Employee Spotlight – JOHN BUCKLES
John Buckles has had an interesting and life-changing career working as a drafter and project manager for PESCO. Buckles came to work for PESCO twenty years after graduating from Farmington High School in 1975. In fact, he was in the same class as PESCO President and CEO Kyle Rhodes.
Buckles’ career first took him to Fort Worth, Texas, where he worked for Lockheed’s aerospace division building the F-16 Fighting Falcon and doing mod-work on the F-111s. Lockheed was a company with 33,000 employees. “It took 15 minutes to walk from the parking lot to my office,” Buckles said. When he arrived at PESCO to work as a drafter under Vice President Jim Rhodes, Buckles said the company was fully staffed with 80 employees.
“I remember when I first came to work here, I was the only drafter. Jim did all his own drafting. He’s got a lot of patents, so I was drawing all of the experimental projects,” Buckles said. At that time, it was founder Ed Rhodes’ philosophy to “build the same thing, build what the customers like and build a ton of them,” Buckles said.
Buckles worked for 24 years in the drafting department, and during those years, he also taught AutoCad courses at San Juan College at night. Through this work, he was able to grow the drafting department. “I taught them AutoCad, and then I hired them to work in drafting.”
Drafting Manager Renaldo Yazzie wasn’t planning on a career in the oil and gas industry, when he took Buckles’ AutoCad class at San Juan College. “John contacted me and offered me a job and that’s how I came to PESCO in 2006,” Yazzie said, adding he worked as a drafter until 2011, and then attended New Mexico Tech to study Civil Engineering. “John encouraged me to take a look at that.” Yazzie graduated and became staff engineer and then later became the Drafting Manager after a drafting program upgrade.
“Right now, my assignment as project manager is to look for ways to make drafting more efficient. When you’re in drafting, it can be challenging to see the areas that may need to be improved,” Buckles said, adding his focus is to take projects that might normally be four months and narrow them down to two months. “We’ll be working on that for a few more months. I’ll be taking the smaller jobs as they come in and working them through the shop as project manager.”
Buckles has spent most of his professional life at PESCO and can’t say enough for the company and its management. When he announced his plans to retire in April of 2022, he said Kyle wanted to make sure he was ready for the transition. “When Kyle realized one of their long-term employees was going to retire –Kyle wanted to make sure that mentally I would be ready for retirement,” Buckles said. PESCO is providing him with counseling to help him make plans for life after retirement. “That is how caring PESCO is.”
Buckles pointed out that at PESCO the focus is God, Family and PESCO. It was that way when Ed and Mary Lou Rhodes founded the company, and it remains that way under the leadership of Jim and Kyle. “It isn’t a job, it’s a journey,” Buckles said. “They care so much. I’ve seen them not just with me but with a lot of people. They really care about their employees.”
When Buckles first came to PESCO, he had some issues with alcohol. “The first thing they did was make sure I went out and got the help I needed. I haven’t had a drink in 25 years because of that,” Buckles said. “While I was in a treatment center, they would pick my kids up and take them to church.”
They also encouraged Buckles to go back to church and he regularly participates in a Tuesday morning Bible study at PESCO, where he says Bible study groups happen on a regular basis on different days at the company. “This company is unlike other workplaces,” Buckles said.
“Moving from the environment that I did at Lockheed, where I was just a number, to a company with 80 people – a company, where they cared so much, it was remarkable. PESCO believes in their people,” Buckles said. “You see the love they have for their employees, and it makes you want to work harder. You’ll give up on yourself before they give up on you.”
Buckles recalled a time when Kyle asked him to buy a bicycle so they could ride from Durango to Purgatory. “I finally caved and bought a bike,” he said smiling. “We started doing some bike rides. He took me on a 10-mile bike ride, and I was coughing up a lung. But Kyle kept encouraging me, telling me that that I could do this.” They finally completed the ride from Durango to Purgatory, and Buckles said they also were in “tiptop shape for their 40th high school reunion.”
Although Buckles is planning his retirement, he says PESCO will still be his employment home and that of his family members. And for the next few months, Buckles would tell you his job description “is to bring joy to people’s hearts and turn frowns upside down. When I’m not doing that, I’m project manager.”
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