Meet Supervisor Mark Watson

Anyone that knows Supervisor Mark Watson knows he is a level headed, even-keeled, kind of leader with an open door approach.  Having worked in the oil and gas world for over 39 years with 37 of them at the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission (WOGCC) one could say he’s seen a few ups and downs in his career. Undoubtedly, he has seen oil and gas history repeat itself more than once. 

Even when new situations arise, having that depth of background is critical.  “I can say that in all my years at the commission that I have never seen a perfect storm like this last one,” Watson said referring to the COVID-19 pandemic on the heels of the Saudi and Russia oil price war.  

“Yet, at the end of the day, it boils down to supply and demand.  We had too much oil and then we basically stopped using it.  That brought us to the $20 prices.”   

And though Wyoming has seen a few rigs return from touching an historical zero count, this Supervisor is optimistically cautious knowing that the market is still in a very sensitive and vulnerable state.  “Oil has recovered somewhat, now hovering in the mid $40 range; but a second-wave of the Coronavirus could deal a heavy, devastating blow to companies that are still reeling from the first round.” That vast knowledge plays critical when making decisions that could potentially have long-reaching implications.     

“You’ve seen these things a few times; you know what drives markets; so you aren’t caught off guard by the highs and the lows.  You have a pretty good idea on how to manage the WOGCC for the long haul,“ noted Mark. “There is always an opportunity to make knee-jerk decisions that have unintended consequences if we aren’t thoughtful and have some institutional experience.”   

On the other side of the coin, when thousands of APDs (Applications for permits to drill) were flooding the doors of the Commission during what became known as the “fight for operatorship,” there was ongoing pressure to beef up staff to meet the bustling demand at the agency.   However, Watson did as Watson does and took a measured approach.  “I’ve been through this too many times.  You hire staff and then something happens to change the market – just as we are seeing today.  Then you have to let folks go,” he said.  Instead, Watson brought in a contract engineer to fill the need.  “The engineer we contracted had retired from the Commission after working here many years.  He didn’t need training and could jump right in hitting the ground running.  It has really worked out well.”

Driving along King Boulevard or golfing at Three Crowns, you might see Mark walking the path between the WOGCC building and the Three Crowns Golf Course.  While some like to catch up on Facebook during work breaks, Mark likes to walk.  “I read somewhere that it is a great way to relieve stress.  For me, it helps sort out my thoughts when making decisions.“

And Mark has to make a lot these days.  Gone are the days when he worked as an engineer for the agency.  After 30 years on staff at the WOGCC, Mark was appointed by the Commission and approved by Governor Mead and again by Governor Gordon to lead the agency as the Supervisor.  “It has been an honor to serve the state in this capacity.  My years as a WOGCC engineer gave me the experience necessary to step into this position.” 

One of the first things Mark did was create a succession plan.  He developed a deputy position and promoted Tom Kroptasch, a geologist, who has been with the Commission about 15 years.  “He did a great job as the WOGCC’s Natural Resources Supervisor.  He was a natural fit for the deputy position,” said Watson.

Along with having foresight for the agency, Watson led the charge in updating several of the Commission’s rules.  He directed six rule changes and many policy changes to bring the Commission up to date with how the oil and gas industry is regulated.  To incorporate or change a rule, there can be over 30 steps, he noted.  “It’s not an easy process; and it is very time-consuming, which underscores how critical it is to get the rule right.  Rules can be long-lasting and can have long-lasting effects. “

Media calls and questions can be an everyday occurrence, especially when newsworthy events are happening.  Generally that can be at the busiest times around the office.  However, Mark is sensitive to the fact that reporters have immediate deadlines and that their printed stories equate to their livelihood.  Carving out time for a reporter, whether to do an interview or simply to just provide understanding is the norm.  Mark rarely refuses and when he does, it is due to lack of time.

He’ll joke that this is just the way he was raised.  He calls it Canadian manners.  Born and raised in Calgary, Mark moved to the United States in 1980 to pursue a degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Wyoming.  After graduating, he continued to maintain the many UW friendships and connections he made and now appreciates having these relationships working at places like the BLM and the DEQ.  Some became attorneys, while several became engineers and geologists.  Most live in Wyoming, others extend across the U.S., and some are in D.C.  

“It’s very helpful to work together for the betterment of Wyoming when you have those relationships,” he points out.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

A hands-on type of guy, he doesn’t micro manage, but he does keep up with the docket items every month.  A resource to the staff engineers, attorneys, and natural resources supervisor, not a day goes by that you don’t find one or more in his office discussing the upcoming matters making sure every “I” is dotted and every “T” is crossed before hearings day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

From the room temperature, to the sound system, and now to Zoom, it all needs to run smoothly.  And that brings us back to walks.  You may see him on the King Boulevard pathway despite the weather.  But if not, stop by.  His door is always open.