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Jim wade Featured

9:41am EDT July 22, 2002

Jim Wade, CEO of Correct Custom Drywall Inc., tells a story he’s sure he won’t forget as long as he lives.

He was about 14, and was helping his grandfather install a new roof, when he snuck down the ladder to have a cigarette.

When he returned to climb back up the ladder, his grandfather was standing at the top.

“He waited until I got to almost the top rung, and he pushed the ladder away from the house and held it out with me on it. He said, ‘If you want to smoke, you smoke. But if you ever sneak away again, I’ll push you,’” Wade remembers.

The incident was one of many life lessons his grandfather taught him and his four brothers.

“The lesson was: People know you have faults, and people are willing to accept those faults. But when you hide and are devious is when it’s intolerable,” Wade says.

“I miss him,” he says quietly, tears forming even 24 years after his grandfather died when Wade was 18.

He’s glad when people ask the origin of his second company, BKW Drywall Supply Inc., for it gives him the opportunity to explain his use of the initials of his grandfather, Bernard Kyle Wade.

Wade tries to use his grandfather’s lessons of right and wrong now as a newly elected member of Reynoldsburg City Council. In fact, one council measure got him so riled earlier this year that he could not sleep an entire night after voting against an action he felt was unprofessional and unethical. The vote, which appointed another council member as the city’s auditor unbeknownst to the mayor, who was at a mayors’ conference at the time, resulted in a legal battle and a heated contest to fill the vacant seat.

Wade ran for council last fall after becoming frustrated with the city’s action on a zoning issue in which he was involved years earlier.

“We all know what’s wrong with government, and we all know how hard it is to do something about it, but I’m trying,” he says.

That drive and conviction prompted John Dugan, Wade’s friend of eight years, to be his campaign manager for the city council run.

“I think he’s got pretty high integrity, and he’s going to vote or present an issue as he sees it, not how he thinks other people want him to see it. He won’t be afraid to tell you his opinion and why — even though you might disagree with him,” Dugan says.

Wade also strives to teach the importance of right and wrong to his two sons, who he calls “the flame on my candle.”

On his desk he keeps a coffee mug emblazoned with a yellow smiley face that reminds him of Kyle, 6, “the smilingest kid you ever met.”

Wade looks forward to helping Colton, 10, in the Boy Scout pinewood derby competition, in which they were champions last year. This year was a bust; the two didn’t even place, but they still had a lot of fun building the car, Wade says.

“We get our engineering hats and science hats out and figure out what’s going to make this car go faster,” he says.

He especially liked the time he spent in 1997 and 1998 as a den leader for Colton’s Tiger Cub scouts.

“To not have adults to deal with and egos, just to play with little kids, that was a tremendous experience I will never forget,” he says.

Wade even enjoys visiting the Reynoldsburg parks to play basketball with whatever youths show up.

“They always ask me to play on their team because I’m so big,” he says, referring to his 6-foot-4-inch stature.

Despite his success in his career — the two-time construction Entrepreneur Of The Year finalist has 68 employees at his two companies and joint revenues of more than $20 million — Wade yearns for a simpler life.

The story of his own success, he says, almost sounds like a fairy tale to him.

“Sometimes I really miss working with my tools,” he says of the days when he was a laborer. “At 4 o’clock, the day was over, and I didn’t think about it until I got my tools the next morning. Now my job’s never over.”

He did not have the opportunity to go to college to follow what might have been a preferred career as a wildlife specialist or conservationist. Now, however, he enjoys fishing and hunting, and a wallpaper mural that his mother put up in his East Columbus office takes him away to a forest filled with deer.

His own greatest challenge, overcoming poverty during the ups and downs of the construction industry in the early ’80s, gives him a certain awe for his success and a realization of the responsibility he has to his employees.

“My wife and I remember going to the grocery store and not being able to get very much and getting into line and having to put things back,” he says, recalling the early days of his 19-year marriage to Terry.

“I know I can go to the grocery store and put things back — I did that. I don’t worry about me,” he says. “But I do need to be cautious that I do provide stability for the other people that work here.”

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.