With more than a decade of professional experience, Debra C. McHenry has excelled as an ironworker for the Ironworker Union Local 433 since 2007. She has been an ironworker for 13 years and, for nine of those 13 years, she has worked for John Allard with Anning-Johnson.
Constantly inspired by her daughter, Miss McHenry also attributes her success to her fellow union members and people such as John Burkhart, Jim Baer and Eddie Gray, who all are or were foreman for the company. As a woman of the trade, Miss McHenry had encountered various moments where she felt could not complete her apprenticeship. However, she was able to push through and utilized the necessary tools to continue moving forward.
Holding a welding certification, Miss McHenry’s favorite part of ironwork is the Decking Division. Prior to joining the union, she worked at a hotel front desk in Las Vegas for 11 years. As an active member of the community, Miss McHenry has volunteered at St. Viator’s Community, where she taught fifth grade religious education and is a member of Catholic Daughters of America. She was also a clown for Special Olympics in Chicago and the Inter-City Games for five years.
Born December 31, 1972, Miss McHenry is the oldest of four children born to a bookkeeper and a policeman in Calumet City, Illinois. Both of her grandfathers had careers at U.S. Steel, one being a switch man for a railroad company and the other in fabrication.
Growing up, Miss McHenry had an interest in the field and admired her cousin Leslie McNamara, who became a plumbing apprentice. It was unusual at this time for a woman to be in the construction industry, but she persevered. Still today, it is an inspiration. Later in life, Miss McHenry met a female acquaintance already in the field, who helped her begin the process to become an ironworker.
For her many achievements throughout her career, Miss McHenry was recognized at the Harry Bridges Institute for Working Class Women’s Luncheon in 2015 and went on to be named among Who’s Who of Professional Women in construction in 2020. More recently, she was presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022. In the coming years, she hopes to still be working in her current field and learning ways to better herself.
For others that are interested in joining the Ironworkers Union or the construction industry, Miss McHenry believes that safety and teamwork is the key to success. She ensures that any job site she is on is safe, and believes in watching your partner and all the others in the gang, for if one is affected, then all are affected.
Miss McHenry is the proud mother of her daughter Kira, who was the 2018 National American Miss Nevada.