Angel Munoz spends so much time tinkering in his garage, his wife had to drag him out to go shopping for their son's birthday party Friday.
When he’s not working as maintenance supervisor at Chambers Creek Estates apartments in University Place, Munoz spends hours timing how fast he can install a sink faucet or change a smoke alarm.
He doesn’t do it for hobby. It’s more of a passion, a quest for recognition and a little spending cash.
The 41-year-old Lacey man is one of 20 contestants who will compete in the Maintenance Mania competition next week in New Orleans.
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The event showcases the fastest maintenance hands in the country and measures how quickly they can finish jobs they do every day: installing ice makers and ceiling fans, repairing toilets, re-keying a deadbolt lock and installing a doorjamb. They also must build a race car with their tools.
It might sound quirky, but it’s serious competition to Munoz and the other contestants. The person with the fastest cumulative time will get $10,000 worth of cash, tools and other merchandise.
“It’s very competitive,” Munoz said. “It’s fun. It’s exciting. But it’s pressure, man.”
Paul Bergeron, spokesman for the National Apartment Association, said each contestant’s moves is displayed on the big screen in front of thousands in the audience.
One mistake can decide who gets maintenance glory, Bergeron said.
“The difference between winning and second place can be tenths of a second,” he said.
This is the third consecutive year Munoz will compete. His best showing came last year with a sixth-place finish.
To qualify this year, Munoz had to beat the fastest maintenance workers in the state during the Washington Multifamily Housing Association’s competition in April.
His performance: eight seconds to re-key a deadbolt, 10 seconds to change a smoke alarm, 21 seconds to install a faucet and 28 seconds to fix a faulty toilet.
At Chambers Creek Estates, he supervises three technicians and steps in on jobs they can’t do.
Trisha Troutman, the resident manager at the UP apartment complex, said she’s worked with Munoz for three years.
“I’m very proud, and I’m very lucky,” she said. “He makes my job easier.”
Munoz has worked in multifamily housing maintenance for 12 years. Before coming to the South Sound, he worked at apartments in California and Oregon.
On Friday, he appeared focused and calm.
“I think I’m more scared than he is,” Jicel, his wife, said of next week’s competition. The couple have a 7-year-old son, Kyen.
Munoz says he knows what the atmosphere will be like. He knows people will scream, and his heart will race.
But, as if he were Tiger Woods on the green, he wants to block out the noise and focus on the hole – or in his case, a ceiling fan or smoke detector.
“You just ignore it all and focus on what you’re doing,” he said.