Looking Forward, But Checking the Rearview Mirror

As virtually every president before me has noted, it is just unbelievable how quickly the year goes by!

At this time, all my energy is focused on the upcoming conference, which is right around the corner.  Your Board of Directors has done an outstanding job of putting together another exciting conference.  Vice-President Josh Voigt has done the heavy lifting of putting together a phenomenal set of technical sessions.  But the entire Board has contributed to putting together what should be a fantastic event at the Hyatt/KI Center in Green Bay October 4 through 7.  Don’t miss out…register now!

The conference kicks off on Tuesday with our annual Golf, Sporting Clays, and Bike Ride outings.  Get your spots secured now!  Tuesday afternoon, there will also be two great Pre-Conference Workshop opportunities: “The Fine Art of BOD Analysis” (Rick Mealy/Tom Trainor, WWOA/DNR) and “PFAS: History, Treatment, and Regulatory Direction” (Tonya Chandler, BioLargo Engineering, Science & Technology).  Tuesday afternoon closes out with a Regional Officers Meeting and then the always anticipated Meet & Greet with food, beverage, and catching up with old friends.

Wednesday morning, I think many folks will be excited to hear what Larry Smith, of “Larry Smith Outdoors” has to offer us in his Keynote address.  That leads us to into our first technical sessions and this year, we will have more technical talks than ever before.  After a 2-year absence due to Covid, the Operator’s Competition will return on Wednesday and be center stage in the Exhibition area. No longer will the competition be held behind curtains, or in some distant room.   Marc Stephanie, Aaron Eichhorst, and Josh Voigt have been working hard to put this together.  Teams will vie for $1,050 in cash prizes as well as the coveted Jim Miller Memorial trophy.  Please, please, do not forget to spend time in the Exhibitor’s area and see what these folks have to offer.  Our conference would not be possible without them!

Technical sessions continue on Thursday.  We will be piloting a new series of talks, dedicated to emerging technologies, that will be held Thursday morning in the Exhibit area.  Thursday at noon will be the Operator’s Luncheon, followed by the Annual Business Meeting. There will be afternoon technical sessions and a plant tour followed by the Social Hour leading up to the Awards Banquet. Jeremy Cramer has done a great job putting together the Association and Region Awards program.  Due to its great success last year, the post-banquet entertainment will again be the beanbag toss tournament.   Friday’s Farewell Breakfast will feature an intriguing talk from the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene’s Dr. Adélaïde Roguet, who will speak on Covid-19 monitoring in wastewater: "Monitoring Public Health One Flush at a Time".

Looking in the rearview mirror, this has been a busy year for the Board of Directors, and I’m proud of all that we accomplished as a team, beginning with re-negotiating the AEG contract from a “retainer plus” basis to a fixed fee basis.  AEG has brought a lot of improvements to WWOA, but the original contract was not very budget friendly.  This helps us move forward knowing precisely what our management costs will be.  Our storage shed in Baraboo had been broken into several times, and each time we lost expensive lighting.  Consequently, the Board opted to purchase a secure trailer to store our conference materials.  From storage costs alone, we will re-coup our costs in less than 10 years, and we will amortize the purchase. Most of you have never experienced the arduous pack up after the conference into multiple vehicles.  Having the trailer will make that task infinitely easier.

Following a requested legal review, the Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation were updated based on last year’s annual meeting vote.  In addition, the Board has revised and updated the Board Policy Manual.  Finally, we had an external audit of our 2021 finances, which went extremely well (as expected).

I am most proud of the fact that the Board voted to increase WWOA scholarship amounts from $1,000 to $2,000 each, and Crane Engineering graciously agreed to increase their funding for one of those three scholarships. Education is the primary mission of WWOA, yet we were committing less than one percent of annual revenues to funding scholarships.  Board member Jenny Pagel spearheaded this effort and devised a much better Tuition Aid policy as well.  I am also excited that Jenny worked with Tom Mulcahy to establish an Education Endowment Fund, subsequently approved by the Board, which will allow us to award more scholarships annually on those occasions where we have more deserving applicants than the three budgeted scholarships.  We need to get more young people interested in our form of “bio-remediation technology”, and encouraging education is a means to that end.  So many accomplishments thanks to a fantastic group of people serving as your Board of Directors.  I cannot thank them enough for their efforts; they made serving as President easy.

I also do not want to forget the hard work put in during the year by your Board members on key WWOA events and activities.  Nate Tillis and Jeremy Cramer put together an innovative series of training events with their “Ops 2 Ops Tour” concept.  The Midwest Operator’s Expo (Nate Tillis), Government Affairs (Jenny Pagel, Ben Brooks), and Spring Biosolids Symposium (Ben Brooks) all were very successful.  Marc Stephanie has done an outstanding job in seeking out unique new promotional apparel designs, re-energizing that aspect of WWOA.

Also in the rearview mirror, is my wife and I’s amazing trip to Italy this past May.  It was humbling to see and touch remnants of civilizations that go back long before our country’s birth.  The sights were quite simply breathtaking, especially the Amalfi Coast, and the Island of Capri. The food was incredible, lacking the grease that comes with so many American dishes.  It was easy to fall in love with the mysterious and meandering canals and alleys of Venice.  To be in a large city where the only motorized vehicles are watercraft was so very unique.  Imagine being solely dependent on everything by water.  Transportation, shipments, deliveries…everything comes in via water and then placed on hand carts where delivery people navigate these carts through narrow alleys.  This issue’s mugshot was taken on the famous Rialto Bridge in Venice.

At the same time, I was stunned to learn that a modern city still discharges a significant portion of their wastewater directly into these same canals, relying on the tides and saltwater to process and sweep pollution away.  I understand the challenges Venice faces, yet it only made me appreciate what you all do here in the U.S. of A that much more.

In closing, I could not have done this job without the wisdom and counsel of many Past Presidents, as well as current Past President Don Lintner and President-Elect Jeremy Cramer.  It has truly been an honor, and I look forward to seeing folks at the conference in Green Bay.


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