Pinebrook Resident Has Lengthy Commute — to Kazakhstan
Chevron engineer spends half his life halfway around the world
Judd Werner has called Park City home for a long time. Reared in the Salt Lake valley, he’s deeply rooted in Utah. For Werner, home may be where the heart is but Kazakhstan is where the money is.
He was born in Dearborn, Michigan in 1956, the third of Jean and George Werner’s four children. "My dad was a union asbestos worker on assignment in Dearborn when I came along," explains Werner. He has three sisters, Jackie, Jolene and Jeri.
Werner describes himself as friendly and social, but sometimes reserved. "I’m funny to the people who know me but tend to do more listening that talking," he says.
He grew up "barefoot and in cutoffs" in Rose Park, then a sleepy, all-American suburb northwest of downtown Salt Lake City. It was the 1960s, when bicycles were still the primary form of transportation for kids. "We rode everywhere," says Werner. "We liked the dirt trails and hills around the "Red Sands" pond. We’d ride over there and go swimming sometimes. Later we found out it was a wastewater treatment pond. We didn’t know any better."
He attended West High, where he was a good student and excelled in football. "I was not a typical offensive guard and linebacker at 5’7" and 165 pounds, but our team took state that year," Werner says. "We beat East High, our arch rival. The championship game was played at the University of Utah stadium on astro-turf and I remember we all had to go out and buy new shoes just to play on it."
He was named first team all-state by the Salt Lake Tribune in his senior year. "That was pretty cool. I never experienced the post-high school growth spurt some people did," he jokes, "I’m the same size and weight now I was then."
Werner set his sights on the military academies after high school. "When I was a junior, a friend’s older brother came home on leave from the Naval Academy," he recounts. "He was in uniform and his girlfriend and everybody else made a big deal out of him. I also saw a video of the cadets playing intramural sports and parachuting at the Air Force Academy. That’s when I decided a military academy was the ticket. I was a pretty good student so I applied and received appointments to both the Naval and Air Force academies," he says modestly.
He chose the Air Force Academy in Colorado Spring, Colorado, attending for two years before executing a mid-course correction. "I just couldn’t commit to a military career and elected to resign. The Academy experience launched my adult life and I am forever grateful for that opportunity," he says.
Werner returned to Salt Lake City and enrolled at the University of Utah. "I found out mechanical engineering was the shortest route to graduation. I’d taken a lot of math and science classes at the Academy but, frankly, I never planned to be an engineer," "I chose one class during my first two years of college. The rest were chosen for me. I didn’t understand it was a pre-engineering curriculum until I was well into it." he confesses. He took his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1979.
He soon found work with Varian Associates, a microwave electronics company in Palo Alto, California. Werner met and married his wife, Barbara, there in 1980. ‘She was a transplanted Canadian nurse working at the Stanford University Medical Center. "We have two wonderful daughters, Melanie age 22, and Julie, 19," he boasts.
Werner got his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford in 1982. He took a two-year hiatus back in Utah to help his father with the family business. After his father passed away, Werner sold the business and returned to California. He went to work for Chevron in 1984.
After stints in San Ramon, Bakersfield and Ventura, Werner applied in 1992 for a job at the Chevron Refinery in Salt Lake. "I got the job, even though I’d never worked in a refinery," he laughs.
"We remembered the winter temperature inversions in the Salt Lake valley, so we decided to live in the Park City area. We lived at Powderwood, near Kimball Junction, for about a year while building a home in Jeremy Ranch. We moved in on October 31, 1993," says Werner.
The Werners settled in and focused on family matters over the next few years. Both Melanie and Julie went through school here. Melanie graduated from Park City High in 2003. Julie transferred to the Waterford School in Salt Lake City for the eighth through twelfth grades, graduating in 2006.
In 1998, Werner was offered a rotational assignment for Chevron in the emerging Republic of Kazakhstan. "The money was good and it represented a better career opportunity," he says.
"We didn’t have to move and it seemed a little exciting," he reveals. "Other than a two-year assignment in Houston in 2004-2005, I’ve spent roughly half my life since 1998 working and living in a remote oil and gas production facility in Kazakhstan on the northern shore of the Caspian Sea. The other half, except for all the travel, has been spent in the Snyderville Basin."
"The Kazak people are fantastic," Werner says. In my work I’m passionate about growing the opportunities, competencies and standard of living for my Kazak co-workers. The highlight of my multi-year experience there was meeting my daughters at the airport when they arrived for a visit last June. They were the first expatriate family members to ever visit the facility on vacation. I’ll never watch another Kazak summer sunset without remembering sharing the experience with my daughter Melanie."
Although Werner’s marriage ended earlier this year, he remains upbeat and active. When he’s home, he enjoys most of the outdoor activities that draw people here. "I like sports of all kinds. It seems the thing I grew up with never left me," he reflects. He’s an avid bicyclist, runner, and skier. He finished 5th in his age class and was among the first 100 runners over the line, out of a field of 2200, at the 2006 Salt Lake Half-marathon. He also enjoys local theatre and concerts.
He loves to sing and will be performing with the Park City Singers at their annual Christmas concert in December. "I started singing lesson in my 40s, inspired by my daughter, Julie. I have some great photos of the two of us crooning to the karaoke machine," he says.
Werner has no complaints about the Park City area. "This was a nice place to live when I arrived in 1992 and it still is. He says the laid-back lifestyle in the basin suits him fine. "If I sometimes appear under-dressed, it’s because I feel more comfortable in shirts without collars," he grins.
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