October 15, 1999

Repairman to the rescue

Neil Michel/Axiom photo

John Najar knows the inside of mechanical closets in every building on the UC Davis campus—and he knows how to find them in the dark.

In fact, about a third of his 25 years on campus has been spent on swing or night shift, whether as a janitor in the early days or since then as a mechanical and electrical operations repairman.

A former helicopter crew chief for the Army during the Vietnam War, the Sacramento resident had his eye on Davis when he got out of the service. He started by cleaning buildings on campus while going to school at Sacramento City College, where he studied industrial mechanical electrical technology.

After just a few years, he advanced to repairing the campus lighting system and related circuitry for three years. Since then, for nearly 20 years, he’s been with the electrical maintenance unit, solving mechanical and electrical problems.

"I use my voltage tester like my right hand anytime there are problems," Najar says, explaining that many mechanical problems are related to lack of electricity. He’s often called by the Fire Department to check on fire alarms to see if a faulty detector is the problem.

And he runs into other campus night workers—many working late in labs—who are surprised to see him walking down the hall.

"They think it is unusual to see workers out after midnight but I tell them, ‘Although the doors may be closed, this campus doesn’t stop running. It’s our job to make sure everything is maintained properly."

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Dateline UC Davis is the faculty and staff newspaper for the University of California, Davis.