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September 4, 2002 3:57 PM CDT

National Contest Winner is Really 'Making the Grade'


Chris Sutherland of Ruskin, Fla., is our Masonry Apprentice for September. Sutherland took first-place honors in the post-secondary division of the National Masonry Contest held in conjunction with the SkillsUSA ? VICA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Kansas City, Mo., in June.

Like many in masonry, Sutherland is both ambitious and hard working. The 23-year-old recently finished a three-year tenure at PTEC in St. Petersburg, Fla. In addition, for the past five years Sutherland has worked as a laborer, mason tender and mason apprentice for Red Brookshire of Florida.

Instructor Ed Robertson is full of high praise for Sutherland. "He was a delight to work with and was excellent in his classroom study. He's smart academically, learns quickly and is just an excellent young man."

Robertson adds, "What's most amazing to me is that Chris has finished first in every competition he has entered ? 12 in all! In 1999, when he entered our program, he won the local, state and regional MCAA contests for apprentice masons. In the spring of 2000, he won the international competition as a first-year apprentice. In 2000 and 2001, Chris won all qualifying contests and won the international competition for second-year apprentices. This year, he again has won the local, state and regional contests."

Next year, he's on to Tampa, Fla., to compete for an unprecedented third championship in the MCAA International Competition. As Robertson says, "He's quite a young man."

Sutherland's interest in masonry runs in his family. His father, who owns his own business, and two brothers are masons, also. Sutherland joined Red Brookshire in Tampa, Fla., right out of high school and already is supervising his first project. "It's a clock tower with lots of details such as archways," says Devon Brookshire, owner and president of the company. "It's the centerpiece of a new development, and Chris is supervising the whole thing. He's very much on his own, reading the plans and reviewing the job specs."

Brookshire continues, "It's the first job he's supervised, but we've been working toward this day for the past six months."

Commenting on Sutherland's fast-track career, Brookshire thinks that Sutherland has taken advantage of each opportunity that came his way. "His Dad brought him up on masonry. He had good instruction in tech school, and I think he's had good mentors here (at Red Brookshire)."

Almost as an afterthought, Brookshire says, "He was a good athlete in high school ? a big, strong linebacker with good hands. I don't think that hurt either."

Sutherland has saved a brick from each contest in which he has participated and won. He intends to incorporate those bricks into the fireplace of the first home he and his fianc?e build. And, he intends to continue participating in masonry contests. "I'll probably enter the Fastest Trowel Contest (for masons who have completed their apprentice program)," Sutherland says, "and hopefully the National MCAA Contest next March."

Considering his track record, the competition better start practicing more.

About the Author

Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at


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