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Leadership Program Combats Water Industry “Brain Drain”

Ten candidates from two states have completed a program for leadership in water and wastewater system operations. Contract operations and maintenance firm Alliance Water Resources sponsored the program for selected employees in response to the need for increasingly higher skill sets at the local utility level.

Community water and wastewater systems face increasing competition for skilled leaders as the industry battles “brain drain” – a massive loss of institutional knowledge as the “baby boomer” generation enters retirement. The Water Environment Federation, a national water industry organization, states on their website that many utilities will lose 30-50 percent of their current workforce to retirement within 10 years.

Leadership Alliance is modeled after similarly-named community and state leadership programs. The program serves as a “missing link” between technical know-how and the increasing governmental, professional and communications expertise needed to become a successful system manager. Participants complete a pair of intensive two-day training sessions on industry topics.

Instruction on public project funding, workforce planning, governmental processes and other system management know-how is included. In addition, participants complete self-study assignments and are required to make a presentation to the group. Demonstrated leadership and interpersonal skills are primary factors in participant selection.

“District and municipal leaders depend on us to recruit and retain qualified, licensed operators and managers for their local systems. Leadership Alliance helps us prepare the next generation of system managers from our incredibly talented group of current employees,” said Sandy Neal, human resources director for Alliance Water Resources.

Participants for Leadership Alliance were first nominated by supervisors, and then selected from application entries and personal interview results. Graduates of the 2006 pilot program are: Diana Grubb of Public Water Supply District #1 of Buchanan County, Mo.; Kim Hoxworth of Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Bob Stone of PWSD #1 of Lincoln County, Mo.; Terry McDaniel of PWSD #1 and #3 of Franklin County, Mo.; Corey Means of Bowling Green, Mo.; Shawn Middendorf and Marshall Suddarth of O\'Fallon, Mo.; Ann Perkins of the Columbia, Mo., Alliance home office; Brian Pieper of PWSD #2 of St. Charles County, Mo., and Mark Wild of Maquoketa, Iowa.

Headquartered in Columbia, Mo., Alliance Water Resources is a leading provider of professional operations and maintenance services for community water and wastewater systems in Middle America. The company prides itself in its unique understanding of the needs of communities in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Kansas.