What made you want to volunteer for a boardmember position with HWEA?
I was actually too scared to volunteer for the position! I started off in the Public Education Committee and attended board meetings for many years. I was interested in learning more about the organization and how all the parts fit together – between the different committees, the annual conference and the various activities that happen throughout the year. I did not know if I would be up for the challenge but I gained the confidence to accept when I was nominated and realized that there were other Young(er!) Professionals on the board.
Having the chance to sit on the board was a very special opportunity for me as I really like the people at HWEA and love how open-minded and encouraging they are about new ideas and projects. If you have a good plan and a reasonable budget, they will often support it and find ways to help make it happen. Since we are a smaller member association, there are also more openings for younger people to get involved in so it was a great way for
me to gain some leadership experience.
How would you like to see the HWEA grow?
I would like HWEA to grow into a more efficient and self-sustaining organization that will be able to provide consistency for its members and can gain momentum even when there is turnover in the volunteers and leadership. Part of this service to our members inevitably includes recruiting new people into the water industry. Recruiting and training new water professionals will fill the understaffed areas and allow the leadership to focus on more organizational-wide initiatives.
How did you get involved in the water industry and how has your career evolved?
My career in the water industry started inadvertently when I volunteered as a teenager at a wetland which sat at the headwaters for the city’s main drinking water reservoir. My uncle told me about the opportunity because he knew that I enjoyed the outdoors. I was eventually hired to lead walking tours for school groups and the public, and taught them about the history of the area and would catch and count bio-indicators in the ponds. I also conducted some water quality sampling of the river in anticipation of a large road that would be built across the nature sanctuary.
During college, I planned to later pursue wildlife conservation or environmental law for underserved communities. However, after taking a photovoltaics class out of curiosity, I spent a couple years in the solar power industry and fate led me to a job offer as an environmental consultant with a civil engineering firm. I never imagined that I would work (or survive) in the infrastructure sector! Over a decade later, I have learned so much about environmental regulations, environmental planning and engineering. Most of my time has been spent doing monitoring for a storm water management program and now I am getting more involved in the public education and outreach side.
I find it a bit ironic, and inspiring, that one of my first jobs was working in a giant, natural water treatment device. I knew that wetlands are great places that should be protected, but in my youthful ignorance, I did not quite understand the complexity and power they contained. I certainly did not comprehend the full worth and service that it provided, nor what would happen if it were altered or paved over. Twenty years later, I am working on the other end of the spectrum as a consultant, and have gained so much insight about the value of water resources and many factors that have to be considered when planning and implementing development.
What do you like most about the water industry?
The beauty of the water industry is that it offers a diversity of job types, and if you are working to improve the water environment, you are inevitably helping everyone! People, animals, the economy – you name it – most activities and businesses somehow depend on access to clean water. Water is Life. If we prioritize and manage our water resources properly than we can structure the remainder of our communities and systems and around it.