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FARMINGTON – John Byrom, president and CEO of  DJ Simmons Inc. since 2001, plans to step down as head of the independent oil and gas company.

Byrom has been with DJ Simmons for 22 years. Byrom said the pain caused by the downturn in natural gas and crude oil prices on the commodities market has caused him to change directions.

"I'm down to weeks or months as CEO, but before I leave, I'm going to be staying here to help the company transition," Byrom said. "We've been bare bones in terms of well operations at minimum cost just to weather this storm. At least at this point, it makes sense for me to be moving on. It's been extremely hard. When I tell people I've been through the five stages of grief, at this point, I think we're all clear what needs to be done. I'm ready to move on to a new career and one that hopefully doesn't carry quite the burden like this one."

Before the collapse of oil and gas prices in 2014, DJ Simmons had a dozen employees. The company is now down to three office employees, one field technician and a part-time engineer.

"What it's been like is a never-ending, continual downward spiral that sums up the story of DJ Simmons of the last year," Byrom said. "In the last couple of years, it's been a grueling road for me, and it's certainly taken its toll. It's been hard on the company with layoffs."

Byrom insisted that DJ Simmons will survive and that natural gas and crude oil prices will bounce back.

Byrom has overseen partner development, capital projects and strategic planning at DJ Simmons, and has also been active on boards, including the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and Four Corners Economic Development.

"Most likely, I'll be in the hydrocarbons industry, whether I work for oil and gas, pipelines or chemical plants, like petrochemicals," he said. "When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut or build aircraft. But I think I will look at the hard-earned knowledge I have built up and make a choice."

He said his family and his faith may help keep him in San Juan County. Byrom and his wife, Stephanie, have two college-age children and a third child who is a freshman at Farmington High School.

"I thought I'd always be working here until I retired, but perhaps God has other plans," Byrom said. "I've always tried to stand up for what's right and make the Farmington area a better place to live, (DJ Simmons) a better place to work and defend an industry that has been unjustly attacked."

NMOGA President Steve Henkesaid he accepted Byrom's resignation from the NMOGA board, and said the organization benefited from his guidance and ideas.

"John was a great asset to us," Henke said. "He brought an on-the-ground perspective to policy discussions ... He's just a consummate professional. He's going to be missed on the board."

Merrion Oil & Gas Corp. President T. Greg Merrion said he has served on many boards with Byrom and considers him a good friend. They are also business partners. Together, Merrion and Byrom launched Twin Stars LTD, a Bloomfield-based oilfield service and natural gas compressor company.

"I consider John a good friend, in addition to being a business partner," Merrion said. "He's as good a person as you'd ever want to know. John is very open to volunteering in the community in which he lives, and very pro-oil and gas industry and a very good speaker. He's very intelligent, and he's got a very good sense of humor."

Merrion said he hopes Byrom stays in the area. Henke agreed.

"There's a lot of uncertainty in the industry across the board with the commodity-price environment," Henke said. "We'll wish John well, but he's too valuable to not be provided an opportunity here, and hopefully, he'll remain active in the area."

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.

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