MATC Plumbing Graduate Gets Front Row Seat for State of the Union Address

Milwaukee business owner invited to sit with first lady Jill Biden during the president’s annual address to Congress

Mark Feldmann,

March 07, 2024

Rashawn Spivey

Rashawn Spivey will get a break from replacing lead water pipes on Thursday, March 7, when he attends President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in Washington D.C.

The Milwaukee Area Technical College graduate and owner of Hero Plumbing is one of 20 guests who will sit with first lady Jill Biden during the president’s address at 8 p.m.

Other invitees include an advocate against gun violence, a public school educator, a Navy commander and the prime minister of Sweden, Ulf Kristersson. Douglas Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, will also be sitting with the first lady.

These guests were invited because they personify issues or themes the president will address in his speech or because they embody policies of the Biden administration, according to a press release issued by the White House.

Spivey is one of a handful of contractors who replace potentially toxic lead water pipes for the city of Milwaukee. The Biden administration is challenging communities across the nation to remove all lead pipes within the next 10 years.

In December 2023, Biden visited Spivey at his Milwaukee shop near 27th and Atkinson streets. Biden lauded Spivey for his work, especially for replacing a service line at a daycare center, providing children — the most at-risk for lead poisoning — with clean, safe water.

See TV coverage of Spivey meeting President Biden

Spivey called meeting the president “unbelievable.”

“My head is still spinning a little bit because everything was like a blur,” Spivey said in a television interview at the time. 

For Spivey, plumbing runs in the family. He followed in the professional footsteps of his mother, who worked for one of the first Black-owned plumbing businesses in Wisconsin.

He began his career at age 12 as an assistant at Jim Nelson Plumbing. Noticing his interest in the trade, Nelson mentored Spivey, teaching him practical skills, dedication and instilling a work ethic. By 16, Spivey was making basic service and repair calls on his own.

Spivey graduated from Milwaukee Public Schools’ John Marshall High School and enrolled in MATC’s Preparatory Plumbing program. He earned a technical diploma and then completed an apprenticeship through Plumbers Union Local 75. Spivey obtained his Journeyman Plumber and Master Plumber licenses with the state of Wisconsin.

In June 2010, Spivey started Hero Plumbing, serving residential and commercial customers in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, Ozaukee and Racine counties.

Spivey, who is also a certified welder, and his team have replaced more than 825 toxic lead pipes in Milwaukee. He also has worked on numerous major industrial projects, including the We Energies Oak Creek generating station, the largest single industrial project in state history at $2.2 billion. The station pumps more than 800,000 gallons of water per minute.

Find out about MATC’s Preparatory Plumbing program

About MATC: Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 30,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 180 academic programs — many that prepare students for jobs immediately upon completion and others that provide transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.