After 50 years with C.S. Davidson, John Klinedinst’s retirement comes with a caveat
John Klinedinst, PE, likes to say he grew up at C.S. Davidson.
He worked his way from a wet-behind-the-ears college student on a surveying crew to CEO. Since his hire in 1970 as a part-time surveyor, he earned his engineering degree and became a licensed civil engineer. From there, he became a vice president and ultimately became the CEO.
“I got a lot done during my time here that a lot of people don’t get to do their entire lives,” he said of his time with the firm. “It was a very good career.”
Now, John has decided to retire, but that retirement comes with a caveat – he’s staying on part-time as a consultant to continue managing the client relationships he developed over decades as one of the most well-known and public-facing engineering executives in the York area.
Those relationships are a big part of why he’s staying involved. Many clients he has brought on to work with C.S. Davidson have become good friends.
Another reason for his continued involvement is that he does not want to leave behind the friends and colleagues he works with at C.S. Davidson. While he has worked on project after project with the firm, his proudest moments and best memories are of seeing people he has managed grow into mastering and moving beyond their roles.
The long and winding road
John was still in college when he started working for C.S. Davidson. One day, while pursuing his undergraduate mechanical design degree at Penn State York, he drove past a construction site and saw a C.S. Davidson survey crew. He recognized someone he knew from the bowling alley at the job site and decided to stop and chat. That day, May 4, 1970, he was hired as a part-time employee who spent his time pounding in stakes and learning more than he thought possible about surveying.
He continued his education, earning a bachelor’s degree from Penn State Harrisburg while working part-time for C.S. Davidson in the summers, holidays, and Thursdays when he didn’t have a class to attend. When he graduated, he was interviewed for a project management position and was hired full-time in 1973.
When he started, his earliest projects were sanitary sewer projects. He learned a lot in a hurry. His degree was in water resources engineering, so he knew plenty about water and wastewater but had never been in the field with a contractor. Needless to say, there was a steep learning curve.
As the firm dove into more municipal engineering work, John started to represent numerous municipalities as their engineer of record. Wrightsville Borough was one of his first municipal clients, and after a 50-year working relationship, he ended his tenure as its engineering representative in December 2023. With more municipal client representation and management work on his plate, he was doing less and less design work. At his peak, he represented eight municipal clients from Boroughs and Townships to Authorities and a County.
The project manager joins the C-Suite
Around 1985, John began his journey into corporate management and leadership. By the late 2000s, he was a senior vice president. Then, he became the chief operating officer. Finally, in 2008, he was elected CEO after a roughly two-year transition period, taking over the helm from Dave Davidson, Jr., PE.
John went to work assembling his senior leadership team, including Dave as chief financial officer. As soon as things were in place, the bottom dropped out of the economy as the major economic downturn known as the Great Recession took hold. Any plans he had for growing C.S. Davidson were shelved as the focus became survival and what meager new business could be found.
The company weathered the storm but dropped from 125 employees to 75 through attrition, departures, and layoffs.
“We really went after controlling our expenses as revenue had dropped,” John explained. “We made many tough changes to reduce expenses, and it worked. The company stayed healthy, and we got through those difficult years.”
A more positive milestone of his tenure as CEO came from the firm’s proprietary online software suite for managing public works assets and municipal permits known as CS Datum. The idea for it was conceived during the recession by Chief Administrative Officer Jordan Good, who at the time was a bridge engineer and, like most of the staff, had little work to do. Jordan was interested in IT and software and asked John if he could use company time to develop an app.
“We never thought it would take off like it did,” John said. “But it did, and now the software is a substantial portion of the firm’s business. It was a wonderful investment of time and one of the few good things that came out of that period.”
A lasting legacy
While John is pulling back from much of his work with C.S. Davidson, he’ll continue to help the relationships he cultivated thrive. While he won’t miss the meetings and deadlines of his former company position, he’ll be busy with many meetings required by the eight nonprofit boards he serves.
From the Salvation Army York to the WellSpan Population Health Board and York County History Center, to the Solid Waste Authority, Downtown, Inc., and numerous committees, John has been serving nonprofits selflessly for decades.
“Every organization is different, but they all have a similar structure – they have a mission, a vision, and an impact,” John said. “I learn something from every board and hope I add value to them. I’ve been grateful for the many opportunities to serve this community, which has given me so much in return.”