John Martin a Centrifugal Force at the Southeast Treatment Plant

“I work with my hands and equipment. I’d rather keep my hands on the tools.”

John Martin is a Stationary Engineer in heavy maintenance for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s (SFPUC’s) Southeast Treatment Plant and he’s made a career being a machinist, for 57 years to be exact, with 27 years at the SFPUC. He reflects on what those years have been like, as he sets to retire in the new year.

“I enjoyed my time working or else I wouldn’t have done it for as long as I did,” Martin chuckled. “The work and my colleagues at the Southeast Treatment Plant have been the best part. Other than getting up in the morning – that’s the worst part – but once I get my coffee, I’m good.” A simple and modest way to put the years of experience and service that Martin has under his belt.

John Martin working on a centrifuge.

His co-workers explain that’s the way Martin is, and they say he’s one of a kind. “One question I often get asked is, what are you guys going to do when John retires? I pause with sadness, scratch my head, and think for a long time. The truth is, his level of mechanical awareness and attention to detail can not be met. But one thing is for sure; his legacy will continue as he has touched many lives, set many standards, fixed many centrifuges that I’m positive we will continue to fix moving forward for the years to come thanks to John Martin,” said Ciro (Tony) Garcia, Chief Engineer for the Southeast Treatment Plant.

Martin explains working for the City and County of San Francisco has allowed him to do a lot of different and interesting things. And because of it, he has some advice to others who are just starting their careers. “Learn as much as you can and keep learning; don’t get comfortable because there are excellent chances of promotion, but you have to seek it out to find it,” explained Martin.

That go-getter attitude is something he shares with many of his colleagues. “We like to do the work ourselves that others might farm out, like the centrifuges. We could send them away to get them fixed but instead we do everything from start to finish. It’s like working on an old car; you love driving them, but you are constantly doing maintenance on them. It’s something we are proud of doing and it only makes sense that we take care of them,” explained Martin.

John Martin at a holiday luncheon with his colleagues from the Southeast Treatment Plant.

57 years ago, Martin started as an apprentice machinist at the age of 18 years old for the San Francisco Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. At the age of 28, he took one year off to travel on motorcycle to Mexico and Central America; driving over 20,000 miles on a bike. In the new year and several decades older, Martin hopes to embark on new adventures that includes traveling and spending more time with his grandchildren.

Standing at 6-feet 6-inches tall, Martin is recognized for more than his stature but for all his contributions to the Wastewater Enterprise. “Big John will definitely be missed,” exclaimed Anthony LaMell, Stationary Engineer for the SFPUC’s pump stations. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for John and for all he has done for the department and myself. John was a great mentor and teacher on the worksite with a world of knowledge that he didn’t mind sharing if you were interested to learn. Thank you, Big John, and enjoy your family and retirement!”

Stationary Engineers, Anthony LaMell, John Staples and John Martin cutting a pipe.