Veterans in Water: Sweetwater Authority Shares Seven Stories

Tim Bratcher, Business Systems Programmer
Davis Doane, Plant Maintenance Supervisor
Valentin Martinez, Instrument and Control Technician III|
Javier Natividad, Field Crew Supervisor
Doug Roberts, Program Specialist
Arturo Tejeda, Principal Engineering Technician
Mike Wallace,Engineering Manager – Construction/Watershed Management

Name: Tim Bratcher
Title: Business Systems Programmer
Branch/years of service: Navy, 10 years, 8 months

What/who inspired you to work in water?
During high school I spent a day in the water treatment lab at Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado.  I learned about diatomaceous earth filtration, ozone disinfection, paramecium and other organisms found in water, fresh water wells, and the chemical process of treating water for beer production.  While in the Navy my interests were diverted away from chemistry to electronics and computers, but I eventually returned to the water industry.

What fuels your passion for your work?
Information technology is a field of continuous learning and keeping up with changes in the industry, especially in the area of cyber security.  As a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) I do my part to mitigate potential system vulnerabilities and protect business and personal information.  As a systems programmer I get to participate in improving business processes and create solutions to complex technical issues.

Why should veterans join this field?
Military veterans serve their country and there is some similarity to working in a public water industry where the service is to the local community.  Public water industries are operated by local government, and most still offer some kind of pension, which is especially good if a veteran has been discharged prior to completing 20 years of service to qualify for retirement.  Veterans are adapted to operating under strict procedures and regulations, which can be useful in the water industry where compliance with rules and regulations is required to produce a safe and reliable water supply.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
There are two main aspects.  One is helping others solve technical issues, or sharing knowledge with others to help them solve a particular problem.  When others learn from you, they show their appreciation, and we increase our collective knowledge as a team.  I also learn from my team members, which is satisfying and appreciated.  The other rewarding aspect is when the solution to a particularly difficult software or hardware problem is understood and reached by using effective troubleshooting skills, or a potential security vulnerability is discovered and remediated in the best way possible.


Davis Doane, Plant Maintenance Supervisor
Branch/years of service: Navy, 4 years. Left as AT3 (Aviation Electronics Technician Third Class Petty Officer)

What/who inspired you to work in water?
My wife saw the posting and suggested I apply for the job, which turned out to be a career.

What fuels your passion for your work?
As in the military you serve your country to protect the American way of life. The drinking water industry serves to protect the community with safe, reliable water. Both careers will give you the satisfaction that you are making a difference. I greet every day with a challenge of making a difference and I love my job.

Why should veterans join this field?
For a veteran looking for another family once transitioning from service, the water industry is a good fit. Almost any discipline learned from service can be implemented in the water industry.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
The satisfaction of making a difference at the end of the day.


Valentin Martinez, Instrument and Control Technician III
Branch/years of service: Navy, 10 years

What/who inspired you to work in water?
The water field is exciting and rewarding work.

What fuels your passion for your work?
Knowing the public depends on me to do my job is a great motivator.

Why should veterans join this field?
Veterans should join this field to continue serving their country.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Providing great quality drinking water to the community is very rewarding.


Javier Natividad, Field Crew Supervisor
Branch/years of service: Navy, 4 years

What/who inspired you to work in water?
I felt like that this could be a great opportunity to be a part of something important.  To supply water to the public was something that I wanted to be involved in.

What fuels your passion for your work?
The desire to produce quality work and to know that customers can depend on us is what motivates me.

Why should veterans join this field?
The training we received while in the military sets us apart, attention to detail and discipline are qualities that are essential in this field.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Knowing that we provide safe, reliable drinking water to the public is the most rewarding.


Doug Roberts, Program Specialist
Branch/years of service: USMC, 4 years

What/who inspired you to work in water?
My Dad told me to find an industry that will always be in demand and to develop a skill that is useful to that particular industry.

What fuels your passion for your work?
My bills.

Why should veterans join this field?
I think most veterans like the sense of comradery and stability.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
That I am a part of an organization that provides public access to one of our most valuable resources.


Arturo Tejeda, Principal Engineering Technician
Branch/years of service: Air Force, 6 years

What/who inspired you to work in water?
My brother-in-law had talked to me about working in the water industry and provided me with great insight into the work that is performed along with the available opportunities to grow in the industry.

What fuels your passion for your work?
Knowing that I play a role in the planning and design for providing safe and reliable water within the jurisdiction Sweetwater Authority serves which is also the service area that I live in.

Why should veterans join this field?
This field provides opportunities to exhibit team working skills learned from being in the service and this field also provides a great sense of accomplishment and ownership of work accomplished.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Working with developers/property owners on fulfilling their requests for water service.


Mike Wallace,Engineering Manager – Construction/Watershed Management
Tenure: 8 years at Sweetwater Authority; 6 years, 4 months San Diego County Water Authority; 14 years, 11 months at City of San Diego
Certifications held: licensed Civil Engineer, license Control System Engineer, licensed Land Surveyor, Certified Construction Manager, Qualified SWPPP Developer, Grade 5 Water Treatment Operator, Grade 5 Water Distribution Operator and am completing the Water Management and Leadership Certificate Program at CSUSM this semester
Branch/years of service: Navy, 3 years

What is your role?
My role at Sweetwater Authority is to manage construction projects that are contracted out as well as manage the reservoir caretaker group that maintains both the Sweetwater and Loveland Reservoirs and their fishing programs.  Projects consist of pipelines (up to 36” diameter); pump stations and water tanks.  I began my engineering career with the City of San Diego and worked on street improvements, water & sewer main replacements, reservoir replacements, water treatment plant upgrade & expansion and a water reuse study.  I then moved to San Diego County Water Authority where I worked on hydroelectric, pump station, pipeline and tunnel projects before coming to Sweetwater Authority.

What/who inspired you to work in water?
My uncle, a professor at San Diego State University at the time, convinced me to go back to school at SDSU.  He encouraged me to go into civil engineering because of the variety of work and the constant need for civil engineers.  When I was working on my bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, I really enjoyed the water classes and decided that I wanted to work in the water industry.  While in school, I was working on street improvement projects and was hired in the same group full time after graduation.  It took me a few years to be able to transfer to work on water projects and I’ve been working in the water industry ever since.

What fuels your passion for your work?
There is nothing more important to a community than providing drinking water.

What is the biggest misperception about working in water?
I think the biggest misperception about working in the water industry is that it’s boring or it’s easy.  My experience is that it’s interesting and rewarding.

Why should veterans join this field?
For many of the same reasons they joined the military.  You are doing something that is important to your community.  There is an emphasis on doing things right, integrity is important.  The facilities we build and operate need to last 50-100 years.  We make decisions every day that could impact someone’s life if mistakes are made.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Just knowing that every day I’m making a positive contribution to the community I serve.  I strive to optimize the projects and facilities I’m responsible for to ensure our ratepayer funds are being used efficiently.


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