MARK SAMS, PE, SE | Senior Engineer
Mark Sams, PE, SE, ACI, NH1, QC1, WAQTC, and the only engineer on the PND Engineers, Inc. roster that can season his alphabet soup with IMDb.
For the certification-challenged, Sams, who will celebrate his 10-year anniversary at PND next year while the company celebrates its 40th, has professional engineer (PE) and structural engineer (SE) licenses; has certifications in concrete field testing (ACI), in-service bridges safety inspection (NH1), and welding inspection (QC1); and is a card-carrying member of the Western Alliance for Quality Transportation Construction (WAQTC).
And on May 14, 2017, the day the DIY Network debuted Season 7 of Building Alaska on television, Sams added the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) to his collection of characters.
Despite being recognized “once or twice” in public for his turn on reality TV as Mark Sams, cabin builder, Freshwater Bay, he didn’t let the notoriety swell and eventually returned to his day job as Mark Sams, senior engineer, Juneau branch.
“It wasn’t a big deal. They were pretty easy to work with,” Sams said of the film crew in a recent interview with the PND Marketing Department. “It was a group of three of us, and it was fun to work with everybody through the process of building the whole thing. It was neat to see how the reality TV business works.”
Sams and two friends own the remote cabin, which is about two-and-a-half hours from Juneau as the boat flies. It’s perched on a slope and sits about 95 feet high above the water’s edge. The cabin was built in two weeks, which includes the time and labor spent transporting certain building supplies, such as the 32-foot 8x12 roof beams, by helicopter. The process was documented over eight episodes from May to June 2017. His dad, a marine structural engineer; an uncle; and a number of friends from near and far made the trip to Southeast Alaska for the televised build.
“It’s pretty bare bones – stove with an oven, wood stove, a couple of porches that we’ve built since” the end of filming, Sams said. “It’s pretty comfortable now.”
Sams is pretty comfortable these days. As he approaches his PND decennial anniversary, Sams has his work, his cabin, and another World Series victory to celebrate compliments of the Red Sox. The Bruins and Celtics are again competitive, and the Patriots are in their presumed place atop the AFC East standings. In fact, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the Patriots have won every AFC East title since Sams has played for PND. For his part, Sams watches almost every game.
The Boston sports scene, however, isn’t what’s crumbling the crackers in the Bellingham, Massachusetts, native’s clam chowder; Sams is recently engaged to be married. Her name is Joana de Vera. She’s from the Philippines, and she works as a technical support specialist for a cellular phone company.
De Vera, turns out, is not one of the “once or twice” to recognize Sams from television.
“I think I played one or two episodes for her, though I don’t think she was too impressed,” he said.
If she wasn’t impressed with Mark Sams, TV personality, she’s certainly impressed with Mark Sams, PND engineer.
From Massachusetts to the University of Maine, Sams was first introduced to the 49th state in the late aughts when he studied for a semester at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in a student exchange program. He received a transfer tuition waver, “so I decided to stay,” he said. “I enjoyed Fairbanks.” He answered a Craigslist advertisement his senior year at UAF for a vacancy at PND Engineers, Inc., interviewed with Principals Dick Somerville and Chris Gianotti over the phone, got the job, moved to Juneau, and has been an invaluable engineer at the firm spanning his entire professional career.
“I could tell Mark would be a good fit at PND Juneau because he was an avid hunter, fisherman, and hockey player,” Somerville recalled from their phone interview nearly 10 years ago. “What sealed it was when he described his active involvement in Arctic Man each year.”
Getting comfortable in Alaska, particularly Juneau, is a legitimate concern for anyone, said Gianotti, who has worked 25 years at PND, all in Juneau.
“We are always concerned if someone coming to Juneau will stay. Many do not like living here,” Gianotti said.
“I really like it,” Sams said of Juneau. “It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy being close to the water. I enjoy being on the water fishing and hunting, and it allowed me to pick up diving again.”
Sams scuba dives for king crab and hunts for deer; they’re “not as overwhelming” as hunting bigger game such as bear or moose, he says.
When he’s not in the water or on the water, he’s near it. Sams is currently involved with another project involving the downtown docks in the state capital on the heels of PND’s success with the Juneau Cruise Ship Berths project, which was named the 2017 Project of the Year at the 2018 Anchorage Engineers Week Banquet. Sams counts the cruise ship project among his favorites.
“I got to do some design work for the project and was involved in the field construction,” said Sams, who acted as chief structural inspector on Year 1 and resident project engineer on Year 2 of the job. “I was really happy to see a project I worked on go out to bid and be able to finish the project in the field with less than 1 percent changes; that’s pretty good for that size of a project.”
“Under Mark’s leadership, the project was delivered ahead of time and under budget,” the PND vice president said, calling Sams “instrumental” in the project’s success.
That’s crackerjack QA/QC for that SOW, IMHO.
Acronyms and initialism aside, Sams quite simply “has been a good asset for the PND office,” Gianotti said – for his star engineering and his starring role on television.
On Mother’s Day, 2017, Sams hosted a viewing party for his show’s long-anticipated TV debut.
“Although I was not able to attend the celebration, I have noticed some subtle changes in Mark since becoming a celebrity,” Somerville said. “He often shaves on Mondays and tucks in his shirt – or maybe he’s just trying to impress his new fiancée.”