Richmond Refinery employee achieves 50-year milestone

Otis Johnson is celebrating the rare feat of having worked for Chevron for 50 years.

Otis Johnson says a lot has changed since he joined Chevron in 1969. He’s particularly fond of the computer as an alternative to the stacks of paperwork he used to deal with in the receiving area of the warehouse at the Chevron Richmond Refinery.

“We didn’t have spreadsheets back then,” Johnson said.

One thing that hasn’t changed in 50 years? Otis Johnson’s commitment to his work. His supervisor, Joe Waschuck, Procurement Warehouse Supervisor at the Richmond Refinery, calls Johnson the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) at the warehouse. “A few years back I called him our Cal Ripkin,” he said. “His streak keeps going and going and going.”

Johnson, who since 2012 has been a Material Control Specialist in Investment Recovery at the Richmond Refinery, is a mentor with deep knowledge who can still operate a forklift as well as anyone on staff, he added.

More than that, Johnson is family. “When I became supervisor, of course Otis asks me, ‘Hey, how’s your grandfather doing?’ My grandfather used to work in the tool room, and [Otis] worked with him. Having a guy like him around is educational.”

Johnson is reluctant to celebrate his accomplishments, but his colleagues are nevertheless honoring his 50th anniversary with Chevron. He’s joined a short list of esteemed employees to have accomplished the feat.  Asked why he chose to stick around, Johnson said, “Chevron is a great company; I enjoy myself here. It’s become like a family. And it has been a good learning experience.”

It all starts in 1969

Johnson, an Oakland native, joined Chevron after graduating from high school. He was inspired to apply with Chevron Stations because his brother-in-law was working there at the time.

“When I came in I started pumping gas at the service station at 12th and Harrison in Oakland,” Johnson said. He worked at various East Bay locations until, in 1974, he applied for a position at the loading rack at the refinery, “where they load all the gas tank trucks,” he said. He enjoyed working with a crew. In one year, he would transfer into what was then called Materials Management, and is now called Procurement.

“And I’ve been here ever since,” Johnson said. Since 2012, Johnson has been facilitating the auctioning of refinery equipment and continues to assist in warehouse operations.

Positive changes

Johnson was described by Waschuck as an employee who “never buckles under pressure.”

“He has a positive attitude,” Waschuck said. “He’s seen it all before.” That may have something to do with Johnson’s generally positive attitude toward change.

Since joining the company in 1969, the company’s workforce has become more diverse, and Johnson has felt that has fostered a family-like atmosphere. While transitioning to new technologies wasn’t always easy, Johnson says it has usually led to a more efficient process. In the past, for example, Johnson would calculate tonnage of scrap in the scalehouse using a calculator and pen. When Waschuck became supervisor, he showed how it could be done far easier on a spreadsheet, Johnson said.

“We were doing it the old way,” he said, “Until someone came along to show us how to do it the better way.”

If there’s anything that doesn’t change at the Richmond Refinery, it’s the commitment to safety, Johnson said. “We take safety seriously here, holding regular trainings and meetings, trying to always learn how to do things better,” Johnson said. “As a team, we all try to watch out for each other.” That shows in his own achievement, he has completed his 50 years of service without an on-the-job recordable injury.

Not trying to break records

Johnson says he’s not trying to break longevity records at Chevron. The father of three adult children, all of whom are enjoying successful careers, says he’s not done working, and he’s not done learning. Johnson is considering going back to school to rekindle his love for photography. He knows things have changed since the days when he developed photos in darkrooms. “It’s all digital now,” he said. Naturally, he’s excited to learn the new technology like Photoshop.

Johnson said he and his wife, who live in Cordelia, also plan to continue fostering their love of attending concerts, particularly performances of jazz, R&B, and Motown.