Jean Johnson. (Photo by Bob Bumpas.)
From Cray computers to chromatographs, Jean Johnson has tracked it all. As property administrator for 16 years at NCAR and at UCAR's other facilities, Jean has kept track of more than $100 million in equipment--over 7,000 individual items.
Jean's day-to-day concerns were reduced considerably 31 May, when she officially retired. Though she now has the chance to clear her mental Rolodex, Jean says she'll miss her job. "It's been a wonderful experience working here. As the organization's gotten more complex, I haven't gotten out to do inventory personally like I used to. Still, it's the people I will miss the most."
Jean's job included massive inventories of capital equipment every two years and continual maintenance of records on each piece of NCAR property--NSF property, that is. "The Foothills Lab is owned by UCAR," Jean says, "but almost everything else is owned by NSF." This includes the Marshall field site, the Jeffco building and hangar, and the Mesa Lab building and land. "That computer on your desk really belongs to NSF or whatever other agency paid for it."
What were the biggest single pieces of equipment in Jean's bailiwick? "Probably the Crays, but then of course we have the aircraft. Right now there are four usable aircraft and an extra C-130 in Tucson, Arizona, that we cannibalize for parts. We're about to do the same thing with an Electra. It's very cost-effective. The electronics in the Electra are getting so old that it's hard to find spare parts for them." The surplus planes, acquired after they are excessed by other government agencies, are housed in what Jean calls a "graveyard" in Tucson. Contractors at that location strip parts and send them to Jeffco as needed.
The idea of scavenging remnants from the government has led to a major cost-saving venture that's been a highlight of Jean's recent work. "We have several people called screeners who go out and look for excessed equipment. Over the last two or three years, we've acquired about $18 million worth of equipment." The cost to UCAR is $5,000 to administer the program--mostly for shipping and handling--plus a small fee to the screeners, who include Ray Giles, Jeff Bobka, and Curt Conquest, for their time and travel expenses. "They've gone out all over the country. Just last week Jeff went out and found a chromatograph in good working condition for Rich Lueb."
Another program that has brought Jean great satisfaction works in the other direction. "We've been getting obsolete computer equipment from NCAR and other UCAR facilities into the public schools. Over the last two months, we've redistributed $100,000 in obsolete machines, mostly Macs and PCs. We even got some old Sun workstations into the Boulder Valley high schools." Outdated laboratory equipment is sent to vocational-technical schools.
Most of the recipients of our cyberextras have been Boulder schools, with a few others in Denver and Estes Park. Jean works with requests sent to her by fellow staff and a loose-knit network of volunteers. "Ben Domenico and Ray Giles have been so helpful. They recognize when something would be a worthwhile contribution. Rene Munoz has also been wonderful. She's a great source on what's needed in the schools. I haven't had the time to go out and seek recipients; basically, I've been the person who does the paperwork to make it happen." Until Jean's position is filled, staff who know of possible recipients for aged equipment can contact Shelley Richards-Craig (ext. 8857, email@example.com) or Lisa Carrasco-Wyant (ext. 8574, firstname.lastname@example.org).
This summer Jean and her husband are heading to Seattle for a few months to help their daughter, who's expecting twin girls that will join Jean's 17-month-old grandson. But travel won't dominate Jean's retirement. "Our home is here. We've lived in Boulder since 1957. We'll be going to Rockies games and doing some work at track meets here in town." (Both Jean and her husband are certified to officiate at college-level track meets.)
Don't be surprised if you find Jean making an NCAR appearance now and then. "After 18 years of working here," she laughs, "I finally went to my first egg drop the other day." --BH