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John Roth, Mike McClenathan, and Cheryl Capron are Professional Operators who share not only a long history of involvement in their Pacific Northwest Section of the American Water Works Association (PNWS-AWWA), but also the encouragement from one another as they began their PO journeys. “Our section is very much like a family,” John says. “The closeness of the people in our section is our greatest highlight.”

John credits both Mike and Cheryl for inspiring him to pursue his PO certification, and hopes to keep the momentum going among his colleagues who are showing interest in becoming POs. “It’s like throwing pebbles in the water and I just want to keep the ripples rolling,” John said. “These new POs and operators are all folks I work with, and with retirements, it’s exciting to see new interest in the field.” With the possibility of 40% of the workforce retiring by 2020, he is encouraged by PNWS-AWWA leadership’s support for professional development of water operators, and has lent his own support by serving in various roles within the section, including Trustee on the section Board of Directors from 2013-2015. “Probably the most impactful project I’ve worked on at the section is being a part of the team that helped update our Scholarship Legacy Fund policies and practices,” John said. Designed to assist in the development and education of new water professionals, the fund has contributed $12,000 toward scholarships in the past year.

John and Mike will represent PNWS-AWWA at the 2017 AWWA Top Ops Competition held during ACE17 in Philadelphia, PA this June. “Since I achieved my PO, I was confident enough to enter our section conference competition this year,” Mike said. “Our section has provided public recognition and support for the PO in general and for the three of us specifically. Being a PO has been a great experience because people are beginning to recognize the value of the program and what it takes for an operator to achieve this designation.” In addition to diving in to PO certification, Mike has also served in many roles within PNWS-AWWA, and is currently the coordinator for the section’s Gimmicks and Gadgets competition. “This is something that I’m very interested in because it shows how innovative water system operators are,” Mike said.

Cheryl is equally involved with PNWS-AWWA: she organized the first best-tasting water competition for the King County subsection and has helped develop and present training for operators. “My favorite project has been overseeing preparation of the conference technical program, so much so that I've done it for three years in a row,” she said.

Cheryl recognized the value of the PO certification’s aim to be a national standard for operators, and hopes to lead by example and encourage others to do the same. “I hope that someone just getting started will look at me and think that if I thought this was worth obtaining so close to the end of my career, it would be even more valuable for them,” Cheryl said. When the three PNWS-AWWA operators received their PO pins and certificates during the POWER Chicago pinning ceremony at ACE16, Cheryl was invited to share her thoughts on the PO program with attendees. “A university degree is accepted widely because everybody knows what goes into it and how hard it is to get one of those,” she said. “It’s hard to get one of these [PO]. It should be. But you know if you’ve got somebody who’s got one of these things, you’ve got the best.”

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