Saddling up . . .

By Karli Massey

Friday, October 13, 2017

. . . to tackle some big initiatives

John Clymo, Associate Labs Director for Infrastructure Operations Div. 4000, talks about how his background can help ensure a stable and secure platform for the future of Sandia’s facilities.  

JOHN CLYMO, Associate Labs Director for Infrastructure Operations Div. 4000, says, “There are a lot of good things that the Division 4000 workforce has been doing to keep things running smoothly, but there is much more we can do to bolster the consistency and quality of our infrastructure and our services.” (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Starting when he was five years old, John Clymo spent part of his childhood summers at his aunt and uncle’s ranch near Pie Town, New Mexico. Since then and after years of globetrotting, he’s been eager to settle down in the Land of Enchantment. When John got the call about joining the NTESS contract team, not only was he looking forward to bringing his expertise in facilities management to the table, he was excited about the opportunity to call New Mexicohome again.

John’s career has taken him across the world, managing site construction and operations in 14 countries. His first job out of school was with Pan Am World Services for the Washington state-based Trident Support Project, where he was a maintenance worker in the electrical shop.

“When I first started, I thought I had the best job I’d ever have,” he says. “I was working in cathodic protection at the delta pier at the submarine base. I’d take my small boat out under the piers to perform corrosion inspections and replace sacrificial anodes. Cruising up and down the Hood Canal on those beautiful sunny days in July, the water was like glass. That’s when I thought I’d found my perfect job. Then, it got to be November. The best job in the world turned out as one of the worst jobs in the world — winter in Washington state on the Hood Canal can be brutal.”

John says he now has the best job in the world as ALD for Sandia’s Infrastructure Operations Division, which, he jokes, is less weather dependent than those days on Hood Canal.

LET’S RODEO —John clinching his 2003 Senior Pro World Championship at Reno, Nevada.

LET’S RODEO — John clinching his 2003 Senior Pro World Championship at Reno, Nevada. (Photo courtesy of John Clymo)

After five years working in various capacities for the Trident Support Project, John took on the role as manager of contracts and administration for the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in Ridgecrest, California. This is where his experience in M&O contract transitions soon became a common theme in his career path. Pan Am eventually lost the contract to manage China Lake, but in the meantime, it had won the contract to replace Zia Corporation as the facilities contractor at Los Alamos National Lab in 1986. 

“I was enjoying life in New Mexico,” reflects John. “My wife and our two kids had fun being close to family. I had the opportunity to work on some interesting projects at Los Alamos Lab, as well as at Santa Fe Community College. In fact, there are several people I met during that time who are here at Sandia now.”  

Two years later however, career advancement and new opportunities beckoned. “I had taken advantage of the company’s educational program to earn a law degree and started to gain solid experience in federal procurement contracts,” John says. “Also around that time, Pan Am World Services was bought by Johnson Controls. After a short stint at corporate headquarters, I was then assigned overseas to coordinate joint venture activities that included operations in England, the Philippines, Mauritius, Somalia, Oman, and most notably, the Diego Garcia Naval Support Facility in the British Indian Ocean Territories for Desert Shield and Desert Storm activities.”

From 1993-1995, John was general manager for facilities management and buildings systems in the Asia/Pacific region. He consulted on the construction of the 88-story Republic Plaza in Singapore and the 60-floor Tonga Town in Bangkok while also serving as the general manager of the US Base Operating Support Contracts at Sembawang and Paya Lebar. 

“It was an adventurous time,” he says. “During college, I had learned scuba, so I was able to dive at the most incredible destinations in the world when I had time to explore. Most memorable was the Sipadan Island in Malaysia – it’s known as the top diving destination in the world, according to both John and Jacques Cousteau.

 “But after six years overseas, I asked to be repatriated,” says John. “At that time, Johnson Controls partnered with Bechtel and won the contract to manage the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). I joined the transition team and oversaw project administration that included human resources, pensions, investments, ethics, procedures, and legal, as well as housing, feeding, and custodial.”

From there, a Bechtel team won the contract at Idaho National Laboratory and John was asked to serve as the director of Infrastructure.

John’s three passions — His kids, rodeo travel, and Beechcraft.    (Photo courtesy of John Clymo)

“I think my five-year tenure at Idaho had the most impact on my career so far,” he says. “Our team was able to change the way the lab did business and we demonstrated numerous improvements to our capital expenditure procurement process.”  

In 2004, John was asked to come back to NNSS as the site operations manager.  “It was an honor to be asked to return. I guess I was doing some things right,” he says. “Shortly thereafter is when I started working with Dr. Younger.”

Bridging his previous time at NNSS, John spent eight years in management at that site, where he had a chance to work with many Sandians, which brought him to New Mexico numerous times. 

The next stop in John’s DOE-complex journey was just across the street from the Sandia/California site. From 2009-2011, he was Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s senior manager of business and operations, responsible for site sustainability planning, utilities management, and environmental compliance.

A sunny side-track and horsing around

“While in California, I was presented with an interesting opportunity to participate in the development of a utility-scale solar project,” says John. “I left my position at LLNL and focused on developing this project. We commissioned the 4.2-megawatt array in March 2013. It was a bit of a departure from what had been doing and I had fun learning about that industry.”

John’s other role was the company pilot. In addition to learning to scuba dive in college, John took flight training and has become a multi-engine instrument-rated pilot. 

“After the solar project took flight, I decided to take some downtime,” John says.

Although, “downtime” for John typically involves a lot of hard work mending fences and tackling livestock. Originally from the Napa Valley in California, when he was about 10 years old, John’s family of farmers and ranchers moved to Silverdale, Washington, where they raised pigs. “I left the pig farm when I was 18 and never returned, but my love for horses is the constant in my life,” he says.

TEAM PLAYER — John’s (#44) University of Puget Sound football team was the 1976 season Northwest small college football champions. Lessons in leadership and never giving up come from his days in football, he says. (Photo courtesy of John Clymo)

John is a gold card holder in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). He won his first PRCA rodeo in 1975. Before joining Sandia, he was active in the 2016 rodeo season, winning three pro rodeos in California in steer wrestling. “I have my sights on the 2018 rodeo season and I plan to participate in about 20 rodeos,” he says. John also participates in Indian Rodeo circuit as a member of the Shawnee Tribe. John is part Native American — his mother was born on the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma

Since returning to New Mexico, John, his six horses, and his great-aunt Lena’s 1930 Ford Model A now call Edgewood home. “I’ve always wanted to live here and I’m planning to stay this time,” he says.

Back in the saddle

Now that he’s back, John is ready to roll up his sleeves and put his world-renowned facilities management skills to work at Sandia.

“Since the transition began in January, I’ve been able to identify areas where we can apply the experience I gained from my work at three national laboratories and NNSS to optimize Sandia’s facilities services,” says John.  “It turns out, in all my travel and various roles, I’ve already been to all the sites operated by Sandia (New Mexico, California, Kauai, and Tonopah), as well as those sites where we perform activities. Coming into this role, it’s provided a helpful insight into what we do and the services that the Infrastructure Operations Division offers.

“There are a lot of good things that the Division 4000 workforce has been doing to keep things running smoothly, but there is much more we can do to bolster the consistency and quality of our infrastructure and our services,” John says. “And I’m excited to help lead this initiative.” 

Standing 6 feet, 3 inches with the build of a champion lead tackler, John may seem intimidating. But if you have the chance to stop and say hello, he’s not shy and enjoys meeting new people.

“It’s interesting hearing about people’s different backgrounds. The more we learn about one another, the more commonalities we find,” John says as a call to other Sandians to get to know him so he can get to know you.