Be inquisitive, be a student of the industry, and never stop learning.
I think of my 40 years in the industry, and look at some people I’ve known who had a more focused career path. My original background was in engineering. I felt I was bringing another perspective to those organizations which were often very focused in an industry segment or manufacturer, and I think the pinnacle of all those organizations was the Roofing Alliance. I was asked to be on the board of trustees, which was an honor.