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NWSEO Member Spotlight - Clair Ketchum


Clair Ketchum, Lead Meteorologist in Elko, NV

(March 14, 2024) On my very first day at the National Weather Service (NWS), I was approached by the Union Steward of my office from the National Weather Service Employee Organization (NWSEO). After he took the time to explain all the benefits of joining the union, I signed up immediately! What impresses me with NWSEO is that they not only represent 4,000 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) employees and our working conditions but also give us a voice at the congressional level and actively help design the future of the NWS. Being part of the incredible NWS mission and serving on key teams as a representative for NWSEO that negotiates how to achieve our mission has been an amazing experience.   


What has NWSEO done that has impacted you the most?


I was fortunate to have been selected as the NWSEO Representative to work on two national Operational Workforce Analysis (OWA) teams in 2014-2016: the Fully Integrated Field Structure and the Organization Workforce Teams. Seeing many of the suggestions implemented, and watching NWS Director Ken Graham even further the goals we championed, has been very rewarding. I’m proud of the accomplishments we achieved. 


I am also a Korean-American and have dealt with incidents of implicit, or even targeted, bias throughout my life. It definitely worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. They worked with me to understand the choices I had to combat the ongoing issues and assisted me every step of the way with my choices. I do not believe I could have continued in my job successfully without NWSEO’s support. Navigating these kinds of issues can be challenging and difficult. NWSEO “had my back.”     


What does Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) mean to you?


Not only has NWSEO helped the NWS grow in ways that have assisted our careers, but I believe it has also contributed to the NWS growth in DEIA. As an Asian American, I was especially proud when NWSEO elected a Pacific Islander as our Vice President. She is now the NWSEO President! Growing up in the military, my family was always around other Americans with different backgrounds, cultures, and ways of life. We accepted each other. Though there are examples of poor race relations in the military, Colin Powell (US Army) became the first African-American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Eric Shinseki (US Army) became the first Asian-American four-star general. Today, we have General Charles Brown (US Air Force) as the second African-American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Lisa  Franchetti as the first female Chief of Naval Operations, and the first woman to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I am gratified that NWSEO shows from the ranks through its top leadership how DEIA is a strength and can be used to improve everyone’s lives through understanding and empathy.


What’s your experience working within the NWS?


I’ve had a number of great learning experiences working in multiple offices with climate, hydrology, fire weather, winter weather, Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) and Graphical Forecast Editor (GFE) systems administration, Impact-Based Decision Support Services (IDSS) and research. I believe the sky’s the limit for anyone in the NWS willing to learn and passionate about helping others. 


As a retired National Guardsman, I’d also like to take this opportunity to give thanks to those in the NWS and NWSEO who helped support me during my time in the military. I was deployed for a year to Kosovo, seven months for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and untold months completing training with my military unit. Shift work can complicate matters if even one person is removed from the rotation, yet I felt completely supported by my office mates and the entire NWS. In fact, the (acting) NWS Deputy Director even sent me a care package and a wonderful note while I was in Iraq. Unless you go through something like this, it’s difficult to understand how important that support is. Thanks to all of you who support our Veterans.


-NWSEO-


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