I’m Jane Carlson and I’m passionate about water! I’m honored to be your association president for the next administrative year, from May 2021 to May 2022. I’d like to thank our immediate past president Mark Eddington, who did an outstanding job leading our organization through what was one of our most challenging years. I’m sure he had plenty on his mind running a wastewater agency and raising kids during a pandemic and I sure appreciate his dedication. I’m glad we’ll continue to have Mark’s perspective and support on the executive committee for another year. Thank you to our other outgoing executive committee members including past president Doug Henrichson, PWO representative Kathy Crowson, Wisconsin Trustee Jay Kemp, and Illinois Trustee Mike Holland.
I’m excited about the entire executive committee makeup and want to congratulate our new members or members in new roles, including Tracy Hodel as first vice president and Amy Underwood as second VP. They are long time, active members of CSWEA and both are leaders of exemplary treatment facilities. I know their creativity and competence will continue to make the Association strong and relevant. Congrats and welcome to our new PWO representative Matt Streicher and new state section trustees Rachel Lee (WI) and Chris Marschinske (MN).
Many thanks to those who are actively serving in the state sections, as well. Our committees are as active and strong as ever, and that’s a huge part of what makes us successful. I’ve been so impressed with the quality and variety of association virtual seminars, meetings, and social events over the past 15 months. It’s been great to see the state sections teaming up to deliver excellent seminars (maybe after some nudging from executive director Mohammed Haque, who always looks for improvements and efficiencies). When other industries hunkered down and did the minimum to ride out the pandemic, our members rolled up their sleeves and found work-arounds and safe, new, and effective ways to get the job done. And then they shared their lessons learned, both good and bad, with the rest of the industry. I’m both humbled and proud to be a member of such an outstanding association. You people rock!
I’d like to take a few paragraphs to tell you about three priorities for the next administrative year. First, you can expect to see a transition back to in-person events this fall (woo hoo!). Some events may continue to be virtual or hybrid, and we’re getting very good at those. But I know we’re all looking forward to networking and socializing in person, perhaps starting with the WEFTEC welcome reception in Chicago! Please watch your emails and check the Central States web site for upcoming happenings.
Another priority for the coming year is to make sure our association remains fiscally strong. We weathered some losses during the pandemic. We managed to get by without the need for grants or state section help because we had adequate reserves. Our annual meeting is our big revenue generator, and not having it in-person meant much lower revenue for two years. We have not raised our association dues in many years and are now at the point where we need to consider this. A modest increase in dues may be needed so we can continue to accomplish our goals and get our reserves back to an appropriate level. The executive committee will review this and make a recommendation with a possible member vote at our next annual meeting.
My other main priority and one that WEF is working on is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). I remember my first CSWEA events some 30 years ago. Being one of the few women in the room was intimidating, even though I had some wonderful mentors in CSWEA. (I just have to name some of them here: Dan Lynch, the late and great Jim Shaw, Michael Doran, Ron Dickrell, Carol Strackbein, Bart Jones, Eric Lecuyer, Joan Hawley, and many more!) Our association has made great strides in gender diversity and in promoting and supporting women in leadership roles. However, we could do much better with respect to racial diversity. It’s important that we truly represent and understand the communities we serve. Diversity makes organizations more creative and resilient. WEF is developing a DE&I toolbox for member associations, but in the meantime let’s keep building on the great foundation we already have and continue to work on this issue. For example, we have been incorporating more DE&I subjects into our seminars to raise awareness. We have initiatives such as the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and student essay contest that can be used to reach out to underrepresented minority students. Global Water Stewardship is a great example of a program that increases our diversity and works on social equity issues. Through these activities and while working and advocating for water we can reach out to students, young professionals, and colleagues of color and encourage them to get involved in our association. And then we need to welcome and support them when they do, just as we should for all new members. The DE&I initiative will be a multi-year effort but let’s not let it be another 30 years or even 5 years before we see a more colorful association and executive committee. If any of you have specific ideas on what else the association can do to promote DE&I, or you’re not sure but you just want to help, please contact me.
Our 94rd Annual Meeting last month was a huge success, thanks to the Local Arrangements Committee led by Amy Underwood and the Technical Committee led by Mandy Sheposh. I am pretty sure it was the best virtual meeting I’ve ever attended, but then I’m biased. The technical program was very strong, we completed plenty of association and state section business, and we presented two years’ worth of awards. I appreciated that it was spread out over four days so we had a chance to catch up on some work and stretch our legs in between sessions. The GWS 50/50 raffle draw was held on the last day and raised $775 total; half of that will go to GWS and the other half to our raffle winner, Eric Lynne of Donohue. Thank you again to our WEF visitor, past president Jackie Jarrell- it was wonderful to have her participation and perspectives. Kudos and thanks again to the various committees, speakers and moderators who worked so hard to make the event a success, and congratulations to all our award winners! Adapt and Thrive, indeed!
Thanks also and always to our Executive Management team of Haque and Associates – Mohammed and Amy – plus Jonah Arter – for keeping things running smoothly and for all that they do to make this one of the best Member Associations.
Thanks to all of YOU for all you do for clean water and resource recovery every day. We have so many unsung heroes in our midst. We are stronger together! Keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing you in-person soon!