This series about SoCal collection system leaders is sponsored by Plumbers Depot.
Wastewater Collection Supervisor
City of Oxnard
Certifications: CWEA CSM Grade 3
“I believe effort and attitude are important. At the end of the day I want to be able to say I gave 100% to my community – that’s going to help you get ahead. Get certified, get an education. Cities everywhere these days are expecting you to have a degree and your certifications.”
How did you get to where you are today?
I started off at Port Hueneme as a part-time wastewater trainee when I was 18 years old. I made about $6 dollars an hour and was part-time, I worked about 12 hours a week. It was a smaller city so I did a lot of different jobs and learned a little about everything. That’s when I received my first Grade 1 certification.
A few years later, an opportunity presented itself at the City of Oxnard and they hired me, I had just turned 21. Shortly after that I received my grade 2 and then 3. Someone then retired and I was promoted to a Senior Collection System Operator and about 3 years later I was promoted to Supervisor.
In 2000 I went to school to get my Associates degree in Water Science from Ventura College. We’re so lucky to have this great water program here. Now that my kids are older I’ve gone back to school and getting my bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Cal Lutheran University.
How did you advance to supervisor so quickly?
It was quick – it was all just hard work. I was really fortunate when I joined the City of Oxnard to be paired up with a mentor who had a great work ethic. I picked up on that. I believe it’s good to do your best at work and outside of work. I see it as trying to stay one step ahead of other folks. Give yourself that extra advantage any chance you get.
I’m always looking for that edge – what are other people doing and how can you stay ahead. That edge will mean you’re ready when the opportunity for a job promotion comes up. I’m not one who wants to sit back and wait for the opportunity to come to me.
What encouraged you to step up and become a leader?
It’s always been a goal for me. When I started working I had two jobs, I was working 15 hours a day, I really had to hustle. I had my part-time job as a wastewater trainee and was also working at UPS. I was trying to decide if I wanted to go into the public sector or private sector.
What I decided is I really enjoy serving my community. I was born and raised in Oxnard. When I had the chance to come home to Oxnard I jumped at it and decided to fully commit myself to public service. I went all in on serving the community that had helped to raise me.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Our system consists of 430 miles of pipe in a city that is rapidly growing. Several years ago we had some capacity and odor issues come up. We started to get a lot of complaints. Residents couldn’t have a BBQ in their yard because the smell was so bad they were telling us.
We were under pressure to get the problem solved quickly. We really needed to think outside the box on a solution.
CWEA networking really paid off and I was able to contact Robert Potter at the City of Los Angeles and reach out to the Orange County Sanitation District to get their input on odor control technologies. They made some great recommendations and we implemented this solution that is used by bigger agencies but not used anywhere in this area – we were the first.
It was really successful. We achieved odor reductions of 95%. It was night and day for those residents. Those residents became our biggest ambassadors, they were so grateful for the solution. We started off on the bad side of things but in the end we made a difference and helped improve their quality of life.
I’m also proud of our system performance. According to the State Water Board database we have one of the better records with < 1 spill per 100 miles. It’s something we work very hard on improving every day.
I work with a great team of people and I feel really fortunate to have such a great crew.
Best part of your job?
I think since we’re a coastal city there is a high potential for environmental impact or public health impact if there is ever a sewer spill. What we do helps keep the city and beaches clean and beautiful. When we do the right things, the local beaches can remain open – that’s rewarding for me.
Most of the work we do is out of sight and out of mind. When we do a good job nobody knows it, but we do.
What do you recommend to younger water workers who want to move up?
First, work hard. That will take you far.
Second, be open to change.
Always be looking for ways you can improve things. Don’t be happy with the status quo. You can improve yourself; you can improve your sewer system.
I believe effort and attitude are important. Have a good attitude everyday – those are things you can control. At the end of the day I want to be able to say I gave 100% to my community – that’s going to help you get ahead.
Get certified, get an education. Cities everywhere these days are expecting you to have a degree and your certifications.