Lifetime Achievement Award — John White: Combining Talent with Logical Thinking

NETA World StaffNETA News, Summer 2024 NETA News

Congratulations John White on receiving the NETA Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by
Ron Widup, on behalf of the NETA Board of Directors.

“NETA is made up of quality people and that sums up the recipient of this Lifetime Achievement Award,” began NETA Board Member and Conference Committee Chair Ron Widup, former CEO and current Vice Chairman of Shermco Industries. “NETA has a long history of leadership and volunteer contributors who have made the association what it is today, and John White’s career demonstrates the highest level of commitment to supporting the NETA organization and its programs. John has a history of contributing to the advancement of the electrical power industry over many years, and was awarded NETA’s Outstanding Achievement Award in 2012 and again in 2017.”

Widup added, “I’ve known John for a long time, and he makes a real difference in the association. I’m very proud of just getting to know him and learning from him through the years. He’s a quality person — articulate, hard-working, dedicated, and just an all-around good dude. He has a sense about business, coupled with a sense of humor that I have admired for many years, especially during our years together at NETA. We all appreciate his contributions to NETA and the industry, even when at times those contributions required him to perform during challenges with his health. He was always right there in it making things happen.”

John White’s 55-year career path is as outstanding as his service to NETA and the industry. After earning a BS in Electrical Engineering at Washington State University in 1968, he held increasingly responsible positions at Chevron USA’s corporate headquarters. When White met John Moore in 1975, he helped grow Electro-Test Inc (ETI), which was NETA’s largest member company for several decades. He stayed with ETI from 1975 to 2004, serving in several roles including President as the company grew from a West Coast-only operation to a coast-to-coast business with 25 offices nationwide.

In 2005, White helped manage Sigma Six Solutions on a part-time basis, and has capped off his career as a consultant to Shermco Industries since 2020. “When Bob Ruxlow and I started Sigma Six, John had retired, so we had to get him to unretire and come to work for us,” says Greg Baughman, Co-Founder and former Vice President at Sigma Six Solutions. “It was like pulling teeth to get that done, but John joining the team was the best thing that ever happened to us.”

“I joined NETA — or what was NETA at the time,” White says. “NETA was in its infancy, so I’ve seen it go from brand new and struggling to where it is now — a premier professional technical organization.” In fact, he says NETA has grown and prospered to be of higher quality than any other electrical organization. “Some industry associations cover a wider array of electrical areas, but if you break it down and look at the areas they cover that correspond to areas NETA covers, NETA has grown over the years to far surpass all other organizations in those areas.”

White has served on the NETA Board of Directors since 2002. Even as he fought through lung cancer and eased into retirement, he continues to serve on multiple NETA committees, including Finance Committee chair and Board Treasurer, a position he will turn over to a newly elected officer in June. He plans to stay invested in NETA’s success by continuing to serve on the Member Review Committee. 

“When I was elected to the Board, I had known some of the older Board folks for many years,” White remembers. “Guys like Rod Hageman, Al Peterson, and Charlie Blizard had been there for decades, and I had met them several times before I joined. Ken Bassett was President when I joined, and he personally helped me understand the process, procedures, rules, and who does what and why. I also give Ron Widup a lot of credit for my growth on the Board. I quickly became the Finance Committee Chair, and the PowerTest conference was our largest source of income, so as the Conference Chair, Ron was very important to the success of my work in finance.”

Bev and John with Their Three Grandchildren

White thinks his biggest contribution as Finance Committee Chair for about 20 years was setting a reasonable and profitable budget, reporting progress at Board meetings, cutting costs when necessary, and contributing to the procedures and policies associated with finance. “If I were to be deemed successful,” he says, “I would say it is the team we assembled that deserves the credit. When you assemble the right team, it is hard not to be successful. If you choose the right people to work with, you get the right things accomplished. That never shows more factually than when you choose the wrong person. But you must temper all that with the fact that everyone has a talent, and if you can put that talent to good use, you win. Strive to combine talent with logical thinking, leaving emotion aside.”

NETA Board Member Scott Blizard, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Asplundh Electrical Testing, agrees: “John’s attention to detail and knowledge of finance has benefited NETA.” 

“John is somebody I have looked up to,” says NETA President Eric Beckman, President at IPS PowerServe. “He’s a smart guy, super analytical. He doesn’t say a whole lot, but when he does say something, you look around the room and the entire board is listening.”

“John grew up in Eastern Washington farm country, where he spent summers hauling hay bales. He was always very hardworking. After college, he went to work for Chevron, and ended up coming back to the West Coast and working for ETI,” says Elisabeth Moore, CFO of Sigma Six Solutions. “Through John’s leadership within NETA, he’s been able to help craft what the electrical testing industry has looked like and where we are today,” she says. “He’s enjoyed every minute of being on the boards that he’s been able to serve on and the people he’s been able to interact with and work with. I’m going to miss having a regular glass of wine with him.”

Widup recalls that John White and Jean-Pierre Wolff along with John Moore were pioneers back in the day of NETA at ETI. “These guys plowed the ground that is NETA today. Then John went on to Sigma Six and got unretired. I’d like to figure out how we could unretire you from NETA, too! Shermco ended up acquiring Sigma Six, so John had a Shermco email address for a few years. The contributions he makes and the clarity he brings to NETA Board meetings are going to be missed. We appreciate all you’ve done for the Association, and I appreciate all you’ve done for me personally. It’s an honor to stand up here and present this award to you.”

White and Wolff (owner of Wolff Vineyards) have known each other for more than 45 years. “We worked together at ETI,” Wolff says. “He is the perfect definition of a Professional Engineer, always detailed, and he took a very strong analytical approach to things, which translated well with his involvement with NETA. I will also take this opportunity to remind John that my wine cellar is always wide open for him.”

“I considered retiring 20 years ago,” White says, “then again when I received the second Outstanding Achievement Award in 2017. I kept postponing it because of the enjoyment I found working with these great people at NETA. NETA is made up of hardworking people who are dedicated to the Association and the cause. They don’t stop. They don’t give up.” 

White and his wife, Bev, have three children, one of whom has passed. They have enjoyed travel and now spend a fair bit of time visiting their three grandchildren. Family has always been important to him. They have stayed true to their values, keeping family and friends at the top of the list. 

Blizard says White is a Washington State guy and a closet Patriot fan. “He’s a well-respected professional with a dry wit and a consumer of fine wine. Laurie and I have shared many a meal with John and Bev, and we enjoy their company.”

“He doesn’t have hobbies,” Bev says, “really work, family, and football. That’s kind of it for him and not necessarily in that order. But he loves his work, and he’s really good at it. 

“Yeah, I’ve been trying to retire for quite some time, and my last task of getting that done is happening right now,” White said with a smile. “I’m going to miss a lot of the NETA folks. It’s a great, great organization. I’m thinking about Tim and Lyle’s comments about being involved with NETA for over 45 years. That’s me! Somebody asked me when I first met Lyle, and it might have been that first Dallas conference. It had to be in the late 70s. So having been involved for a long time, it’s hard to leave such a fantastic organization. Throughout my career, I’ve been involved in a lot of professional organizations, but none of them are the quality that NETA is.” 

“My enjoyment in everything I did in NETA came from knowing and associating with other members of the Board, and it’s hard to give up the camaraderie Bev and I enjoyed through all those years,” White says. “There were so many enjoyable gatherings that it is hard to pinpoint just one or two, and we have many friends we still see. A lot of firsts have occurred within NETA over the past 20 years, and they contributed to NETA’s success and to my enjoyment. Regardless of the ease or difficulty of completing the projects and events NETA had on its plate, it was almost always a joint effort by the Board members. The Board is a very congenial group, and we all enjoy working with each other.”

Bev and John at a Favorite Fall Activity — a College Football Game

“I would say to any young folks who are maybe new to NETA, “Get involved. Just try to get started wherever you can start and get involved and attend as many of the membership meetings and conferences as you can. It’s not just a technical education that you’re going to get. It’s friendships so there’s a social part to it, and it’s just something you will never forget throughout your whole life.”