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President's Message (C Factor)

Go With the Flow—the Flow of Knowledge
By Mike Darrow
Posted on 1/3/2018 8:30 PM

Well, this is my first column for the famous Florida Water Resources Journal (FWRJ), and it’s now 2018, so let me start by saying I hope you had a happy holiday with your family and friends and I wish you a Happy New Year! By now, I’ve put on a few pounds, so it’s also time for my annual new year’s weight-loss resolution (haha!).

It’s an honor to be elected as the incoming president for this worthy association of utility professionals. My induction will take place at the next state board meeting on January 20 in Palm Bay. The purpose of FWPCOA is to protect the health and welfare of our citizens and preserve the natural resources of the state of Florida. We accomplish this by advancing the professional standards of the water/wastewater industry, participating with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in the state licensing process, and most of all, providing training programs and coursework geared to help advance knowledge in each of our disciplines. The folks I have worked within the association care about the utility industry and its workforce. Training is a key function of the association, and one of my goals in the coming year is the continuation of a fine educational process.


A slogan I have used in our business is “Go with the flow.” Water flow is a hard thing to overcome without containment. It can be redirected by piping or channels, but it’s very difficult to stop water once it is moving or seeking its own level. Knowledge is another thing that’s hard to stop. The FWPCOA does a great job of keeping the flow of knowledge moving forward by training industry professionals, with skill sets that include water and wastewater operators, water distribution and collection system operators, stormwater operators and inspectors, laboratory technicians, utility customer service representatives, meter readers,  industrial pretreatment coordinators, reclaimed water operators and inspectors, utility maintenance technicians,  backflow prevention testers and repair technicians, and utility managers. All of these water/wastewater disciplines require knowledge for the practitioners to do their jobs more effectively and to advance their own careers, and they’re are important to the success of our industry and the protection of our citizens and resources.


The FWPCOA training classes are based on the job experiences of veteran and seasoned utility professionals who work in their respective disciplines. Training is done in many different ways throughout the association by online training, regional classes, state short schools, and on-the-road training. Regional classes, seminars, and short schools are done locally in the thirteen FWPCOA regions of Florida. By attending local meetings or checking the calendar on the website (
www.fwpcoa.org), you can see when local training is given near you. So, sign up now and learn!


The Online Institute is online training and continuing education unit (CEU) coursework written for instant access at your fingertips—just log on and start taking a course. It’s a very popular option for many of us who work on back shifts. The FWPCOA state short schools, which are week-long classes, are given twice a year in Fort Pierce, and we also offer numerous classes in March and August of each year. Check out this magazine, our website, or the training office for details. The on-the-road training can come right to your utility or your group. The training office staff in Titusville can answer any questions or help you sign up for your training needs. They can be contacted on the website or at 321-383-9690.


Another key benefit is networking, which comes out of attending local meetings and training classes. At meetings you can interact with other folks and get an insight on what is happening in the industry, and of course, discuss the newest training. One of my goals for the coming year is to increase membership and involvement by local members at our regional meetings and other activities. The regional level is where you can meet fellow utility operators and technicians and share stories and ideas of treatment or processes by visiting different plants and facilities. Tours are often given in association with the regional meetings and are a great way of sharing information and getting knowledge out. I would recommend this to any region to increase attendance.


Another popular activity is to go to a sponsor’s facility to see how products used in our industry are made and used. As a member of Region X, I’ve found that daytime meetings have been an effective way to increase participation. Couple that with a training class (day or night) and that can be a good thing, too.

Mentorship and leading the next generation to work in our profession is a continual process that’s needed to replace ourselves as we retire from the industry. When I started my career—and actually throughout my career—I have met many folks who have helped me professionally by sharing skills, ideas,  a consistent work ethic, and many other things that helped me do my job more effectively. Exposure too many different things in the industry is crucial and FWPCOA is built on this principle.


At the regional level, I suggest the age old military tactic of the “right arm.”  That is, a younger or less-trained person is taken around and exposed to people at all levels of experience to learn the ins and outs of the industry. So, with that said, bring your new people to your local regional meeting and expose these folks to other industry professionals. Let them see other plants, facilities, and applications; let them discuss plant troubleshooting, equipment issues, process changes or upgrades, nutriment level, and water quality. This is the way I have learned in my career.  


I want to thank my most resent mentor, Steve Saffels with the City of Plant City, for passing on knowledge to me and showing true dedication to the industry. I was his right arm for the last few months and it has helped me tremendously. Steve--happy retirement to you!


Technology is another key factor in training. The FWPCOA staff is working hard every day to prepare the organization for the future generation. This is done by streamlining processes and implementing better technology to make the association better at communicating to and with our members. This is another one of my goals for this year for the organization.

 

Recently, I have had the opportunity to attend a few events. The FSAWWA Fall Conference at ChampionsGate in November of last year was a great place to meet up with fellow professionals. There I attended the Florida Water Resources Conference and FWRJ board meetings. These boards are made up of hard-working industry leaders for FWEA, FSAWWA, and FWPCOA looking to forward issues and circumstances to ensure industry education and enhancement. I also had time to attend the most excellent annual holiday parties at Region X and Region IIX. Thanks for the invitation—I had a blast!

I look forward to working with our membership and our industry partner organizations, FWEA and FSAWWA, to further the cause of the water/wastewater industry and our customers. So remember, “Go with the flow” and pass that knowledge to others along your career path, also taking time to protect our valuable natural resources.


Lastly, I want to thank Scott Anaheim, our most recent president, who has been a great leader of FWPCOA for these past two years. I look forward to continue to work with him in his new role as past president. Thanks, Scott, for mentoring me in my new role. On behalf of the members and the board of directors, I thank you for your dedication and direction in leading FWPCOA!