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City of Oceanside-Ron Lutge-Water Utility Hero of the Week-Essential Workers

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ron Lutge

Job/Agency: City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I became interested in the water industry in a round-about way. After leaving the military, I found it difficult to find work that was both mentally stimulating and challenging. I was looking for something that would allow me to work at an operational tempo I was used to. I definitely wasn’t looking for anything easy or slowed paced. At the time I was working at the General Electric aircraft engine overhaul facility in Ontario. Unfortunately, that industry proved to be unstable and did not offer a promising career. While searching for something new, I found Oceanside had a couple of openings for office workers. Since I had some experience working with spreadsheets and databases, I was offered a position in the water department. I figured this would keep me employed while I looked for something different. I soon discovered there were many disciplines within the water industry. I soon began researching career options in the water industry. Inspiration came from the supervisor I was working for at the time. I sat down with him and asked what were the requirements necessary to become an operator. I also received encouragement from the operators I came in contact with on a daily basis. That’s all it took. After that, I hit the ground running and have never looked back. The water profession is honorable, rewarding, and has offered me everything I have been looking for in a career – just like the military – another opportunity to continue being of service to others. And isn’t that what we as water professionals are here for – to be of service?

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

My personal day-to-day routine hasn’t really changed; I’m always busy. However, given the current health crisis we are all in, it has made me keenly aware of just how important it is to ensure our team is being taken care of, staying safe and healthy, and doing everything we can to ensure our facility stays operational to provide water to the residents of Oceanside without interruption. Because we operate our facility 24 hours a day, coupled with having a very small staff, we cannot work from home or implement rotating or staggered shifts. Everyone has to be ready, prepared, and available to work.

How are you keeping safe?

By following the guidance recommended by health officials to limit exposure in public, at work and home: social distancing, face coverings, sanitizing, washing hands, etc. By practicing these simple protocols we keep each other safe and minimize ourselves or others getting sick.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

A return to some semblance of normalcy – whatever that may be.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Gary Briant, Olivenhain Municipal Water District

This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Gary Briant, Olivenhain Municipal Water District Purchasing/Warehouse Clerk, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week-Ivan Martinez-City of Poway

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ivan Martinez, City of Poway

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Ivan Martinez, City of Poway Wastewater Utilities Worker, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ivan Martinez

Job/Agency: City of Poway Wastewater Utilities Worker

 

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

Wastewater wasn’t my first choice, I had planned to work in another industry, but now I am very happy to be working in this field.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

Our job has changed in a big way. With this pandemic and with a shortage of toilet paper, people are using other alternatives such as paper towels and wipes. It has made an impact on our wastewater system because these items are being flushed down the toilet and that slows down the flow or causes a blockage.  We are reporting to more alarms than usual, at all hours of the day, to make sure the wastewater flows.

How are you keeping safe?

Nothing much has changed because we already take sanitary precautions. We just need to clean our equipment more frequently, constantly wash our hands, and ensure we wear our additional PPE (personal protective equipment) during this pandemic.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

I just hope that everyone is safe and healthy. Also I hope that everyone goes back to using toilet paper. LOL.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

Water Pros Working Round the Clock To Ensure Service

More than a month into the coronavirus crisis in California, water pros continue to work around the clock to deliver essential services to San Diego County residents.

From the Fallbrook Public Utilities District south to the Sweetwater Authority and east to the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, essential employees at the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies continue to maintain vital water systems and perform emergency repairs so customers have the water they depend on during this time.

Jose Martinez-General Manager-Otay Water District-AB 1588

Jose Martinez Appointed General Manager of the Otay Water District

The Otay Water District Board of Directors February 6 voted unanimously to appoint Assistant Chief of Water Operations Jose Martinez as the new general manager of the District. The Board announced they will negotiate contract terms and vote on those terms at the March 11 Board meeting.

“Jose will be an asset to the District for many reasons,” said Board President Gary Croucher. “His experience as a nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy and managing water utility and operations at the District, combined with his leadership on legislative bill AB 1588, will contribute to guiding and leading the District on its already strong path of providing exceptional service to our customers; he will also bring new and innovative ideas to continue enhancing operational practices.”

Jose Martinez - General Manager - Otay Water District - February 2020

Jose Martinez was appointed the new General Manager of the Otay Water District on February 6. Photo: Otay Water District

Jose Martinez: 18 years of progressive management and leadership experience

Martinez has more than 18 years of progressive management and leadership experience in private and public organizations within highly regulated utility industries. He also has managed multimillion-dollar engineering and construction projects for water and wastewater facilities and has a strong administrative and financial management project background. Martinez managed and designed construction projects for SAIC, Incorporated for five years, from 2007 to 2012, prior to working at the District.

Under the direction of Otay’s chief of water operations and the general manager, Martinez served as the assistant chief of water operations since 2014, planning, directing and managing the activities and operations of the department, which includes utility and fleet maintenance and operations of water, wastewater, reclamation, and recycled systems.

“I’m honored to serve as the District’s general manager,” said Martinez. “The District sets an example as a water and wastewater agency, providing outstanding service to its customers. I am proud to lead the organization and take pride in continuing to move us forward, working with our talented employees to achieve the District’s values of integrity, excellence and innovation.”

Martinez brings United States Navy experience to new post

Martinez previously served two years as the District’s utility service manager.

“This is an exciting time for Otay and the water industry,” said General Manager Mark Watton. “Jose’s role at the District will work well with the regional workforce planning and development that is needed in the water industry to replace a wave of retirements and at the same time, positions the District to carry on advancing Otay and the Board’s mission of serving its customers and managing the District’s resources transparently with fiscal responsibility.”

As a military veteran, Martinez also brings his United States Navy experience to the District. He served as a Nuclear Submarine Officer, managing preventive and corrective operations and maintenance of complex systems, including water quality and water treatment. Martinez has a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering with a focus in nuclear energy conversion from the U.S. Naval Academy and holds a minor degree in Spanish.

The Otay Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority recently collaborated to sponsor legislation to increase water and wastewater industry jobs for military veterans. The bill, AB 1588, introduced by San Diego Assemblymember Todd Gloria and Adam Gray of Merced, was signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom on October 11, 2019.

Women In Water Conference Showcases Career Opportunities

More than 200 people explored career opportunities in the water and wastewater industry at the third annual Women in Water Symposium Thursday at Cuyamaca College.

The conference’s goal this year was to create a community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers.

Speakers at the conference shared their personal experiences working in the water industry and offered tips for young professionals.