It is with sadness and pride CWEA says farewell and congratulations to Julie Taylor, our Director of Education, as she moves up to a new role as Executive Director of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Oakland-East Bay.
Julie first joined CWEA in 2000. Past CWEA Presidents, staff and members who worked with her said she is a leader who is conscientious, kind, professional and hard-working. Julie was instrumental in leading CWEA’s efforts to upgrade our programs by using new, 21st Century educational principles.
Her contributions are a great benefit to the association and we’ll deeply miss her. She has not only been a fantastic colleague, she has also been a true friend to many of us. Please join us in thanking Julie for her many contributions to CWEA and in wishing her great success in her new endeavor.
We had a chance to sit with Julie and reflect on her years of CWEA experiences.
What will you remember most about CWEA?
I think for me it’s all the people. I see CWEA as an extended family, all the different people I’ve met – the members and staff who are still part of my life even after they’ve left CWEA. I’m amazed at the convergence of all those different people from different backgrounds coming together to keep the environment clean.
Most associations are specific to a discipline – the association of engineers, or nurses or doctors – CWEA is a little unusual in that we have a wide breadth and depth of members and we cover people in many different fields. It’s inspiring to see them all come together within CWEA.
Some of my CWEA friends go way back – I’ve known a few people since I was 5 years old. Many of them are retired or have passed on. There are so many CWEA people I remember from when I was growing up in San Diego and Santa Barbara. As a kid I was going to the San Diego Section and TriCounties picnics. All those great people, Ron Sherer, Victor Acosta, Johnny Tarvver, Bill Moorhead, Steve Craig all those wonderful people I’ve known.
I grew up in the sector – I come from a CWEA volunteer family (Julie’s father Don Roberson is a wastewater consulting engineer). My Dad was always active in the sections and in CA-NV AWWA and CWPCA (CWEA’s previous name), so I grew up volunteering along with him and going to all the events.
I saw El Estero (Santa Barbara’s wastewater treatment plant) going in from the ground-up, my Dad was brought in to help build El Estero. I would go to the plant all the time and had no problem going there. Although, I never liked the sludge handling building, and it was the one that always seemed to have issues so we’d always end-up going there.
We had great BBQs at the plant. My friends were like “You’re going to eat at the wastewater treatment plant?” “Well, yeah! Victor made his beans and they’re BBQing, of course I’m going.”
Proudest CWEA achievement?
The project that set us up to start working on 21st Century Education is the SSS WDR (Sanitary Sewer System Waste Discharge Requirements) work in 2006-2009. We looked at how to conduct the training using adult learning principles and I was able to bring in some experts and we brought adult learning techniques into CWEA for the first time.
To teach members about the new State Water Board database we developed case studies for a fictitious city called Philpot and we turned the session into an experiential learning environment. The case study kept going wrong – from a minor spill to a major one as the day went on. We took them through 4 different scenarios while they were on the computer working inside a sandbox that mirrored the State database.
I’m really proud of that, I think that propelled CWEA to think differently about training. Moving from sage on the stage where someone is just talking at you and showing screenshots of a database – to letting our members work inside the database, work together and solve the problem together. We moved to a facilitator led training.
We had a true partnership with the State Water Board working with Eric Maag – he attended the betas, he served on our subject matter experts group and we conducted train-the-trainers with their support. It was CWEA’s first foray into delivering content consistently across the state and using adult learning models.
People were really engaged and it was really amazing. We trained over 1,200 people in only 9 months. I really wanted to make sure our members learned the process because there would be fines and NOVs (Notice of Violations) if they didn’t get it right. It was important for all of us to get this educational program right.
How has CWEA changed over the 16 years you’ve been here?
When I started CWEA had a staff of 8 and today we have 16 staff members. We had 6,400 members back then and today we have 9,800. We embarked on a membership initiative in 2002 and that’s when we developed local section memberships. So much has changed, we’ve grown so much. We went through the SSS WDR process and that really encouraged membership, regulations have driven many of our initiatives and growth.
Sadly, we’ve seen a lot of great members pass away as well. The generation that built CWEA is retiring or has passed away – Ken Kerri, Jeff Salt, Victor Acosta, Ron Sherer, Steve Craig, Tom Cook. Those people were so active in the 70s, 80s and are no longer with us. They made such a mark on the organization. We have a great new group of people coming in and it’s always a challenge to merge the old with the new and bring them together.
What’s unique about working with wastewater professionals?
The thing I always go back to – I think wastewater professionals are a salt of the earth kind of people – they are very humble, very hardworking group. I hear so many of them say “I’m just a collection system worker” or “I’m just a lab worker” and I would really love to hear that change in the future. They are part of an important cycle of environmental protection for California and beyond. California is the battleground for new ideas and innovation and what happens in California eventually goes nationwide.
Our members are such a hard working group of professionals, but because it’s a job in the sewers it can get a bad rap. I’d like to see that change – wastewater professionals do so many good things.
They’re a friendly and forgiving group to work with as well. During events I’ll hear from the hotel staff “Oh your people are so nice.” “They are just such a kind and caring group.” In our sector the egos don’t get in the way of moving the profession forward.
Strangest CWEA experience?
I’ll miss working on events, but I won’t miss the late night phone calls when something goes wrong. We were in Sacramento a few years ago and I get a call that the security guards have not arrived to guard the exhibit hall overnight. I was up until 2am trying to get security guards over there. It was crazy, lots of crazy stories like that.
There was the time in Palm Springs when the chef hadn’t cooked the steaks long enough for the awards luncheon. They came out looking like steak tartar. That was wild. Everybody was coming up to tell me and I just said send it back. Our members saw it wasn’t CWEA’s fault and they were so kind and forgiving. I expected people would want their money back but no one did. Not one person asked.
Back in the 1980s the incoming President hosted a toga themed party. I remember I was in high school attending the conference with my Dad. He came back to the room “Do not go down there, do not leave the room to go to the party.” I heard later it was an off the charts kind of party. A few years later we developed new policies and changed with the times. No more togo parties, we have entertainment and conduct policies now.
Anything else you wanted to share?
I so appreciate working with my staff. I’ve worked with Serena Miller (CWEA’s Meeting Planner) for 11 years now. The people on my team have given their all and I’m going to miss them and miss working with them. They have all the knowledge, skills and abilities to make the association successful and I am going to miss working with them every day.