Mike Kluse, the director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, told his employees Wednesday that he plans to retire March 31.
He has led the Department of Energy lab since being named interim director in January 2007 and permanent director in May 2008.
Battelle, which holds the contract to operate the lab, will begin a national search for a new director immediately, according to PNNL. “Mike has had a tremendous impact on the success and growth of the laboratory, and we are grateful for the strong leadership and vision that he provided to both PNNL and Battelle,” said Jeff Wadsworth, Battelle president.
PNNL has had the top annual grades or tied for the top annual grades among DOE Office of Science Laboratories under Kluse’s leadership the past seven years.
That’s one of the accomplishments he is most proud of, Kluse said.
He also oversaw most of the construction of seven new buildings on PNNL’s Richland campus, as well as work to renovate four older buildings on nearby Hanford land. The $300 million project was the largest construction project in PNNL’s 49-year history, and was needed to replace laboratory and office space being used at Hanford that had to be vacated to make way for environmental cleanup at the nuclear reservation.
“It really transformed the complexion of the campus,” he said.
PNNL’s budget grew from $750 million to more than $1 billion annually in the years Kluse led the lab, with funding coming from a broad array of agencies seeking research. PNNL expanded its research in grid modernization, nuclear nonproliferation, catalysis and other areas.
Dealing with uncertainties in the federal budget has been his biggest challenge, Kluse said.
PNNL has done all it can to ensure stable funding for science and engineering, including making sure it has the facilities and equipment for its staff to be successful, he said.
“It comes down to the performance of the lab,” he said. Continued top evaluations have helped ensure that the lab’s federal and other research clients continue to seek out PNNL despite a difficult federal funding environment.
He also has worked to maintain relationships with DOE leadership and those involved with DOE to help stabilize funding, he said. “Mike is a statesman who will be missed in the entirety of the DOE complex,” said Roger Snyder, the DOE Pacific Northwest Site Office manager.
PNNL has had a good year and Kluse chose “a good note to go out on,” Snyder said.
Ground was broken in April for a new Systems Engineering Laboratory, the first step in a 10-year campus strategy Kluse was instrumental in developing. “It is positioning PNNL for the future,” Snyder said.
Kluse will spend his remaining eight months at PNNL making sure the project stays on track for completion just after his retirement and developing plans to expand wet chemistry space.
He also will advocate for stable and growing funding for projects in PNNL’s diverse portfolio, which ranges from environment to national security to fundamental science research.
He gave notice of his retirement eight months in advance to allow Battelle ample time to line up a replacement. He has worked for Battelle for 38 years, the last 17 of them at PNNL.
“Battelle has been good to me. It is the least I could do,” he said.
Kluse, 62, and his wife, Gloria, plan to continue to live in the Tri-Cities for the foreseeable future and remain engaged in community organizations and causes. His first goal in retirement will be to decompress. Then he and his wife will decide what to do next, but he does not plan to take another job, he said.
Kluse is a board member of the Washington Roundtable and the Washington Technology Alliance. In the Tri-Cities, he is chairman of the Tri-Cities Development Council board of directors and serves on the Washington State University Tri-Cities Advisory Committee.
Kluse spearheaded Battelle’s leadership roles in the development of Delta High School, the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center, the Tri-Cities Research District and other projects. Battelle gave $2.5 million to the Reach, which opened earlier this month, and Kluse was co-chairman of the center’s Capital Campaign Steering Committee.
“He has been able to relate so well to people in the community,” said Carl Adrian, TRIDEC president. “He has the history to understand the community.”
Battelle is such an important corporate citizen in the community that TRIDEC hopes the next PNNL director will have the same community commitment, Adrian said.
PNNL is the largest employer in the Tri-Cities, with 4,367 workers.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been privileged to collaborate with and lead incredibly hardworking and talented people with a desire to make an impact on the challenges facing our nation,” Kluse said. “I have no doubt that PNNL will continue to solve national challenges through its discovery and innovation well into the future as they have now for nearly 50 years.”
-- Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @HanfordNews