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Longtime contractor leader Jack Schaefer dies

Jack Schaefer, a local construction industry leader, died April 15 of pancreatic cancer. He was 64.

Schaefer, who died while in hospice care in Las Vegas, had served in various leadership roles for the Las Vegas chapters of the Associated General Contractors and Nevada Contractors Association. He was a well-known labor negotiator who also sat on several local construction union trusts and apprenticeship training boards, including those for the laborers, operating engineers and cement masons.

Schaefer, born in Aberdeen, S.D., served as a captain in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1969. He later lived and worked in Denver in marketing and running various businesses.

He moved to Las Vegas in 1990 to work as labor relations director for the local Associated General Contractors chapter. In 1995, he departed amid a leadership rift to launch a rival trade group called the Nevada Contractors Association. The group is dedicated to exclusively representing union contractors .

"At the time, AGC was promoting nonunion guys but it was the revenue generated from the union contractors that supported the group. We were funding our competition," Wells Cargo Construction board Chairman Howdy Wells said. "Jack could talk to any of the unions and they believed him. He was a super negotiator."

Schaefer built the Nevada Contractors Association’s membership to more than 200 companies, including builders Bechtel, Marnell Corrao Associates, Perini Building Co. and McCarthy Building Cos.

Schaefer held several executive positions with the association, including president, executive director and board member.

He was instrumental in negotiating and establishing wages and working conditions for Southern Nevada construction trade unions on public works projects and hotel-casino work. Colleagues describe Schaefer as affable but reserved with a dry sense of humor.

"The unions sought out the Nevada Contractors Association to negotiate labor contracts due to Jack’s relationships," said Rick Ewing, chief union negotiator with Las Vegas Paving Corp. "His knowledge and understanding of labor law and calm objectivity helped strengthen relations between labor and management."

Schaefer is survived by his wife, Pamela Newell, daughter, Amy, and son, J. D., both children are from a previous marriage.

There will be no funeral or wake. Schaefer’s ashes will be spread at sea off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif., on Memorial Day.

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