Celebrating Black History Month: Corporate trailblazer always driven to do better

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Friday, February 23, 2024
Black History Month: SoCal exec's drive led to rise at Bechtel
Bechtel senior vice president Kelvin Sims is helping spearhead a project that should bring some relief to Southern California's congested roads.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- For Black History Month, Eyewitness News is highlighting trailblazers in the Southern California community.

Kelvin Sims says he's always challenging himself to do better. That strength helped him rise to senior vice president at Bechtel, one of the largest companies in the world. And it's where he's working on a project that could bring big relief to SoCal's congested roads.

Sims says when he first got to Bechtel, some great mentors helped him along the way.

"Shirley Douglas was the first African-American project manager at Bechtel," he recalls. "When I was hired as a college hire she took me under her wing. There are many people that didn't look like me, that helped me become who I am. Just like my mentor did who happened to look like me, but it was others who embraced me that took me in and included me for who I was as an individual."

Many people might not know what Bechtel does but the company builds a lot of the things you see around you. Major projects, including airports, water systems, mass transit and more.

"When I stepped into 50 Beale St. our headquarters (in San Francisco), there was nobody that really looked like me and it was for me to say that I want to change this, I want to make a difference," says Sims.

His first field assignment was in Kuwait right after the Gulf War. The company was putting out the massive oil fires and he is proud that he and his team helped restore Kuwait to its pre-war levels.

He was also sent to China for several years. Now he's back in California.

He is working on the massive Sepulveda Transit Corridor which would connect the San Fernando Valley to Los Angeles International Airport and the Westside via public transportation lines. It would move 120,000 people a day - keeping them off the congested roads.

"It's just incredible when you think about it - actually going from the valley to the Westside and to be able to do that in 20 minutes," says Sims.

He says for all these years it's always been a partnership with his wife - moving everyone all over the world for years. They both say family values are very important,

"When he started moving around, especially going out of country, our children were very small, they were toddlers. So our first move as a family, our youngest was 3 and our oldest was 4," says Pamela Sims.

Her husband adds: "Family values are very important to the company and we do these things together."

Sims says after all these years, there are still challenges and it's always about helping people.

"How do we do better? It's about doing better, so without a challenge there's no opportunities. So we embrace the challenge."