Honoring Rob Wilkerson

Posted May 31, 2024

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Member of the Month for May: Rob Wilkerson

This month, we are proud to honor Rob Wilkerson as the Member of the Month. Recently retired, Rob has been a cornerstone of our local Union, serving as an exceptionally talented mentor, teacher, leader, and pillar of our industry.

Rob’s journey into painting began at 17, thanks to a high school friend. Initially a summer job, painting soon became a significant part of his life. For six years, Rob honed his skills by painting drywall and finishing cabinets in new homes in Omaha. His break into professional painting came through a connection his mother-in-law had with a B.A. for the painters’ union in Salt Lake City. Despite his experience, Rob had to prove himself in a program where painters were paid $10 per hour for 30 days while a foreman evaluated their skills. The foreman, who also owned Woodruff and Grows, saw potential in Rob but noted he had much to learn.

During his two-year apprenticeship, Rob’s foreman and mentor helped him master color matching for tying into existing areas in office buildings. This period equipped Rob with new skills and confidence, propelling him to seek better opportunities to support his family. This quest led him and his wife to move to Las Vegas, where higher wages beckoned. Starting at the bottom of the B list, Rob seized a two-day call opportunity with relentless hustle, impressing his foreman and securing a job that lasted from 1997 to 2017.

Rob’s expertise is evident in many iconic properties on the Las Vegas Strip, including Caesars entry, Sahara porte-cochere, Sunset Station sportsbook, Miracle Mile sky, and restaurants by Bobby Flay and Martha Stewart. His specialty lies in developing complex finishes, which he then teaches others to replicate. Rob embodies the District Council 16 motto: “High Performance, High Value,” insisting on quality and timeliness, and instilling pride in work.

Rob takes immense pride in mentoring apprentices, many of whom have risen to leadership roles themselves. He values proactive workers who anticipate the needs of their foreman and colleagues, always encouraging them to stay busy and try new things—even at the risk of making mistakes, as this is how learning happens.

Rob’s dedication to continuous learning and skill development is unwavering. He believes too many journeymen lack well-rounded skills and advocates for ongoing education through STAR’s classes and on-the-job learning.

Outside of work, Rob enjoys flying RC planes and cars, boating at Lake Mead, and riding his motorcycle. He married his high school sweetheart in 1995 and credits the union for significantly improving his life. The union wages allowed him to buy his first house at 25, upgrade from $9 an hour non-union to $22 an hour union and afford a boat and motorcycle.

In an interview, Rob emphasized the importance of pride in one’s work, stating, “I don’t want to turn out an unsatisfactory product, so I won’t stop until we’re done.” His passion for painting, especially faux finishing, has only grown since he started. Even when facing challenges like replicating existing work, Rob finds gratification in the final product and the admiration it receives.

Rob Wilkerson’s story is one of dedication, skill, and a deep commitment to both his craft and his community. We thank Rob for his incredible contributions and wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement.

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