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President's Message (C Factor)

FWPCOA Year-End Review
By Mike Darrow
Posted on 12/1/2018 7:00 AM

Well, my first term as president of the operators association is nearly completed, and what a quick year it’s been! When I started out, with some help from our past president, Scott Anaheim, I had a small list of goals for the association, but I wasn’t really sure how the move it forward.


My initial list was to bolster support for our instructors to serve our members, and try to increase the involvement of our membership in the regions and continue to grow the association. Instructors are so important to the association and its training program and we want to expand our instructor base for more training opportunities for certifications and continuing education units (CEUs) for our members.


Members are so vital to FWPCOA. We’re trying to increase support for regional members with activities, outings, and training at the regional level. We all are trying to make improvements using new technology to help increase efficiency of the programs and improve our training courses.


We like working on behalf of operators, mechanics, coordinators, and technicians to move the profession forward, representing them across the state on important issues to further our industry. All of this will hopefully help grow membership and everyone’s involvement.


Association Highlights


Some highlights for the association this year are:

  • Contributed to the Puerto Rico hurricane relief fund for water and wastewater.
  • Continued development of Class B wastewater treatment operator prerequisite course for the state exam.
  • All membership and most training registrations are now administered through
  • Two new subcommittees under the Education Committee were formed this year: the Utilities Maintenance Committee, with Bob Case as chair, and the Stormwater Committee, chaired by Brad Hayes. Thank you both!
  • Executed multi-year agreements with Indian River State College for FWPCOA short schools and supporting hotels, promoting long-term stability.
  • Membership increased from 4,705 on January 1 to 5,415 as of August 31—a growth of over 15 percent in just eight months.
  • Created and filled two honorary life member positions for Tom King and Walt Symser. Congrats to you both!
  • Hosted a Florida Department of Environmental Protection operator certification office presentation announcing a return to computer-based testing.
  • Recruited instructors for more training available to members.
  • Hosted March and August short schools at Indian River State College in Ft. Pierce, with record-setting attendance at the latter.


Committees: The Backbone of the Organization


Committees are where it happens internally in the association. We in this association have had a lot of help in moving the cart forward with the involvement from different committees and the talented members who are working on behalf of the membership. I thank all of you who have worked hard to contribute to our success.


Education Committee


This committee did a great job under the leadership of Art Seay, and now Tom King has continued its great work. Art did a wonderful job of keeping this committee on track over the years. The committee's responsibility is to ensure the quality of the association's training programs and instructors, and it supplies oversight and guidance to the training coordinators. The committee looks to develop new classes and update others.


Tom King has led focus groups this year on improving training to our members and trying to increase our instructor base--this is a good thing!  We’ve added new courses and changed some others to now include the CSUS manuals in the training.  


This year’s shorts school enrollment trained over 350 students in March and August, with total training for the association up 10 percent for the year.  Shirley Reaves, our training coordinator, has done a good job this year and we hope to provide even more training in 2019. Thank you, Shirley!


Backflow Committee


This subcommittee of the Education Committee continues to provide excellent backflow prevention training across the state under the direction of Glenn Whitcomb. The committee has given numerous backflow testing, repair, and recertification classes to many of our membership. This program continues to grow.


System Operators Committee


This Education Committee subcommittee continues to shine under the leadership of Ray Bordner. The committee set up and instructed multiple wastewater collection and water distribution classes at our state spring and fall short schools. We’ve conducted many on-the-road classes (where training comes to your utility). This year, 13 week-long classes were given in the system operator disciplines of wastewater collection A, B, C and Water Distribution 1, 2, 3 coursework. We’re looking forward to providing more of these classes in 2019. 


Awards Committee


The Awards Committee is a staple of our association, giving out multiple awards and recognition to our membership. Renee Moticker continues to do a great job researching and presenting awards at the Florida Water Resources Conference and the August short school awards luncheon. This year over 35 awards were given out to outstanding members—congrats to you all!


Renee wants me to remind you that the deadline for submittals for the 2019 training year is Dec. 31, 2018. A region can submit two recipients, who must be members in good standing, for at least a year. The region selects the award recipients, not this committee.


Membership Committee


Thanks to the outstanding work of Darin Bishop and Walt Smyser, technology has helped us be more accessible and user-friendly.  In turn, our members have found it easier to enroll in coursework and sign up for membership. As I mentioned before, our membership total is currently 5,415, which is 710 new members added since last year.


The more than 700 members are net members from the end of last year, but we've actually gained 1,278 new, not reactivated previous members. The rise is directly attributed to two factors: 1) the ever-increasing popularity of our programs, as training is the major driving force of our membership; and 2) The combined usage of Club Express (an association management software system) by the regions and Shirley Reaves.


As nonmember students register for classes at each level, they are nearly instantly converted to members. We no longer have membership paperwork changing hands a few times (utility, to region or state, to membership office) via traditional mail, which can greatly slow the membership process down. This has allowed members to obtain their benefits, such as this magazine and reduced training costs, much quicker. 


Online Institute Training


The Online Institute, under the direction of Tim McVeigh, has done a spectacular job of developing and managing our training online to anyone who wants knowledge or CEUs and has limited access to local training. Tim started this program a few years back and it has now grown and continues to serve our member 24/7. New courses have been developed for:

  • Certification (83 courses, including short courses)
  • Stormwater C, wastewater collection C, and water distribution levels 2
  • Drinking water treatment plant operator class C and B courses
  • Wastewater treatment plant operator class C
  • Treatment plant operator course


We’re currently developing a wastewater treatment plant operator class B course for early 2019.  Check out our website for your training needs


Water Heroes


Many of our members bravely recently worked in the Florida Panhandle to restore and maintain the water and wastewater systems that were damaged after Hurricane Michael. A big thanks goes to those actively involved in the process of getting the utilities in north Florida and in Georgia back up and running. Water employees really are first responders!


A Year of Columns  


Many of the columns that I wrote this year for the magazine touched on some of our goals. This year’s topics were:

  • Go with the Flow—the Flow of Knowledge
  • Willing and Able
  • Ethics: The Foundation of Our Profession
  • Conservation and the Future of Water
  • A Guide to Successful Operations
  • Emergency Response Planning
  • Water Towers: Lighthouses of the Landscape
  • Your Region Needs You!
  • Your Signature is Your Seal
  • Lift Stations: Key to Sanitary Sewer Overflow Prevention
  • Thank You for Your Service!


I want to thank all the leadership and hardworking members in our organization. We are moving some things forward nicely. We still need to improve at the regional level for more involvement, more instructors in different disciplines, and increased local training opportunities.


The goals I originally set are still relevant looking forward to 2019. I wish you continued success: for you professionally, and for your utility, company, or firm. Together we can make a difference for our industry.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!