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  • Writer's pictureArizona Contractor & Community

Saluting Arizona’s Builders: Karl Ronstadt

It’s fitting to spotlight Karl Ronstadt in this water-themed issue of Arizona Contractor & Community. “I always liked dam work,” Ronstadt told the magazine in 2014. “As a kid where I grew up, the dams on the Santa Margarita Ranch in the Altar Valley southwest of Tucson were built by mule-drawn Fresno scrapers. Then the first crawler tractors came in during the late 1930s.”

Ron Keefer presenting Karl with New Pueblo Constructors saftey excellent award on behalf on Arizona Rock Products Association, 1978.

Ronstadt’s waterworks continued from this indoctrination after he started New Pueblo Constructors in 1959. The company built the earth-fill dam that created Lake Patagonia in 1965. In the early 1970s, working with an El Paso company, New Pueblo built the Tat Momolikat Dam within the Tohono O’odham Nation, the world’s sixth-largest earth-fill dam. In the mid-1980s, the company focused on water utilities, treatment plants, and the Central Arizona Project distribution system near Queen Creek.

Water infrastructure, however, is just a drop in the bucket when measuring Ronstadt’s impact on the construction industry and southern Arizona, where he’s blessed with Tucson's most famous last name. The Ronstadts were an influential family in the Old Pueblo long before his first cousin, Linda Ronstadt, was the queen of pop music in the 1970s.

Ronstadt attended the University of Arizona but graduated from Cornell University in 1951 and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as an officer. In 1954, he returned to Tucson to work at his family’s farm and feedlot, doing heavy equipment work as a side hustle. He launched New Pueblo Constructors and handled the business, construction, and agriculture while his old friend, Howard King, was the engineer. “It was a tough time to start a construction company in 1959,” Ronstadt recalls. “There was lots of competition in the industry.”

The company initially did utility and underground work, along with earthmoving, and grew rapidly. New Pueblo, which advertised itself as "a company with young management and with old ties to the region it serves," built miles of highway in Arizona and New Mexico and assorted jobs such as the retirement community of Green Valley. Ronstadt lived in Tucson and piloted his plane to oversee the sometimes-far-flung projects.

In addition to building infrastructure, Ronstadt served as president of the Associated General Contractors of Arizona, the Tucson Airport Authority, and the University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture, along with positions on many university and industry boards. But of all his accomplishments, Ronstadt’s greatest satisfaction was seeing his employees

To read the rest of this article, you are invited to purchase the digital issue here.

This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, May/Jun 2023 issue, Vol. 12, No. 3.


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