The first “Cay Topics” meeting of 2016 took place on January 19, at Harbour’s Edge restaurant in Hope Town. Janet Reingold welcomed the group, and Stepper Leboutillier introduced Aletha Langham to present the program, “A Broad in the Building Business.”
Ms. Langham’s first comment was that the assembled group represented “enough talent and brains to build and run a small country,” and she went on to present her compelling personal story.
She recalls hard economic times for her Oklahoma family in the 1960’s, and as a young woman moved to Colorado to look for work. Starting as a secretary in a tiny office, she made her way into the very competitive home-building trade. She named her company “Mark Twain Homes.” In ten years she had built a work force of twelve employees.
The business prospered and her reputation grew. She became fond of the simple, elegant “Arts and Crafts” style of architecture, with its low roof-lines, natural materials, and earthy colors. In just a few years, the National Association of Homebuilders had named her northern Colorado’s “Builder of the Year.”
She acknowledges having met some hostility for doing “men’s work,” but jokes that, for one thing, she “was bossy and wore blue jeans.” Much more to the point, she had her workers go over each completed house “with a Q-Tip” looking for flaws, and gave them bonuses for any inspection with fewer than five problems on the final walk-through. Undoubtedly, this attention to detail helped earn her company the respect of male peers.
Now retired, Ms. Langham spends time with her husband, Rich Storck, in Hope Town’s North End.