FWEA President's Column

Get Ready for a Successful 2019-2020!

It’s truly an honor and privilege to serve as your president and contribute to the Florida Water Resources Journal.  The magazine’s quality and presentation are highly regarded among all of the WEF member associations, and being able to write a monthly column is an exceptional opportunity.

Allow me to begin with outlining changes to your board of directors. The changes are minor by comparison to last year’s efforts, but intend to build on what our past president Kristiana Dragash started. 

We have eight very capable directors at large (DALs) this year, with the only change being the addition of DAL Alice Varkey, P.Eng., succeeding Lindsay Marten-Ellis, who is pursuing an exciting new business venture. Varkey will be assisting the Manasota Chapter, Southwest Chapter, Manufacturers and Representatives Committee (MARC), and our strategic planning efforts.

The dedication remains to further promote opportunities for students in our eight student chapters and involve young professionals (YPs) in our leadership and activities. Supporting and growing the Student Design Competition and what it provides in the way of real-life experience also continues to be a focus. We cannot forget that students and YPs are the future of FWEA and our mission, and we must attract and retain our fair share of the best and brightest!

Serving on the board of directors provides a broad view of this venerable 78-year-old association. The beginning of the year brings the opportunity to build on its strong foundation. At this year’s Florida Water Resources Conference (FWRC) in Tampa, I outlined several areas to pursue that are of strategic importance to FWEA and its members. Here, I have organized and aligned them with the four goals of our strategic plan:

Professional Development 

Continue the effort of professional development to recognize and promote, through a new certification process, the competencies of our operators and system support professionals in three functional areas that are not currently licensed: maintenance mechanics, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system support, and electrical power systems support. 

We started this effort last year and want to continue the momentum to culminate into a certificate of achievement that is based on experience and demonstrated knowledge through an examination. 

I hope that we can launch at least one of the three this year and continue to pursue the other two. Perhaps in the future there could be a license for each, but earning a certificate of achievement serves as a step toward recognizing competency, reinforcing effective and safe practices, and enabling an upward progression of careers.

Sound Public Policy 

By coordinating with the FWEA Utility Council and other partners, we need to prepare to put sound policy into practice by informing our members about the development of potable reuse. We produce millions of gallons per day of reclaimed water that provides irrigation, cooling water, and water supply recharge across Florida. Now, indirect and direct potable reuse are gradually emerging as additional water reuse choices for communities as their feasibility is being further explored. 

Our members need to become more aware of the future professional opportunities, and also be a “force multiplier” in sharing information and helping to promote fact-based discussion. The FWEA needs to continue to be a growing part of this “One Water” reality. 

Strong Organization

Our 2015-2020 strategic plan has provided essential guidance and direction and it’s time to begin the process of updating it. To make it a holistic and informative process, we will provide a means for our membership at large to provide input as our board reviews it. We have a solid plan now, but it’s a best practice to review and refine it periodically.

Public Awareness 

Our website is a storehouse of information, and even in the world of social media, it stands as a go-to place for further information that members and the public can draw from. Many feel it’s time to review and determine how we can make the platform more timely, interactive, and convenient to update.

I look forward to working with you on these pursuits and I am very grateful for this opportunity to serve you. As Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” It’s important that we remember where we came from and find new ways to accomplish our mission, ensure sustainability, and provide opportunities to develop and prepare the next generation. 

Michael W. Sweeney, Ph.D.
FWEA President