CSWEA Chair’s Message




    “You Can’t Move Forward Without Looking Back.

    By James Kerrigan

    This is the last Chair’s message from me, and it really is bittersweet. We’ve done a lot and I personally have gained a greater appreciation for how much work goes on behind the scenes at CSWEA. I am in awe at the huge volunteer effort that has been put into CSWEA since its founding in order to make it a successful organization. I’m honored to be part of something that we can all be proud of.  Look back through the award winners and you’ll see the names of just some of the people who help make the industry great. But that is only a small sample. There are many other folks who don’t get the acclaim that have worked tirelessly within CSWEA. A big thank you to everyone who has helped me this year and I hope that going forward I can return the favor.

    A wise man once said, “I can see further now because I am standing on the shoulder of giants”, which is something I’ve come to appreciate more as this year has rolled on. We are fortunate to have this solid foundation to stand on and one that we will continue to build an even greater structure upon. It’s always fun to look back. Over this past year, we have had some ups and downs – at least that’s how I remember it. Here are some of the highlights.

    Ah, the good, what we always strive for, and I think we’ve had plenty. First, the operator training is rolling along well. This program is being administered by Mike Holland and led out of the IL. Section Operations Committee by Jason Neighbors.   In conjunction with the new (to Illinois) wastewater operator CEU requirements, the Illinois Section introduced the CSWEA Operator Training program in 2019.  In this inaugural year of the program, eight operator training events were held, which were attended by 95 different operators from upstate and downstate Illinois.  2020 has eight more events already on the schedule and interest in these is continually growing.  One of the highlights of this program is that the courses are being taught by certified operators, such as Jason Neighbors (Glenbard Wastewater), Luke Markko (Northern Moraine WRD), Shirley Burger (Village of Bloomingdale – Retired), Jake Callahan (Bloomington Normal WRD) and Mike Holland (Kishwaukee WRD).  It’s encouraging to see the interest and engagement from our operators. If anyone is interested in hosting an event or would like further information on the operator training program, please feel free to contact Mike Holland or Jason Neighbors. The next scheduled sessions are being held on March 12th in Algonquin, April 30th in Plainfield, May 27th at FRWRD, June 24th at NIU, and July 14th at the Kishwaukee WRD.  Hope to see some of you at the March session on maintenance Practices.



    Another highlight is the new venture that came from Stephanie Coni and the public education committee – the “Waters Worth It” essay contest. This is a very exciting initiative and one that has gained some national attention at the WEF level.  The essay contest evolves around the Illinois Section providing funding for grants to teacher and students for the best essays about our industry. The entries have been coming in fast and furious. Go to CSWEA.org under the news section for more information. It’s a great chance to get involved and help out. There are lots of essays to be scored and the extra help is always appreciated. Below is snapshot of the various schools that the committee has received submittals from so far. A question for you – is your local school on the map? Why not? This is an example that shows what a committee can do to fulfill its role and one that “does exactly as it says on the tin”. Way to go Stephanie!


    Essay Contest Submissions by Locations: IL Section Public Education Committee

    The not so good. There is always an opposite side to the good, or so the story goes. Not everything works as planned and one of the issues we always run into is timing. Scheduling continues to be a struggle. No matter how good a topic is, if people don’t attend success will be hard to come by. Timing really is everything. With all the various other seminars and conferences, the goal of finding the right combination of topics and timing is getting tougher to nail down. There are so many opportunities these days to go to a seminar or sit in on an online webinar that it can be a bit overwhelming to pick which to attend. With all these options all fighting for attendees, we have to do a better job of not just getting the word out, but demonstrating the advantages of attending our seminars. CSWEA is a great hub of information and a perfect starting point to find what’s available, and while it may be rough going at first, with persistence a good idea will grow to be a great one. So don’t lose hope, give it a chance to get going. Rome wasn’t built in a day, although I’ve read that it may have burned in one.

    The really not so good – I’ve said this before, but by our very nature we’re not what people immediately think about when it comes to infrastructure. The potholes people drive over every day are much more visible than the effluent we discharge from our facilities.  Fighting for funding is something we’ve got to keep doing.  We have to keep ourselves visible to get funding so that we can sustain and advance our facilities as they really fundamental for communities to grow and thrive.

    Alright, enough looking back, let’s look forward. As we continue our momentum as a section one of the main areas of success will continue to be the strength of our committees. We’ve seen some good growth in the Operations, B.E.E.R, and Public Education Committees, and we’re re-invigorating some of the others establishing a good path going forward. Committees are the backbone of CSWEA. Everything we do is through some sort of committee, so get involved in one that perks your interest. It’s easy to start and fun to be involved with. If you are not communicating about CSWEA to someone more than once a month, then you are not just missing out on good learning opportunity, but are missing a chance to be a part of something truly special. With your help we can keep the momentum going. Here is a quote from a famous Irish poet that I hope will help motivate you to get involved and get the most out of your section.

    “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”
    ― William Butler Yeats

    So as fun as this year has been this for me, it’s time to turn over the reins to someone that needs no introduction at CSWEA – Amanda Streicher. We all know Amanda will do a fantastic job based on her tireless work with CSWEA and GWS, and especially with Bob Swirsky backing her up, I know there are very exciting times ahead for the section. Please give Amanda and Bob as much help as you’ve given me. Of course, I’ll still be around if you need anything.

    As always stay tuned to CSWEA’s website for the next upcoming events, including the next section meeting in March. http://cswea.org/illinois/events/upcoming-events/.

    Go raibh maith agaibh as eisteacht liom, slan abhaile a chairde, tabhair aire.


    Mission Statement

    To provide a Water Environment Federation (WEF) organization (Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin) offering multiple opportunities for the exchange of water quality knowledge and experiences among its members and the public and to foster a greater awareness of water quality achievements and challenges.