Randy Sebastian – Renaissance Man

written by James Small

Whether or not you’re a fan of Portland native Randy Sebastian is irrelevant. He unabashedly carries himself with a degree of confidence that reflects the high standard of excellence he holds himself to in both the Portland building industry, and the world of bodybuilding.

When you meet Sebastian, it would seem he has the physique of a much younger man. At fifty-two years old, Randy has been dedicated to a healthy lifestyle his entire adult life. He is compulsively conscious of his diet and daily exercise. He has competed in four Ironman competitions, numerous bodybuilder expositions, and is currently working towards a ProCard from the International Federation of Pro Bodybuilders.

Randy carries forth his high standard of excellence as the owner of Renaissance Homes. Started over 35 years ago, Renaissance first built small affordable homes in the ‘80s. By the ‘90s the company had transitioned to building large, well-appointed designs in larger subdivisions. Eventually, this led to the featured “Street of Dreams” home designs, and becoming the six-time winner of the coveted “Best of Show” trophy. To date, Renaissance Homes has built over 3,000 homes.

In this issue of About Face Magazine, I stopped by the home of Randy Sebastian, where I sat poolside as Randy prepared his regimented and restricted dinner to find out more behind the face, the body, the attitude, and the voracious
appetite of Randy Sebastian.

What drives Randy Sebastian?

I work extremely hard for perfection. Perfection in all my relationships—I try to have really good relationships with everybody in my life. I also enjoy quality people, quality places, quality homes, and quality things. I hold myself to a very high standard of excellence, and I hold everyone around me to a very high standard of excellence. I do my best and I expect everyone in my life to do their best. And if we all do our best, things are good.

What would be your tombstone quote?

My mom died when I was 20, and I said this to myself, “Life is short. I’m going to love as many people as I can, have as much fun as I can, live the best life as I can, as fast as I can.” And that is what I do. I have a great life and it’s a life that I created. I started with nothing and created this wonderful company with wonderful people that can support their families.

Randy Sebastian

Eating is a big part of your discipline. What are the dos and don’ts of your diet?

I have a meal service that preps and delivers to me 500 grams a day of mostly protein, made of chicken, turkey, fish, and grass fed organic beef and egg whites. That includes only 200 carbs a day, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and rice. If I want bread, it’s Ezekiel Bread. Really no fats. A little bit of coconut oil here and there and some almonds, but not a lot of induced fats. No dairy either. And very little fruit, because it’s sugar. I also drink 1.5 gallons of water a day.

I don’t eat fast food. It’s just horrible for you. But I still love eating at Portland’s best restaurants. I don’t eat at chain restaurants either. I would rather give my business to the local restaurateur. I do however confess to making about 5 stops at In and Out Burger in Southern California, with my amazing fiancée Julie Dunn.

What is your favorite food sin when you are not training?

I would live at Podnah’s BBQ Pit and have their baby back ribs with cornbread and sweet potato pie.

How do you spend your free time in the outdoors?

I’m a big outdoorsman. I do raft camping on the Deschutes and Rogue Rivers. I fish for salmon and steelhead all over the state. I do a lot of fly fishing on the Deschutes and McKenzie Rivers. I have a tent trailer, so I love to go out to Eastern Oregon and camp, as well as Southern Oregon too. I love my tent trailer. I spend a fair amount of time on the Oregon Coast. I like to hike, and I’ve climbed Mt. Hood four times.

With all that you do, is it hard to find family time?

It’s not. I’ve been able to balance my life between building homes and working out in the gym. I have 5 kids and I feel close to all of them. They are mostly grown into adulthood, with one teen on the journey.

What local person do you admire?

Ted Wheeler, I admire him. I’ve heard him speak a few times and I think he is going to do good things for the City. He’s also a fellow Ironman, and that means he’s definitely a hard worker and accomplishes things.

What National person to you admire? Why?

Arnold Schwarzenegger. He came over as an immigrant and learned the language, and became the top bodybuilder of all time. He became Governor of California. He is still super inspirational and still doing a lot of things. I recently read his book, “Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder.” It’s about what Arnold has accomplished in his life and how he puts himself in a position to win, not only in life but in bodybuilding, and politics. It was very inspirational to me. I really emulated his life. I love the look of a fit physique male or female! It’s something you cannot buy. It’s something that has to be earned and it takes years and years and really is a statement of pride. To me it’s a healthy look as well. If you lift weights, and do cardio, and eat clean, you’re typically happier. How do I put this… it’s an obsession of celebration which is a good thing.

What’s harder, Iron Man or competitive bodybuilding?

Definitely bodybuilding. It’s the same amount of training… about 24 hours a week. About 3–4 hours on weights and cardio every day. The difference is, in Ironman you can be much more relaxed with your diet. You can eat more carbs. You want to keep your weight down because you want to be lighter, but it’s not such a strict diet. In Ironman you can have a life. In bodybuilding you’re locked down. You’re just grinding every day. So bodybuilding is a much harder grind.

So bodybuilding is a mix of personal health and perfection in what the body can do?

Ironman is a challenge. How many bodybuilders are Ironmen? I hope to be the only pro bodybuilder that is also a full Ironman in the world—the only one. Ironman is a personal challenge that anyone can do. I believe anyone can! If their knees work and their heart and lungs work, and they have a strong mind, they can be an Ironman. They can get an Ironman tattoo. My only tattoo is an Ironman tattoo because I earned it. It’s the only tattoo I will ever have, and I am proud of it.

What does it feel like to be competing in one of the hardest sports (bodybuilding) and moving up and winning at 50+?

It’s an awesome feeling. I remember last year when I was competing in the National Championships, I was in the pump-up room downstairs where all the bodybuilders are before they go on stage. I had my earbuds in listening to Queen sing, “We Are The Champions” and it took me right back to the high school fields and wrestling mats of Oregon City High School. Same feeling. How many 52-year-olds can come back to that feeling in their life? Not many.

Tell me about your trainer, Turk.

Turk Fickling is amazing. I’ve been training with him for 3 years. He pushes me harder than anyone ever has. He demands excellence from me and he gets it. Not just me but from all his clients, whether it’s a 65-year-old grandma or a top level bodybuilder. they get the same Turk. He is so positive. I look forward to seeing Turk every morning. In Portland, he is the best trainer, bar none.

As a bodybuilder who might earn his Pro Card this year, is there a relationship between how you build your body and pursue personal health and building healthy homes? What’s the connection?

I’m a perfectionist. I’ve always strived to have good health in my physique and I’ve always cared about presenting myself in a good way. I’ve always cared about my homes being healthy and good to live in, and beautiful and flawless and perfect. So yes, the fact that I’m a hardcore bodybuilder and hardcore homebuilder does make sense.

As a Portland native, what are your feelings about protecting and preserving your hometown as it grows and changes?

I’m very proud of this place. I will never move away. I spent my whole life within a 20-mile radius of Pioneer Square. I want Portland to be as it is. It’s vibrant, young, fun, but it is a growing city and people are moving here from everywhere because people have discovered how nice it is. So we need to build quality stuff that fits the neighborhoods, and that is what we do. So that’s how we are preserving and protecting Portland. I’m a supporter of the Urban Growth Boundary. I don’t want to see the Class 1 farmland paved from Wilsonville to Salem. It’s some of the most fertile farmland in the world!

As Portland grows, what negatives do you see that the City needs to be vigilant about?

It’s the issue of our homeless. We all know that this issue is a growing problem. One of the things Renaissance Homes is doing about the homeless plight is Bridge Meadows. It’s where a homeless child, and mother, and a homeless senior can have their own family unit. The mom can now adopt a child who needs a foster mom, and the senior citizen can adopt the mother of the child (not legally), but they become a family unit if you will. A community and family unit, where the senior is watching after the child while the mom is at work. We’ve had moms get degrees and move on and kids have gone off to college from this too. So we continue to get funding for this kind of help that is needed across Portland. Bridge Meadows… look it up. It’s a great model of success, and a good example of what we should be doing more of.

How big is your team at Renaissance Homes and how do you depend on them?

I purposely keep it small. We have the very best people at what they do in the City of Portland working at Renaissance. We have 28 people who know their jobs very, very well. I keep it tight and creative. My COO is Tim Breedlove and he runs Renaissance Homes. Tim has been with me since 1999, and together we have built thousands of homes. We think alike. It’s great to work with someone who is passionate about what he does.

What kind of company owner are you? You’re the boss, so how do you treat your employees?

I’m an empowering leader. I’m not a micromanager. I set the vision and the vision is to build the best homes in Portland. And we do that. I know we have the best reputation in Portland. Our houses don’t leak or squeak, and we are the #1 LEED Certified Builder in Oregon. LEED Homes are built better.

You are one of the largest homebuilders in Oregon and one of the largest single-family homebuilders in Portland. What do you see as the biggest problem facing our neighborhoods and livability in the City?

Really, it’s affordability. Everything is so expensive. The UGB (Urban Growth Boundary) has not allowed for expansion into a few more areas to help with the influx of people moving here. Building permits are approaching $50,000 per house. So it’s really hard to build a starter home when a lot is $250,000 and a permit is $50,000. That’s $300,000 before you even dig a hole. Another problem is that a lot of people don’t want their neighborhood to change. People love the cute little bungalow or cottage house down the street, but the floor plan is antiquated and it’s a mess. It’s got mold from the basement thru the rafters and all points in between. It’s got oil heat, lead pipes that are toxic, bad wiring—it’s really a trap of sickness and nowhere close to being healthy. So we tear it down and in its place we build a LEED Certified Renaissance Home, that heats and cools for under $100 per month. It’s better for the environment, better for the people who live there, and it’s a current floor plan that a family can move around in. It’s really important that families move into the city because families have kids and that helps the schools with State funding which means Portland schools are getting better and healthier. For decades Portland schools where spiraling down, and now they are rising up. That’s a positive thing.

Why do you build LEED certified homes, and when did you start building them?

The guidelines for building LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified homes are very stringent. Its’ more than the buzz words you hear like “building green”. It’s about building way beyond what code requires.The LEED standards include resourcing quality materials, installing products that use less water and provide better indoor air quality and much more.We have built nearly 300 LEED certified homes and are on our way to 400+ homes.We made the decision years ago to build to this high standard of excellence because our homeowners want a home that just performs better.

What should every home have built into it over the next 20 years? Why?

The ability to have cooling. It’s getting hotter here. Climate change is presenting us with a challenge to keep homes cool during the hot seasons. It’s a livability issue.

And finally, what are your favorite places in Portland and across the State?

I like the East Side Esplanade. I like Division Street, Hawthorne Street and Alberta. Wherever we build really. I really like Williams Avenue and Killingsworth. I guess I’m more in the neighborhoods than downtown. Downtown is fine, but I’m really more about where I build and those business areas. As a kid, I spent a lot of time at my uncle’s cabin on the Metolius River in Camp Sherman, Oregon. It’s a real sacred spot to me. I love Camp Sherman. Now as an adult I spend a lot of nights on the Deschutes while rafting. I’m starting to explore Southern Oregon more. I like it down there a lot as well.