One of my favorite movies is “Moneyball”. No spoilers here, but the general manager of the Oakland Athletics is faced with an existential crisis and must develop an innovative approach to stay relevant and compete. Trust me, nobody here is going to confuse CSWEA with the Oakland A’s and nobody (other than Amy) is going to mistake Mohammed Haque for Brad Pitt but I was struck by how smoothly the Central States Water Environment Association’s 93rd Annual Conference went off. Haque and Associates, the Technical Committee, and the Minnesota LAC converted from an in-person to a virtual Annual Conference in a matter of a six weeks. Quick action, open-mindedness, and hard work helped ensure CSWEA remains relevant and solvent. Sure, there were technical glitches and lessons learned along the way but from the technical sessions to the WEF update from our “visiting” representative, Lynn Broaddus’ (WEF President Elect and CSWEA’s very own), the show went on.
I want to congratulate all the incoming CSWEA executive committee officers, nothing like coming onboard during a pandemic! Thank you to Doug Henrichsen, Jane Carlson, the rest of the executive committee for their efforts this year. I also want to extend a special thank-you to Amy, Mohammed and their team, who have worked tirelessly to change gears, learn new systems, and take risks to make lemonade out of a year full of lemons. To say that 2020 has been a challenging year would be a gross understatement. Regardless, once again, Central States led the way by producing a virtual annual conference that included a robust line-up of technical sessions. Making this “show go on” was an enormous undertaking. Special thanks go out to Emma Larson and the members of the technical committee for their hard work reviewing abstracts and arranging over 50 remote technical presentations. Innovative efforts like these will keep CSWEA solvent, relevant, and essential in our ever-changing world.
I want to congratulate Doug for navigating CSWEA through this most interesting year. I also express my deep gratitude for his willingness to go into overtime and serve an additional three months as President. Doug, this officially makes you the longest serving Central States president in history! Now in turn, this will likely make me the shortest serving Central States president in history. And for this I am certain you will all be grateful. I look at it as a positive, it is hard to impeach somebody in only nine months!
This organization is filled with people to whom I owe a great deal of thanks. There is not enough time to mention them all, but I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge a few of the special ones that helped me along the way. Scott Trotter introduced me to Central States and pushed me to get involved when I had no idea what the difference between CSWEA/IWEA/WEF/IAWA even was. Eric Lecuyer, for growing and championing Central States for decades. Eric, we are taller because we stand on your shoulders. Amy and Mohammed Haque who picked up the baton and gave Central States leadership and vision when it needed it most. Beth Vogt and Randy Wirtz, who been great role models and the very backbone of this organization. Mike Holland, my favorite millennial, who has been along for this ride every step of the way. And of course, Tim Tack, who lowered the bar just enough to where an individual like me could ascend to a leadership role. Just kidding, Tim, you have supported Central States as much as anyone while making it fun and rewarding.
The COVID-19 pandemic and our national response is nothing short of a human and economic calamity. It is safe to say, its full effect will not be known for years. The ills, inequities, and misplaced priorities of our society have been laid bare for all to see. If you are unaware of this, I challenge you to go to your school district’s FB page and see if you can get through the first five comments without someone referring to someone else as Hitler! I believe we are witnessing a societal reset. I also believe this reset will provide us with a once-in-a-career opportunity to truly “reassess” and “revalue” our roles as wastewater professionals. Sanitation is essential, it is the “blocking and tackling” of a functioning society. Operators, engineers, regulators, equipment manufacturers and representatives (all members of Central States) are front and center, and now more than ever “essential”. I hope you all take pride in that, and let it shape your work toward enhancing our environment and society.
I am incredibly encouraged by the good work our members are performing under this dark cloud. I am inspired by the acts of growth, innovation, and leadership from our members. Our members are in virtual classrooms educating students and researching and testing wastewater to determine where the next COVID-19 outbreak is festering. Our members are volunteering their time to bring sanitation to people they do not even know living in underdeveloped countries. We are certainly not perfect. We have a long way to go and there is of course room for improvement. We can and should aspire to fully embrace diversity, with goals to better reflect the communities we serve. Our work to engage and educate, at home and around the world, reflect our collective values. These efforts and inclinations provide hope in a world, that at times, seems hopeless.
I am unbelievably proud to be a member of this organization and am completely humbled to be its president.
28 years ago, almost to the day, I sat across the desk from my freshman advisor at Marquette University, Dr. Al Zanoni. Dr. Zanoni (who I later learned was Central States’ President in 1983) quietly set me on this course and so began my story in the wastewater industry. None of us thought we would end up in this business but let me assure you there is no place I would rather be.