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Former DCA Leader Named Delaware’s Secretary of Labor

Fri March 13, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

John McMahon recently retired from his post as executive vice president of the Delaware Contractor’s Association (DCA). The retirement was prompted by Delaware Gov. Jack Markell’s selection of McMahon to serve as Secretary of Labor for the State of Delaware. He was formally sworn in on Jan. 30, which also was his last day working for the DCA.

“I think he was an excellent choice because of his strong background, work ethics, and experience in the construction industry and dealings with various construction trades,” said Leonard Iacono, current president of the DCA. “John has been a strong leader for DCA whose 27 years of service have significantly contributed to the strength and growth of DCA. His vision has steered DCA through tough times and has managed to maintain DCA as the premier construction organization in Delaware.”

Currently, John Casey, head of government relations for DCA, is serving as the acting executive vice president. Iacono noted that the selection committee, which he heads, plans to advertise and interview qualified individuals for the position.

John and his wife, Joan, married for 42 years, currently live in Hockessin, Del. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. McMahon was born and reared in Wilmington, Del., where he attended St. Elizabeth’s Elementary School and graduated from Salesianum School. He went to Providence College and graduated in 1964 with a BA in economics.

After college, McMahon went to work at the Employment Security Commission for the State of Delaware, where he stayed for approximately three years. He was then hired at the Chrysler Newark Assembly Plant in the personnel department, where he stayed for 12 years. At that point, he was contacted by the DCA’s executive vice president, who was interviewing for the director of labor relation position with the association.

“I eventually was hired into that position, and I intended to stay for a year or two and then return to the world of big business,” John said “Approximately two years after joining DCA, the board asked me to serve as the interim executive vice president as they conducted a search for a replacement for the previous EVP. Four months later, I was offered the opportunity to serve, and have remained there for the past 25 years serving as the EVP for the association. I joined DCA to have the title of director of labor relations, and then intended to use that title and my previous 12 years in personnel to move back into a position in human relations with one of the major companies in Delaware. As they say, the best laid plans …”

McMahon is quick to point out that his accomplishments with the DCA were not his personal accomplishments, but were the work of a large number of dedicated and committed members and a tremendous staff.

“We all worked together to increase the membership, to improve the association’s financial condition, to increase our influence in the various legislative bodies throughout the state, and to gain a reputation for having a balanced approach in all matters relating to the construction industry,” he said. “I was tremendously blessed with fantastic and forward thinking presidents who were totally committed to seeing DCA grow and prosper. Without that kind of dedication and commitment, we would never have been as successful as we have been over the past 25 years. DCA has a great staff who fully understand the industry and what we needed to do to keep DCA in the forefront of associations in our state.”

Before his appointment to the secretary of labor position, McMahon noted that he and his family had been discussing retirement and what he would do with his time. Since he does not have many hobbies, everyone agreed that he would need to do something if he left the DCA. After the election of Gov. Jack Markell, several individuals asked McMahon if he would be interested in the Secretary of Labor position, and he knew that it would be something that he would consider.

“Eventually, I received a call from a member of Governor-elect Markell’s transition team, and they asked if I wanted to interview for the cabinet position,” he said. “I met with the committee and then was asked to meet with the governor-elect. We met in his office in the Carvel State Office Building and discussed his vision for Delaware, and I knew instantly that if offered the position I would accept immediately.”

McMahon was offered the position on Jan. 11, which happened to be his father’s birthday. His father served in the state legislature from 1964 to 1970.

“That convinced me that this was meant to be,” John said.

At the same time, John noted that it was very emotional for him to actually leave the association.

“The leadership, the members, and the staff have become part of my family,” he said. “They have allowed my wife and I to educate our children, to maintain a wonderful lifestyle, and to build lifelong friendships. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to work for such great people for such a long period of time and to be able to leave with my personal gratitude to them and hopefully with the respect of the members I served for so long. Few individuals have been so fortunate.”

He noted that the appointment has left him re-energized and enthusiastic, but with the realization that he has a lot to learn.

“Our state, as are many others, is in a terrible economic condition, and I believe our governor is the person to bring us out of this mess,” he said. “He has assembled a tremendously talented cabinet, and I am honored to be a part of his administration and have the opportunity to serve with such great professionals. I feel that we can accomplish a great deal with Governor Markell’s leadership, and look forward to playing my minor part in the successes of this administration.”

McMahon noted that he hopes that the department will become more user-friendly as it works with the various constituencies. He also sees a need to communicate and work more closely and efficiently to improve operations and services.

“Our department will also work in closer cooperation and coordination with other state agencies, such as education, the Delaware Economic Development Office, and the Department of Health and Social Services so that together we can maximize our efforts and services and holistically address the issues and barriers affecting our various clients,” he said.

McMahon finds it fitting that he started his career at the Employment Security Commission, which was the precursor to today’s Department of Labor.

“I am most grateful to Governor Markell for giving me the opportunity to return ’home’ to complete my working career where it all started,” he said. CEG

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