John Van Arsdel
"Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the flowers is?”
Greetings to the Illinois Section members! I am in a slight recovery mode from WATERCON ’13. I say that because the conference was truly great with the number of attendees totaling higher than I can count. On Thursday morning of the conference, I was truly blessed and humbled as I was handed the gavel to lead as the xection Chair for this year. Kevin Lookis, don’t run too far… I will be calling on you for advice, so do not think you can run away. As I stated on that Thursday morning at breakfast to those who came to share a morning bite to eat, I am in awe, since I recall several years ago as I sat out in the audience and wondered what it would be like to be a part of the Board. I watched with great interest as I witnessed water folks rise through the various offices and become Chairs and lead our Association to greatness. It has been a lot of work but more so, a lot of fun and enjoyment to be part of this great group of professionals. I truly appreciate this opportunity beyond words.
I think about the duties of being the Chair and when I have been asked what Chairs do, my immediate thought was to say "Chairs get sat on”. Well, not exactly… I am sure there will be trying times, as well as fun and rewards. The professional staff we have (Laurie, Lisa, and Sandi) really help us attain cult status - we are the envy of other sections. I have the opportunity to interact with other sections and we do indeed have a membership base that has been able to provide a wealth of talent and knowledge as demonstrated by our Conferences. Our professional sessions are numerous with a little something for everyone.
In April I attended the Distribution Conference in Countryside. There we had record breaking attendance for a one day event. There were over 200 people who came and participated. The Distribution Committee has done a great job with this event since it was started a few years ago. The calendar the Committee put together with the water tower photos is very nice. A lot of those towers have a bit of history behind them, and it is great to have the Water Tank Photo contest featured this way. Congratulations to Carpentersville for their first place photo of their tank.
I will be going to Milwaukee in a short while to attend the RMSO III for regional officer training. I will be escorted by a few other Illinois Section officers and staff. The goals are to come back to the Section with new training ideas conveyed by AWWA to assist us in the operation of our Section. What we learn here will go a long way to help provide quality leadership for the Section. This brings me to one of on my goals as Chair. I would like the Section to continue to provide leadership training and to do so by getting our message out that we can help ordinary people perform at extraordinary levels. I was asked years ago by AWWA what they need to do to help us be better as a section. I answered that I thought part of our overall mission was to be able to provide not only up to date information about water and how to be better stewards, but to provide for leadership training as part of our activities. You see, it is estimated that 60% or so of our water folks will retire in the next 10 years. Who is going to replace us? Who is going to operate the water treatment plants? Who will take charge of our Section? Who will help design replacement infrastructure for our water systems? We have a great opportunity to be able to be able to shape tomorrow’s future leaders today. It is already built into what we now currently do as a section through our committee involvements, by holding and participating in the Section leadership, through our active education programs, through our tapping contests, meter madness contests, and even a new contest of hydrant assembly! We learn by doing.
Laurie D. has added a little saying at the bottom of her e-mails, "Make it happen, watch it happen or wonder what in the heck just happened”. This is so true of what we do as a section. There is a bit of a catch… many people are not always in a position to think they can accomplish great things. However, there are several self-help books and courses that say all you need to do is reach inside and get a start. It is not always that easy. When I started in AWWA, I did not just wake up one day and discover how to do things. That was the catch… it started with someone asking me to become involved. Someone recognized I had at least some ability, so they asked me to get involved. I can only ask others to do the same. That is often all it takes to create enough confidence in someone to get them motivated to participate. Make it happen! Don’t let them watch it happen or wonder what just happened. We don’t always have a lot of time, but to give a little bit of time to make it happen goes a long way. Ten years from now there will be some new faces guiding our course of action. We need to help craft those new leaders, and we need to be able to replace that 60% who will be leaving us. That is a very daunting task and it is our responsibility.
Ok, I will step down from the soapbox now… Please, ask someone to be involved. Help develop that next world class leader in the water world. Ask us now and we can help show you how.
A quick "congratulations” to Tom Skelly, our newest Fuller Award recipient. Tom, you truly deserve that award.
Keep looking at our great website. It is full of activities, news, and events. I look forward to seeing all our Board members and committee chairs at our Strategic Planning on May 10th at our St. Charles office. Please come with your heads full of ideas so we can Make it Happen!