Yep, there she is. The dreaded email from Mohammed. No pressure there. I knew it was coming, I knew he wouldn’t forget. I knew he knew when my family and I were leaving to camp over spring break. As I write this on March 23rd you will note it is already past due. Not “consultant past due” but past due, nonetheless. Ignoring Mohammed is like trying to ignore an out-of-date smoke detector and it never works out the way I hoped. Usually, Mohammed sends these things out with tons of fluff built into his schedule knowing you will just ignore it for a while. I pushed it two weeks past a deadline once, God I felt so alive…It’s not that these aren’t important, but let’s face it, nobody reads these things unless they are trapped in an elevator without their phone. Plus, I’m an engineer not an English major; and no one will ever confuse me with Samuel Clemens (google it millennials). In any event, looky what rolled in today. He even had Amy send the “friendly reminder”. I wonder how many times she had to endure his nagging before shooting this off? Seriously, bringing Amy in to close on a president’s message? Damn. He knows I can’t ignore Amy, but to play that card on a second notice? Let’s just all agree this is excessive. Fine, here you go, straight from the bottom of my mind’s barrel…
The worm is beginning to turn. Vaccines are effective and rolling out in my neck of the woods. My kids’ schools are lengthening in-person instruction, my NCAA bracket is in shambles, and pitchers and catchers have reported. Hope truly does spring eternal. Something is certainly missing, no, not my family hating me as I head to the road for springtime conference season (affectionately referred to as “Mark’s vacations” by the person to whom I’m related through marriage). I’m having a weak moment, but I am really beginning to miss the Central States crew. There has always been something about our annual conference each spring that signals a new beginning. Even if this is the last virtual conference, I ever attend it cannot come soon enough. I owe a debt of gratitude to Amy Underwood and the entire Illinois LAC, Amy, Mohammed, et al. They aspired to build on last year’s virtual program and are bringing back many of the unique experiences (Seven S, Golden Manhole, Social Event, etc.) that have always made Central State unique. I also want to give a shout to Mandy Sheposh and this year’s technical committee as this year’s programming looks outstanding (as usual). We take these things for granted, but the work these committees put in does not just happen. I speak from experience when I describe the joy involved in handing off committee duties to the next chair after the last day of a conference. It was definitely a weird year (and by year, I mean nine months) to be Central States President. So much to contend with but always with a hope that we can soon return to a more normal world as more resilient and effective organization. For what it is worth, we can definitively say Central States has adapted. I’m not sure how to define “thrive”, but if it means to stay solvent and relevant to fight another day, we have indeed thrived.
The next Executive Committee (no pressure Jane), Haque and Associates, and our membership at-large will have its collective work cut out for it (this is not at all refereeing to the President’s Party Jane is going to throw in Madison at next year’s conference). I can say with confidence that the next group of prospective officers (Jane Carlson, Tracy Hodel, and Amy Underwood) are some of the brightest, hardest working members of Central States. I had not noticed, until I re-read my last sentence, that next year’s prospective officers are all women. I could be wrong, but this is the first time in the history of CSWEA that this is the case. I have mixed feelings about this. I am proud this is occurring but am also ashamed we are still at a point in time when barriers are still being broken. Maybe “adapt” has more meaning to it than just changing the way we perform our work on a day-to-day basis. Maybe the truest meaning of “adapt” is to acknowledge we each have biases holding us back from truly thriving. Hopefully, we can look back at the changes Central States has experienced this year and identify an inflection point where things changed for the better. Central States has an opportunity to be a more proactive and inclusive leader within an industry that has historically been monolithic in its approach toward the changing tides. I know this is meaningful to WEF and I re-read WEF’s statement of policy on Diversity and Inclusion:
The Water Environment Federation is committed to enhancing the diversity and awareness of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, disability and sexual orientation among its staff, consultants, contractors, and members. As a matter of principle and practice, the WEF values and seeks a diverse and inclusive membership. It is the Federation’s goal to encourage full participation in the activities of the Federation, its Member Associations, and affiliated entities by all individuals.
It is a few short sentences, but within lies a blueprint that could (if we pay it more than lip-service) transform Central States to become a member association that redefines “thrive”.
Serving as the president of Central States Water Environment Association has been an honor. Special thanks to all that have contributed to my journey. I am lucky to have had many role-models and mentors along the way; you have made all the difference.