FWEA President's Column

Setting up for a Successful 2018-2019!

I am thrilled to be the newest FWEA President following in a long line of dedicated volunteers going back to 1941.  It is amazing to be part of an organization with so much history. For my first message to you I wanted to summarize and explain a few of the important changes and improvements the FWEA Board of Directors (BOD) implemented to start off the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

You may have noticed a couple more names than expected when the new Directors at Large (DALs) were announced at our Annual Meeting. That’s because the BOD added two new DAL positions to the Board of Directors this year—increasing the number of DALs from six to eight.

Why the increase, you ask? Well, in addition to the two new committees created last year (MARC and Contractors), we also saw the need to create new liaison roles to facilitate better communication between the Florida Water Resources Conference (FWRC) and WateReuse Association. Having two additional DALs will make it easier to support the new committees, fill new roles, and give more support to our existing chapters and committees.  For my part, I’m confident that increasing the number of DALs will lighten the load for everyone, improve overall communication, and increase support for chapters and committees.

The next change is especially important to me as it will benefit our association and Young Professionals in countless ways. The past chair of the Student and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC), Tyler Semago, is now one of our DALs. She will support the eight student chapters and the Students & Young Professionals Committee.

In part, this change will support the continued success of the Student Design Competition (SDC). This annual event is one of the largest line items in FWEA’s budget and requires significant coordination between board members, the SDC organizers, universities and student chapters, faculty advisors, and even local chapters. Aside from its importance from a financial investment perspective, this competition gives students real-world experience and the opportunity to network with professionals and (hopefully) find the right fit in our industry. In fact, many of the participants in the SDC wind up becoming engaged leaders in the association on local and state levels.

Simply put, making the past chair of the committee a DAL will streamline communications and coordination between the SYPC and the BOD for one of our most important annual events. Previously, student chapters were assigned to the same DALs as the local chapter. While most of the DALs are pretty familiar with the SDC, none of them are as familiar with it as the past chair of the SYPC. Putting all of the student chapters under one DAL creates a single point of contact who is intimately familiar with the SDC, thereby improving communications between the faculty advisors and the SYPC and BOD. Since SDC and FWRC somehow seem to always happen around graduation time, we will all benefit from more efficient communications between the faculty advisors, SYPC, FWEA BOD, and FWRC organizers.

In addition, Tyler will work with the other DALs, the SYPC, and local chapters to make sure that universities get consistent information about the SDC from FWEA, either through presentations to universities or in the course of our normal communication. Our goal is to provide a level playing field so each university has an equal chance of success in the competition—including playing matchmaker between universities and utilities that have projects the university can tackle.

As if that weren’t reason enough, there’s more! Succession planning is a key to success in our industry. Many of our seasoned professionals are retiring. And while new engineers are entering the field, there is a significant experience gap across the industry and in our association. With the past chair of the SYPC serving as a DAL, the BOD will have an escalator of talented and passionate young professionals who will become experienced with the policies, procedures, and internal operations of the BOD. Serving on the BOD has given me a broad view of this incredible association and has opened my eyes to the hundreds of outreach, professional development, and member appreciation events that take place each year throughout the state. I am extremely excited to watch new YPs grow into this role and get to see the strengths, weaknesses, successes, and challenges that our association faces.

So, why is this so important to me? Succession planning and empowering leaders and YPs hits close to home to say the least. I am in this position because of past FWEA leaders who have lifted me up, believed in me, and empowered me. I cannot put into words the growth I have experienced over the past four years of serving on this board. I am grateful for this experience and the chance to continue serving an association that has done so much for me personally and professionally. I could not be any more excited to give that same experience and opportunity to more YPs. The future of our association is extremely bright and it is of the utmost importance that as leaders and managers, we take a minute to remember where we came from, and extend our hand to help the next generation find their greatness.

Kristiana Dragash, P.E.
FWEA President