James Dean’s Incoming Chair Speech presented at the 2019 Vancouver Conference Awards Banquet

I want to thank you for this opportunity. Little did I realize several years ago when John Griffith asked me to assist him with the Central Washington Subsection that I would be standing here before you today. It’s been an interesting journey and one that I enjoyed much more than I thought I would.  Our members are amazing individuals, always willing to offer assistance or knowledge when needed. I have reached out to many of you over the years as my career evolved and received some great advice and guidance. That is the real benefit of becoming part of our Section – the network you build, the friends you make, both of which make your career and life so much more enjoyable.

To that end, I am going to lean on all of you as my network over the course of my year as chair. As a Section we have a number of initiatives already  in place that as luck would have it are beginning during this next year.  This fall we kick off our very first Leadership Symposium in my home town of Yakima, WA, September 26-27. A long time in coming, this symposium will provide much needed training for the next generation of managers in our industry. As the baby boomers retire we must prepare those that follow in their footsteps with leadership and management skills that are a daily necessity. Over two days we are going to provide training for all levels of managers from lead and supervisor to middle management as well as general managers and elected officials. We have included in the symposium the very successful Young Professional Summit with the hopes that our Young Professionals will have an opportunity to attend additional sessions on the second day of the symposium and build their own network. I want to thank Chris Wanner who has done an excellent job over the last few years of taking the Leadership Symposium from concept to actualization. This is going to be a great symposium and encourage all of you to attend.

Over this last year under the guidance of past chair Mel Damewood we created a divisional structure for our committees, one that creates opportunities for committees to work more closely together. We are already seeing the benefits of this with new innovative training topics for our members. I believe there are opportunities to build on this success. Over the next year we will take a look at our committees and gage their effectiveness in our new structure. Are there committees that have stagnated and could be combined with more active, innovative committees? Do we need to add additional committees to better meet our member needs? An example of this is our newly formed Philanthropy Advisory Council. Chaired by Nick Belmont this committee provides guidance for the many events our Section hosts throughout the year in our 12 subsections. Years ago our members raised funds for Water For People and our very successful Education and Training Fund. Now our members are also encouraged to raise funds for the association’s Water Equation which provides funding for AWWA scholarships for graduate students, operator scholarships, young professional and student programs and the community engineering. The Philanthropy Advisory Council will provide recommendations for successful funding for all these great causes while not losing track on the focus of AWWA which is education for our members.

The last initiative of my year as chair effects this very conference. Next year in Spokane you will see a different PNWS Conference agenda. We have listened to your post conference survey comments; we have listened to our Young Professionals. You have told us that you want more training, you want the ability to craft your own conference agenda by having more offerings at any given time, you want less dead time and you also want changes to the traditional closing night banquet.  If we are going to continue to meet the needs of our members as we trend younger we need to continue to adapt and evolve. To meet those needs you will see these changes in next year’s conference:

  • The Tuesday Board of Trustees Meeting will be moved to Friday afternoon. We will present some awards; we will hear from visiting guests. It will be engaging, you will want to attend.
  • Thursday will be exhibitor focused coupled with technical sessions. The Opening General Session will be discontinued. The evening will be our vendor hospitality night with the Young Professional Scavenger Hunt.
  • Friday we will hold an award luncheon in lieu of the Opening Session and Banquet. We want to appeal to potential new members, we want them to attend and hear about our great Section and our awards. We will reach twice as many people with this luncheon as we do with an evening banquet. Later that day, as the conference comes to an end, immediately following the Trustee Meeting we will close our Water For People silent auction at a reception where we pass the gavel to incoming Section Chair Ronda Farmer.

We have a big year ahead of us, a year with new opportunities, a year full of change. I believe it is change for the better. A chance to build on what this Section has accomplished over the last few years, a chance to continue to appeal to the next generation of water professionals. For many of us change is not easy, but we can do this together. We all have a network of industry professionals and friends who are with us every step of the way. We have a great year to look forward to and I look forward to the journey we will make together.