National Apprenticeship Week Spotlight – Ernie Klimek
Ernie Klimek joined the United States Air Force and served as a Minuteman III ICBM Missile Systems, a Missile Facility Specialist, and a 90th Strategic Missile Wing during his time based in Cheyenne, Wyoming. After Ernie retired from the Air Force, he used the Electrical and Power Production Training he received in the military to work for Burlington Northern Railroad in Seattle, Washington. From there, Ernie took a position with Weyerhauser Timber Company’s Chehalis Western Railroad. After a few years working for the railroad, he used his GI Bill to attend Centralia College. During his time in college, the City of Centralia, Washington was looking for seasonal summer help in their Water Department, and he took a temporary position there that involved reading meters, mowing and working with other operators.
One day at a booster station, Ernie used his prior electrical training and knowledge to troubleshoot issues for the City of Centralia. After figuring out the problem, this opened an opportunity to start a full-time position with the City at their wastewater utility. He attained his Level 3 Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Certification and then moved temporarily to the water utility after a hillside reservoir failure left them in need of electrical, SCADA, and power production expertise. Ernie developed and installed SCADA communications for the Centralia Water Utility and took a permanent position there. He then obtained a Water Distribution Manager 3 certification and took a position as Remote Systems Lead with the Water Utility.
After 20+ years, Ernie left Centralia for Port Angeles and took a position as Water and Wastewater Superintendent. He was involved with the Federal Elwha Dam removal project and the building of surface water treatment plants for the City of Port Angeles. He obtained a Water Distribution Manager 4, Water Treatment Plant Level 4, and Cross Connection Control Specialist Certification while at Port Angeles. A few years later, he left Port Angeles and became the Water Distribution Manager for the City of Olympia and began teaching Basic Electrical classes for Evergreen Rural Water of Washington (ERWOW).
After retiring from the City of Olympia, Tracey Hunter at ERWOW brought him on full-time. First as a contract instructor, and then later as the EPA Training Specialist where he developed and taught multiple classes. From there he moved into the Apprenticeship Program as a Supervisor, his current position.
According to Ernie he, “can be found sharing my time and experience in the classroom with the apprentices and those operators hunting down their CEU credits.”