By Peter Daniels
A quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition”.
As I write this, our organization is in the process of seeking nominees for the many awards that CSWEA and our state sections present each year. The CSWEA Call for Awards document that was recently sent out includes 14 different awards. The Minnesota section presents an additional 3 awards at the state level. With all the great wastewater and stormwater work that happens each year in our region, we have a great pool of individuals and organizations worthy of the recognition that these awards provide.
Not only do the awards provide recognition to people doing great work, but the awards can also be a way to introduce new people to CSWEA. This has commonly occurred with the Industrial Water Quality Award in Minnesota – three of our last four winners were not involved with CSWEA before they were nominated and selected for the award. As I think about new award nominees, in the past I have too often tried to identify individuals already engaged in CSWEA. For some awards, that is important (and may be required by the award criteria). But, for many awards, we can consider a broader group, and try to use the process to introduce CSWEA to a new group of talented professionals.
The Minnesota section has had many conversations about awards over the past couple years. A few examples:
We are all familiar with examples of how other organizations present awards, whether it be the Academy Awards, professional sports leagues, music awards, the Emmy’s, and so on. Recognizing key contributors to an organization or profession is a great way each year to thank each other for good work, share success stories and lessons learned, and be mindful of an organization’s purpose. It is also a way to build camaraderie – our office has an annual chili cook-off, and there is certainly pride taken in who gets the trophy each year.
I believe our awards program is also a key element of advancing CSWEA’s mission statement of “…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.” What better way to share experiences than recognizing the successes of our profession.
Although I don’t think the general public is quite asking for our awards ceremonies to be televised on prime-time TV like the Academy Awards (yet!), we can consider taking steps to create some excitement and buzz around our awards. The CSWEA Awards Banquet at the Annual Meeting is a good example of this. The new Awards Committee in the Minnesota section (if/when established) could work with the various award committees to come up with the best way to present our awards in an impactful way. If you have a suggestion on how to improve an awards presentation event, let me or one of our committee chairs know.
So, each year, let’s all take some time to think about potential award nominees and who in our profession should be recognized. I think a lot of people in our profession are happy to work hard and make a difference without requiring a lot of recognition, but telling their stories helps us provide value to CSWEA’s members and the public. It also shows our gratitude for good work. There are many water professionals in our region that do just what Abraham Lincoln spoke about.