“A Wisconsin Girl as the Illinois Section Chair!”
By Amanda Streicher
Could 2020 get any more weird? While I’ve been a part of the IL Section for 4 years now, it still seems like just yesterday I was the WI Section YP Chair. Time flies when you are having fun, and I am looking forward to my year as IL Section Chair with this great group of people.
To not dwell on the obvious, I won’t write about the pandemic… too much. Clearly, this virus has taken everyone for a surprise and sent the world on a new tangent from the direction we thought we would be heading. It goes to show no matter how much of a planner you may be, there are always challenges where you have to think on your feet — Such is 2020.
While working to protect others and striving to keep the Covid cases low in Illinois, large gatherings are not permitted. This is the best opportunity to keep everyone safe, but it influences interactions within our highly social industry and the CSWEA community a great deal. Typically, by this time of the year, the IL section has put on several meetings and seminars. With all of these events being postponed, canceled, or moving to a virtual event, we have had a light conference year. However, our Operations Committee has done an outstanding job on keeping those trainings moving in a virtual sense with hardly missing a beat! Kudos to Jason Neighbors and all of his committee members!
As some things seem to be slowing down, such as hosting in-person events, other things are really starting to pick up. I have noticed an increase in communication across our industry and within our section. We are coming together more now on how we can continue to educate and inform our members of the amazing and interesting advances in our industry. Everyone is making an effort to reach out to one another and connect over topics of similar interests, and I think this is bringing our section closer together, while we stay 6 feet apart.
Virtual may be the new reality, but absence makes the heart grow fonder. Thankfully, we are able to communicate with everyone and share our ideas in a virtual way; unfortunately, we are missing that personal interaction. The IL Section has always done a good job of putting on all of the seminars, meetings, and fun S&YP outings. The shift to virtual events has allowed our section to have opportunities to continue educating our industry, however reinforces the joy that is being missed by not being with everyone in person. The virtual events do a fantastic job of relaying information, but general comradery is missed. I challenge the IL section to come together during our virtual events and not only educate and be taught, but to remember to keep things lively and personable. We are living in a world of separation and seclusion; let us work to bring our fun-loving personalities that we would share at our in-person events to the virtual meetings.
This year’s annual meeting’s virtual display allowed the entire organization to attend the same wide variety of educational sessions that would have been given at the in-person event. It presented opportunities to initiate discussions with speakers during their sessions, virtually meet with vendors, and interact with all of the industry professionals on the ‘exhibit hall floor’. There was a big push during the conference to provide education, as well as to maintain those industry relationships between everyone at the conference. I think this platform was a great start and a great way to bring those two necessities of our organization together. I am grateful for the efforts this organization takes to maintain those standards, and I feel the IL Section can do the same with our shift to virtual events.
I am looking forward to seeing how our section adapts and takes on the challenges that have presented themselves in 2020. I believe we have the desire to provide education and the means to virtually do so. I believe we have the relationships within our section to keep in close contact while we stay socially distant. I believe we have the strength to come together over these strange and ever-changing times to continue to provide safe water for all of Illinois. I am looking forward to my year as Section Chair and say ‘Bring it on 2020’!