SMACNA Chapter Executive of the Year encourages innovation

Muller-Neff took dad’s love of career, law degree to help contractors compete

SEATTLE From the northwest corner of the United States, Julie Muller-Neff, executive director of the Western Washington chapter of Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association’s (SMACNA) and 2017 SMACNA Chapter Executive of the Year, is doing her part to change her industry.

Muller-Neff worked closely with Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 66 and its Western Washington Sheet Metal training center to bring the first SMART Heroes program in the country to the Seattle area. The veteran training program provides new and soon-to-be veterans with a seven-week, concentrated training, allowing them, upon graduation, to enter sheet metal training centers across the country as a second-year apprentice.

SMART Heroes was established by SMART and SMACNA, in collaboration with SMART Local 66, SMACNA Western Washington, Western Washington Sheet Metal training center and Helmets to Hardhats.

“Julie has been a great advocate for training for all of our members,” said Don Steltz, administrator for Western Washington Sheet Metal. “She has always taken the time to see what the needs are for the local members and contractors. Julie and her team at SMACNA bring in outside vendors to provide training, giving our members a leg up on the competition.”

As a daughter to a construction worker, Muller-Neff was in awe of her father’s trade. Once she graduated college, she went on to earn her law degree. She then went to work in construction law, helping subcontractors and contractors retrieve payment for completed projects. Through that work, Muller-Neff became aware of Orange County/Inland Empire SMACNA (now part of Southern California SMACNA) and was hired as its executive director.

Three years ago, she and her young family moved to Washington so Muller-Neff could accept her current position.

“I thought this was a great way to use my law degree,” she said. “I love working with people in the construction industry. They are so down to earth and innovative. They never stop working. Sheet metal contractors are constantly thinking about their companies. They’re constantly thinking how to make it better.”

Muller-Neff also consistently thinks about how to make–what is now– her industry better. Together with Angela Simon, 2016 SMACNA Contractor of the Year and SMACNA national vice president, they have formed the Women in Construction Leadership Council, a national SMACNA committee, and will hold its first summit this summer. The committee will get the best minds together to seek opportunities that help women grow in the industry.

“The initial mission of the committee is to focus on the women who aspire to take on leadership positions in member companies, chapters and/or are interested in becoming involved in SMACNA both locally and nationally,” Muller-Neff said. “That can definitely evolve as the group gains momentum.

All of her advocacy and work on behalf of sheet metal members can be traced back to her father’s career and what the industry gave to her family.

“Our contractors are constantly changing and seeking those creative solutions. The best of the best compete against each other, and it’s unbelievable what they’re able to accomplish,” Muller-Neff said. “I’ve always had respect for what my dad did, but I have more respect for it now.”

The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) have a labor-management partnership that is more than 75 years old. The goal of these Partners in Progress is to maintain an effective cooperative effort that demonstrates their expertise in the industrial and architectural sheet metal and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) markets. For additional information, visit