About this series: Each month CWEA is interviewing innovative thinkers and leaders in the water profession. We’re asking each person “The future of the water profession is …”
Water Resource Recovery Facility Superintendent
City of San Luis Obispo
Howard Brewen took the road less traveled to his position as superintendent of the Water Resource Recovery Facility for the City of San Luis Obispo. Raised on his family’s ranch in north San Luis Obispo County, he followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, obtaining his trainer’s license, issued by the California Horse Racing Board, at the young age of sixteen. He was accepted to UC Davis, achieving a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science.
To pay for his schooling, Howard put his trainer’s license to good use: he purchased a seasoned race horse that had fallen by the wayside, rehabilitated him, and raced him each summer on the state’s fair circuit, earning enough money to pay the following year’s tuition.
Howard built on his success on the fair circuit, expanding his racehorse stable to the major tracks in northern and southern California, eventually managing sixty horses and thirty employees.
After 20 years of big city life, Howard wanted to get back to his roots and returned to rural living in Paso Robles where he tried something completely different: a nine-month temporary position with the City of San Luis Obispo in its Wastewater Collections department. The only stipulation was that he commit to the full nine-month term.
“I found myself sitting in a wastewater collection ditch, listening to other more experienced operators talk about the challenges associated with this industry. I realized that I had the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to the public sector. This is an important industry filled with really great people.”
Howard began keeping journals and memoirs of his work experience, saving them for the day when he would have the opportunity to help improve the methods and processes used in the industry. At the end of his temporary contract, he was hired as a permanent full-time employee in Wastewater Collections, obtaining a Grade 3 Certification. After two and a half years in Collections, Howard transferred to the Water Reclamation Facility (later renamed the Water Resource Recovery Facility) where he worked his way up to a Grade 5 Wastewater Treatment Operator Certification, eventually being hired as Facility Superintendent.
Howard is also a long-time CWEA volunteer serving this year on the annual conference Educational Program Team.
What do you believe is the future of the water profession?
I absolutely believe to my core that this is the most exciting time ever to be in water. Who wouldn’t want to be a water professional? It’s such an exciting time because a myriad of factors and information have come together, and aligned, and the public is becoming more aware of the importance of water.
We have a series of opportunities, not challenges, ahead of us. The unique set of circumstances such as the drought, infrastructure awareness, and safe drinking water have all led to a public awareness of water that did not exist before.
But we’re moving from a time of having separate processes for water and wastewater. There is only one water cycle and we are moving to the point of having only one water profession; one that will encompass all aspects of the water cycle.
Potable reuse is a tremendous opportunity. That train has left the station and is gaining momentum. It is up to those of us in water to take new innovations and technologies and understand how to adapt those to this industry in a timely manner. We have to get beyond the traditional fifteen years it usually takes to implement ‘new’ technologies.
The huge retirement numbers we are facing is another opportunity. First of all, we need to find a way to retain the knowledge currently being carried around in all of these brains. Second, we need to know what kind of person we need to hire, not for just right now, but to hire the skill set that we’re going to need for three to five years down the line. It is important not to just hire the same as we have done in the past.
Greetings fellow CWEA members!
I’m pleased to announce that the CWEA Supergroup Committee has a new name, Leadership Development Committee. There are new standing rules and objectives including supporting CWEA members to become effective leaders in their respective fields by providing training and development opportunities that build and expand skills for supervisorial and management roles, for embracing and managing change and for effective communications. This includes leadership skills that will translate into improved agency organization/performance. To meet these objectives, there will be leadership sessions at future CWEA Annual Conferences, Specialty Conferences, and Local Section workshops. I encourage the Local Sections to adopt the committee’s new name in place of their Supergroup Committee name and start promoting leadership development skills to their local members.
The Leadership Development Committee is still tasked with coordinating the state-level Plant of the Year (POTY) awards (including tours) and the Supervisor of the Year (SOTY) awards and is always looking for volunteers to assist with the judging.
At the Annual Conference in Santa Clara, the Leadership and Development Committee had our first breakfast meeting with 16 attendees! These individuals will be the core of our Committee and as we move forward they will be instrumental in meeting the Committees objectives. However, additional volunteers for the committee are always welcome! Topics at the breakfast meeting included what each person in attendance is looking for in developing leaders at their agency and developing their own leadership skills. We also discussed requiring the POTY winners to provide a judge for next year’s event. The Committee would also like to design a new lapel pin and logo for polo shirts. We will also be making changes to the POTY application and questions asked during the tours to streamline the process.
Karen Kubick, PE
Wastewater Enterprise Capital Program Director
San Francisco PUC
Value of WEF Membership Questions
“It’s so important for professionals in our sector to make connections, and WEF enables me to establish a peer group that stretches across the nation. I love WEF!”
1. How has WEF membership benefitted you and your career at SFPUC?
I joined in 1989, and one of my first experiences was presenting at the WEFTEC conference in San Francisco and I loved it! Throughout my career WEF has played an essential role – I’ve participated on several committees including working on the water reuse committee, and I attend WEFTEC every year.
WEF enables me to establish a peer group that stretches across the nation and across many disciplines – operations, finance, communications, and capital projects. It’s been wonderful for me and it’s turned out to be one of the most important groups that I’ve had the opportunity to join that enhances my career development.
In addition to networking, I think all the resources WEF brings to its membership are also important – such as, WEFCOM (online community); insider reports on critical issues; educational webinars, and technical publications.
2. What is the value of WEFTEC – WEF’s annual conference?
I think WEFTEC is a significant part of the association – it’s a chance to meet people from around the world, get to know them, and share ideas; more specifically a chance to spend time with your peer group and discuss common issues. The program is wonderful every year. Few people realize how big our sector is until they see WEFTEC – the sheer scale of it can be overwhelming and simultaneously inspiring.
WEF is staying ahead of industry trends and there are always so many interesting things going on at WEFTEC. All year long we’re preparing for the conference – from the ‘call for papers’ to getting our folks connected at WEFTEC. There are so many great SFPUC initiatives and WEFTEC is our opportunity to share them with other agencies.
We send representatives from a variety of backgrounds and departments and they’re all at WEFTEC working their angle. Some are there to see equipment and meet with the manufacturers or to discuss issues with them; while others attend to give talks, participate in workshops and network.
Everything is there at WEFTEC – all in one place. It represents where our industry is going. The new ideas, the new technologies – how people are tackling the challenges we face. If it is happening in our industry you’re going to see it at WEFTEC. Read more
Opportunity is knocking! Open the door!
Want to be a part of the Annual Conference and share your research or message with over 1,000 water and wastewater professionals ? Now is your chance! The 2011 Annual Conference Committee is gearing up and they want to hear from you! Here are the details you need to know…
The 83rd Annual Conference will be held in Ontario, CA at the Ontario Convention Center from April 12-15, 2011. This year’s theme is “One Water… One World” making the possibilities for presentations endless. You must submit your paper(s) no later than Monday, August 30, 2010 online to be considered. Need a jump start? Here are some sample abstracts to get you started. Here are the complete details and requirement how to submit your abstracts.
Inspired by the WEF YP Summit on Leadership in April 2009, the Students and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC) is proud to announce that the first SYPC Specialty Conference ever will be held Wednesday, March 24, 2010. This SYPC Specialty Conference is titled, “Planting a Successful Future: Cultivating Leaders,” and the goal of this event is to do just that.
In an effort to create a program that promotes and fosters growth and development of our leaders from the younger generation, we have gathered an energetic and engaging group of fearless leaders from CWEA to share their ideas and experiences with our future CWEA leaders.
Here is a quick look at the topics that will be offered at this inspirational event:
Planting a Successful Future: Cultivating Leaders
Effective Leadership: Adapting a Successful Formula for a Younger Profession
Jim Clark, Black & Veatch, WEF Past-President
Diversity in Leadership
Kathy Suter, CWEA Past-President
Maura Bonnarens, East Bay Municipal Utilities District, CWEA Past-President
The Beauty of Collaboration: Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Simon Watson, Orange County Sanitation District, CWEA Director
Bill Hunt, Orange County Water District
Endless Opportunities: Leadership for All Situations
Don Roberson, Roberson Water Consulting, CWEA Past-President
John Larson, Larson Consulting, CWEA Past-President
Climbing Up the Ladder: Perspectives from a YP and Their Mentor
Fran Burlingham, Brown & Caldwell, WEF Delegate Director
Steve Agor, Tetra Tech, CWEA Past-President
Closing Remarks: How CWEA Values YPs and How YPs Can Benefit Through CWEA
Elizabeth Allan, CWEA Executive Director
In keeping with the technologic and economic times, and in an effort to ensure that attendees in both the North and the South hear all of the great things our speakers have to share, we will be hosting and web-casting the conference simultaneously in two locations, one in the North and one in the South. Live speakers will be split between the North and South locations, and their presentations will be broadcasted live via web/video-conferencing to the opposite location. This will be CWEA’s first specialty conference ever to utilize web/video-conferencing, and we are very excited to be able to offer the same program at the same date and time in two different locations!
The brochure with additional conference information will be coming out soon, but in order to stay updated and for more information on similar events and activities for Students and Young Professionals, sign up for the Google Group database today by sending an e-mail to email@example.com with the subject as either “YP: Your Name” or “STUDENT: Your Name.”
We look forward to seeing you at the first ever SYPC Specialty Conference on March 24, 2010. Make sure to mark your calendars for “Planting a Successful Future: Cultivating Leaders.” This is one day you won’t want to miss!