Meet an Owner – John Olthafer

meet an owner

john olthafer

meet an owner

john olthafer

Ramaker is a 100% employee-owned company! Our owners have worked tirelessly to complete thousands of projects internationally – from water parks, to hotels, to cemeteries, to telecommunications – and much, much more! We believe our owners are what makes Ramaker so great, so read below to learn more about Bethany, one of our amazing owners!

Meet an Owner – John Olthafer

WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT RAMAKER?

In a name it would be “Aquatic Designer”. I typically start with a blank space and try to creatively cram a whole lot of fun into a too small of area! I try to stay on top of the latest water slides and spray features that are available, so I work closely with those suppliers. I also work closely with the architects, pool contractors, architects, etc… pretty much the entire team for any given project. The most difficult part is having to make everything code compliant while trying to be innovative with the designs.

Meet an Owner – John Olthafer
John and his dog, Lilly. She’s an Irish Terrier

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING AT RAMAKER?

It’s been over 18 years already! Hard to believe.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT WORKING AT RAMAKER?

I really like the atmosphere. It is very professional while maintaining a somewhat relaxed vibe. The ESOP is an added bonus.

WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING YOU’VE WORKED ON AT RAMAKER?

That’s a tough question because almost all major projects are unique. I think the Waterpark of America was a very unique challenge because with the very tight space, we had to design the park vertically. Everything ended up stacked; decks over the river, stairs and bridges everywhere, slides starting and ending at various mezzanine levels, it sort of ended up like a real life version of “Chutes and Ladders”!

WHAT’S SOMETHING THAT HAS SURPRISED YOU ABOUT YOUR CHOSEN CAREER PATH?

Before Ramaker, I had spent most of my career in Research & Development doing new product development. When the opportunity came up to work here, I was nervous about translating my design skills to public spaces instead of products. As it turned out, it was easier than I thought it would be. I think because “design” boils down to using your creativity to find solutions.

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

On a dairy, beef and hog farm very much in the middle of nowhere! Ellenboro, Wisconsin (between Lancaster and Platteville). I think we had about 5 miles of gravel roads just to get to the blacktop.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING OUTSIDE OF WORK?

I am an avid woodworker and remodeler and have been most of my life. I designed and constructed my own workshop from the ground up about 4 years ago. And almost two years ago, I built my own CNC router which has opened up a whole new level of possibilities. I love the outlet for my creativity and continuously learning.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER GOTTEN?

My dad always told me “Any job worth doing is worth doing right.” I think I still live by those words today.

WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM VACATION?

My dream vacation was when I was in my early 20’s and I went backpacking alone through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. I was a naive (but ambitious) farm kid who had never before been on an airplane, on a city bus, in a subway, and hardly knew any of the language. But it was THE BEST! It’s on my bucket list to do again.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING TO DO ON A DAY OFF?

Tinkering in my workshop, camping in Door County, or day drinking at a local micro-brewery.

IF YOU WON THE LOTTERY, WHAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU’D BUY?

If the winnings were big enough, an RV to travel North America, and plane tickets to destinations all over the World!

SHARE ONE THING YOU LOVE TO DO THAT YOU GET TO DO NEARLY EVERY DAY.

I love being creative and using my talents to facilitate the design of spaces where people can enjoy themselves. Sometimes it’s crazy to look back at a major waterpark project and think… hey I put those lines on paper… and somebody actually built that!

WHAT’S SOMETHING NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I have been the lead paddler on a dragonboat team for nearly 25 years (I just retired last fall). It’s a big dragon-looking boat that has 25 paddlers, a drummer, and a sternsman. It’s hard to explain…

Meet an Owner – John Olthafer
John with his team on their dragonboat. This was taken from their race on the Mississippi River in Dubuque.
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