It’s tough to talk about the Savannah construction community without the name “Meddy Settles” popping up. Meddy, a well-respected construction icon, retired on November 1, 2022, He leaves behind a template for the ultimate union carpenter and construction professional not just in the Savannah and Georgia construction markets, but also across the southern United States and throughout the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.
A look back on his 38-year career reveals a true southern gentleman who is dedicated to the union carpentry profession; a leader who established and then achieved his goal of helping fellow members of the UBC to be successful as well.
Meddy joined Brunswick, Georgia Local 865 in 1984 as a carpenter/pile driver apprentice. He was a journeyman and officer of the Local when it turned into Local 256 in 2004. During that time, he became a well-rounded general carpenter, ranging from scaffold forms to trim and finish.
“I was fortunate to work with extremely talented fellow members who helped me hone my skills,” he said, citing projects such as Savannah River Site, King’s Bay, Plant Hatch, Brunswick Paper Mill, and nuclear plants in Mississippi as keys to building his carpentry expertise. Often, he held posts as foreman, general foreman and superintendent.
In those early years with Local 865, Meddy served as Delegate, Vice President and President. After working with his tools for 13 years, he was hired as an Organizer in August of 1997 and promoted to Business Manager just two months later. It’s those posts as Local 256 Business Manager, President, and Delegate where he served until his final day of work on November 1, 2022.
Meddy also rose through the ranks for the Southeastern Carpenters Regional Council (SECRC), which oversees 10 Locals in five states, including LU256. He began as Warden but rose to Vice President and then President in 2015 – another post he served until retiring. During his tenure, the SECRC absorbed the former Mid-South Carpenters Regional Council, adding Tennessee and Alabama to the existing SECRC roster of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
“I’ve seen a lot over the years, but the merger was important for me to help execute well,” Meddy said. “I did my very best to make our new brothers and sisters feel welcome and part of the Council. I took it as a job that not just needed to be done but was also the right thing to do.”
“I feel the Council is in great shape and on the best footing it could possibly be. EST Tom Jenkins is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around,” Meddy added.
Meddy’s knack for leadership was ignited just five years into his UBC career. As a young Local Union VP in 1989, he attended his first UBC conference, where he met members of the UBC’s Executive Board. “That was my first taste, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do. To help my fellow members.”
Meddy continued to take any opportunity to pursue his goal, including learning the COMET organizer training program 1994 and then becoming a COMET instructor.
Talk of Meddy’s work made its way to UBC leadership. He was invited to participate in the first CORE training in 1997, which taught members from around the country how to be a Representative and Organizer and how to work with people. He learned how to analyze a project, determine the best fit for the Local Union, and how to organize a campaign. “Before CORE, I was only on staff for three months. But it got me started. I knew this was the path I wanted to go.”
As his career evolved, so did his responsibilities. Meddy became a member of the UBC International Paper and Pulp Committee and often taught at organizer training events at the International Training Center. Most recently, his work on an innovative new industry committee has set the standard.
The SECRC is one of four Councils in the 11-state UBC Southern District, headed by Vice President Dennis Donahou. When DVP Donahou created the Nuclear Initiative Committee in 2016, consisting of Representatives from the four Councils who worked the nuclear outage circuit, he tapped Meddy as chairman. The Committee’s goal: Use teamwork and mobility of resources to serve the Southern nuclear industry across the whole 11-state District.
“I’ve been involved in nuclear plants since my career started. I know the players and the plants, and how it works. I understand the various processes and the type of person the contractors were looking for. I was honored to be asked to chair the committee and it was my goal to make it the best it could be,” Meddy said.
The NIC committee is now a template for how to meet collaborative goals. Business agents across the 11 states work well together. If a plant is short workers in any area, it is everyone’s goal to fill it. “We make sure carpenters are ready to go, red-badge ready, with good attitudes and good work ethics,” Meddy said. “I am so proud to be a part of that.”
While he has certainly achieved his goal of serving his fellow members. He is quick to say his success is the result of countless outstanding leaders, mentors, and colleagues who crossed his career path, enabling him to learn crucial skills.
Meddy remembers when he was made Steward in 1986 at the King’s Bay project, after just two years into his career. “My Business Agent knew I was like a sponge. He gave me a shot by putting me in a situation where I could excel.”
He also remembers his high school shop teacher and his next-door neighbor, both union craftsmen, who saw young Meddy’s appreciation for woodwork and pointed him to the carpenters union. “I wonder were I’d be without that guidance,” he said, leading him to this advice for his brothers and sisters: “Talk to anyone at any time, at a ball game or the grocery store - anywhere. If you see a fellow carpenter, show them that being a carpenter is a part of your life. I tell them I would have nothing without the UBC.”
His toughest challenge was as a new Business Agent. “The Local had no money, few members, and no office. Then EST Larry Phillips said, ‘here are the keys, sink or swim!’, and I accepted that challenge with open arms. Afterall, there was a lot at stake. I wasn’t going to let a 100-year charter that was signed by Peter J. McGuire come off the wall.” Meddy went to a lot of meetings: City Council, Commissioner, School Boards, etc. He organized 40 people with the Savannah Housing Authority. He met legislators and became politically active. Soon, the Electricians Union offered Meddy an office. He got a phone and kept going.
Glynis Settles, Meddy’s wife, is also 23-year member of Local 256. She joined while providing clerical help for her new Business Agent husband. Meddy, his wife, and their young son, Garett, also made house calls as a family. Meddy talked to the member, Glynis talked to the wife, and Garett played with the kids. In 1999, their efforts were featured in the UBC’s Carpenter Magazine! In fact, Union membership is a family thing: Meddy’s late son, Garett, and Meddy’s brother-in-law are both UBC journeymen millwrights. Meddy’s father-in-law and brother-in-law are union tradesmen.
The project that Meddy says got Local 256 back on the path was the St. John’s Cathedral restoration in Savannah. “Biggest job ever secured. Largest Catholic Church in Savannah. Extremely difficult work that included hand-made trim, and our members got to do it.” At the finished site’s ordination, Monsignor O’Neil asked his “union carpenter brothers” to stand and be recognized. “That was a proud moment. Not just for me, but for our Local and the UBC.”
Most recently, Meddy was crucial in securing the Savannah Arena project. The City of Savannah started work on a $61 million arena by using only non-union workers in September 2019. Two months later, The Local 256-supported Mayoral candidate won and within 90 days, the first Local 256 member began working on the arena. Soon, 103 more Local 256 members joined the project, and six new contractors became signatory to the UBC.
Today Local 256 has 500 members, it owns a 3-acre plot of land and the building that sits on it, and it has a thriving apprenticeship program. And the Peter J. McGuire-signed charter still hangs on the wall. “I left Local 256 better than I found it with the help of fellow staff, the e-board and membership,” Meddy said. “I’ve tried to build a relationship with every contractor I met, union or nonunion. I wanted them to know we were there to help and supply their needs. They knew I would be polite, but diligent.”
Meddy can be found these days encouraging a large following on LinkedIn with inspirational posts about leadership. Or he is in his woodshop or helping Glynis remodel vintage homes. Regardless of where he pops up, you can be sure that he will always greet you with a smile, a handshake, and a word or two about how being a UBC carpenter gave him a wonderful life.