On the job with EBMUD

Learn about the work and the skilled workers that keep EBMUD's water and wastewater systems flowing. Follow us on Twitter @ebmud to see our regular employee profiles.  

Maria and Robbin, Employee Development

Dynamic duo nurtures a culture of life-long learning.

Berbano_Lou_Groupshot resized.jpgThey teach together and even end each other’s sentences – Maria and Robbin are EBMUD’s employee development dream team.

As employee development trainers, they teach critical skills – leadership, listening and problem solving— so that EBMUD’s workforce can meet our mission of providing high-quality water and wastewater services. They teach courses in emotional intelligence, crucial conversations, interview preparation and leadership to help employees fulfill their potential.

Their impact is widespread. Students apply classroom learning and it shows. Nearly 50 percent of their leadership program graduates over the last five years have succeeded in getting promoted at EBMUD.

“I just want to scream and ring a bell when I hear someone that I mentored got promoted,” says Robbin gleefully. “From the first day on the job to retirement, we follow our students’ careers.”

The pair co-facilitate courses to reach students with different learning styles -- even asking their pupils to think with a beginner’s mind.

“I love seeing our students’ faces light up,” says Maria. “My goal is to take people to the next level and open the doors to curiosity. As leaders, they’ll need to ask questions and seek more than one answer.”

A culture of life-long learning keeps EBMUD in the vanguard and improves communication between EBMUD employees and those we serve.

“The skills learned in the classroom have a ripple effect,” says Maria. “Inside the workplace and in the community,” adds Robbin.

Jeff, Assistant Wastewater Shift Supervisor

Creating The Best Processes Through Collaboration.

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With the possibility of drought always around the corner, recycled water plays a role and helps shore up EBMUD’s long term water supply needs. As the Assistant Shift Supervisor in charge of recycled water, Jeff and seven operators at three facilities ensure the continuing treatment and delivery of recycled water for a diverse set of users.

Recycled water is used for irrigating city parks and commercial landscaping and in industrial processing. In Richmond alone, Jeff oversees two separate facilities: one that produces high-quality recycled water for the Chevron Refinery’s cooling towers, and another that treats water to an even higher standard necessary for the refinery’s boilers. “We’re saving millions of gallons of drinking water each day by serving treated wastewater to our single largest water user,” Jeff says. “When I tell people how much we’re saving, they’re all in on that.”

Jeff has worked for EBMUD in wastewater operations and treatment for twenty-two years, but in some ways his role as a supervisor feels like a return to his roots. His undergraduate degree from UC Davis was in Rhetoric and Communications, and he uses those skills right alongside the technical proficiencies that he has learned on the job.

“In the old days, being a supervisor was about hierarchy. But in this day and age it’s all about encouraging a collaborative team effort,” says Jeff. His background in communications helps him understand the skills and personalities of the staff of operators. He works to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard before a new plan or process is put into place. “If everybody has a say in creating a plan, then everyone will be more supportive when it’s time to implement it.”

“As a supervisor, the most important thing is to get everybody in the same room and give them an opportunity to put their two cents in.”

Javier, Senior Civil Engineer

From start to finish. 

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As a Senior Civil Engineer in EBMUD’s Construction Division, Javier is involved from start to finish in construction projects – from when project funds are authorized, throughout the project design phase, to administering construction contracts to ensure projects are constructed in accordance with the District’s plans and specifications. Javier supervises the staff working directly with contractors, ensuring that projects are constructed as required.

Javier brings more than three decades of experience to the role – including several years with EBMUD’s project management group in the Design Division, and prior to that in the Seismic Improvement Program. “I’m a people person, which is important in construction management because a lot of it comes down to psychology. I try to motivate people to do the right thing and bring out their strengths.”

The Construction Division recently wrapped up work on a major seismic upgrade to the Chabot Dam. “We had a great team that worked very well together, from the design team to the construction management team to the Operations help. The contractor on the job was first class and did a great job on this difficult project. This is what a model construction contract should be like.”

In addition to his work on construction projects that can take years to complete, Javier also plays a critical role in EBMUD’s emergency response. A recent example came in the aftermath of the January 2018 earthquake centered in Berkeley, when Javier supervised damage assessment staff inspecting and reporting the conditions at EBMUD facilities. “Staff responded well and got it done quickly, without a hitch.”

“EBMUD is a great place to work. I like the people here; they’re talented, smart, driven people and they make it worth coming to work every day.” 

David, Engineering Manager

Planning ahead. 

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Safe, reliable water is a critical element of any healthy community. EBMUD carefully plans to ensure an adequate and reliable water source, now and into the future.

David is the Engineering Manager for Water Distribution Planning. In this role he ensures that EBMUD is maintaining our facilities and planning for the future. EBMUD prepares and follows a Master Planning Process that covers all key areas such as water treatment and transmission, water conservation, distribution systems, as well as wastewater treatment.

“Our system and facilities, which are varied in their purpose and geography, all require maintenance and investment,” says David. “This work, which many local residents see firsthand, ensures the delivery of safe drinking water to our service area.”

Managing these complex systems requires the experience of skilled engineering teams, and teamwork is critical: “The teamwork at EBMUD has been critical to ensuring our performance. Integrated discussion among all stakeholders is critical to successful short and long-term planning.”

David’s desire to pursue a career that was community driven was his motivator to work at EBMUD. “Even after 25 years, I am still learning at EBMUD. There are always new challenges and new opportunities to improve our operations.

“Providing the highest quality service delivery and ensuring cost management is a great challenge, and one that I enjoy.” 

Willis, Assistant Construction Maintenance Superintendent

Enjoying each step of the journey. 

Willis for web site.jpgWillis knows a lot about walking a mile in someone else’s steel-toed boots. He’s dug trenches, investigated water emergencies in the middle of the night and repaired main breaks in the rain.

“I know what it is like,” he says. “Those moments build empathy for the men and women who work 24/7.”

All of his experiences – as a laborer, a plumber, a foreman, a leak detection specialist, a water emergency investigator and a maintenance shift supervisor – have helped him in his current role. As Assistant Construction Maintenance Superintendent, he now manages the crews that he was once a part of. His knowledge of EBMUD’s distribution system has served him well in coordinating repairs and conducting major shutdowns.

At 5:45 a.m., his day begins. It’s the quiet before Willis’ cell phone begins ringing. He wraps up the route plan, dispatching crews to fix emergency water leaks. When he’s not meeting with foremen, he’s talking to contractors and customers. Visiting job sites and securing equipment for crews is another important part of the job.

“We put out fires every day to deal with whatever water emergencies come in,” he says. “It can be hectic, but you just have to stay calm.”

After 33 years with EBMUD, Willis is grateful for every opportunity that led to the next and the friendships built along the way. Before he hangs up his hard hat, he has one more challenge left.

“The next big thing for me is passing on the knowledge that I have and preparing someone to step into my shoes.” 

Raffi, Associate Civil Engineer

Improving the water highway.

Raffi works to improve EBMUD's water transmission pipes and aqueducts.

Raffi works to improve EBMUD's water transmission pipes and aqueducts.

Raffi is part of the team that specializes in maintaining and improving EBMUD’s system of large transmission pipelines and aqueducts that keep water flowing from Pardee Reservoir to and throughout the District’s service area. “It’s like a water highway. It’s a lot of water, and travels long distances,” says Raffi.

Raffi works on projects like relining two of the three 90–mile long Mokelumne Aqueducts that traverse the Sierra foothills and the Delta. Those aqueducts are above and below ground and cross earthquake faults. “Our team is looking at possible designs for tunnels to ensure even more reliability during emergencies,” says Raffi. Raffi works to keep these large pipes as leak-free as possible with inspections and fixes when needed. He has also worked on designs to update important pipes like those that cross the Oakland estuary to Alameda, and the MacArthur Davenport Pipeline Replacement, a key transmission pipeline project that began this summer in Oakland.

Raffi planned to be a teacher, but his good math skills put him on a path to engineering. “I didn’t think I’d be an engineer. But my dad and my grandfather on my mom’s side were engineers. ”

"I’m happy to be here, and grateful to those who have mentored me. It takes a special person to take the time to share their nuggets of wisdom with newbies." 

Javier, Water Distribution Supervisor 

Providing high quality water. 

Javier has been with EBMUD for 20 years.

Javier has been with EBMUD for 20 years.

After studying cell and molecular biology at San Francisco State University, Javier got a job as an EBMUD field services representative. Today he serves on the system water quality team, where he oversees the inspection of EBMUD’s expansive distribution system and problem-solves for issues such as water quality, water pressure, and more.

“We have people with backgrounds in plumbing, science, and engineering. That means that we complement each other, and we have a bigger tool chest to solve problems,” says Javier. He and his colleagues rely on critical thinking and a deep knowledge of the District’s water system in order to respond to challenges.

Javier has also taken on the role of educator. Customers sometimes read about changes to water quality, or notice differences in taste and smell when EBMUD supplies them water from a different reservoir or treatment plant. Javier rarely turns down an opportunity to attend a public meeting and answer questions. He’s passionate about explaining the nuances of EBMUD’s water system in simple terms, and describing the precautions that he takes to continue supplying safe and high-quality water.

“There’s integrity in ensuring that we’re always providing safe drinking water, and then sharing the facts.”

Robyn, Executive Assistant II, Office of the Secretary

Finding the perfect fit.

reszied for web.jpgRobyn Johnson joined EBMUD six years ago after working in various positions supporting legal and risk management functions. Her experience made her uniquely qualified for a Legal Secretary position in EBMUD’s Office of the General Counsel. For several years she supported staff attorneys in matters related to labor and employment law, conflicts of interest, the Brown Act, the Public Records Act and government tort claims. As a California Special District, EBMUD requires legal expertise in all areas of our work – construction, financial compliance, liability, water rights, employment to name just a few – and Robyn was a perfect fit for everything that comes our way.

In September 2015, Robyn shifted to her current role as Executive Assistant to the Secretary of the District. By supporting the work of the Secretary and elected Board of Directors, Robyn sees the breadth of everything happening at EBMUD. It’s this big picture that makes her job so fascinating. One day she is reviewing plans for computer systems and software purchases, and the next day she's looking at positions on statewide water issues.

Robyn’s skill in tracking documents and keeping language clear, concise, and focused means our actions are always understandable to anyone who reads about them.

"I enjoy being part of the team that keeps precise and accessible records of our work and the decisions of our Board."

Virginia, Senior Ranger

Lessons in nature. 

There is no such thing as an “average day” for EBMUD’s Senior Ranger, Virginia.  In her 30 years with the District she has worked hard to protect and educate the public about

Virginia educates the public about EBMUD’s 28,000 acres of East Bay watershed land.

Virginia educates the public about EBMUD’s 28,000 acres of East Bay watershed land.

EBMUD’s 28,000 acres of East Bay watershed land. Watershed lands that surround EBMUD reservoirs provide habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species, and a natural haven for the public to enjoy. EBMUD rangers and naturalists like Virginia have been the custodians of these lands for nearly a century.

Virginia currently manages EBMUD’s Outdoor Education program where she teaches students from kindergarten through high school about the importance of environmental protection and stewardship. She takes students on hikes through EBMUD’s watershed lands, helps them plant buckeye, willows and acorns, and works with them on restoring trails and creeks. She tailors each lesson by grade level and allows students the opportunity to explore and discover on their own.

“I don’t want their experience to be too regimented,” says Virginia, “I want the kids to get outside, play in the mud, get dirty and have fun.”

Find out more about EBMUD’s Outdoor Education Program. 

 Virginia also runs the District’s volunteer program for adult volunteers who partner with EBMUD to restore watershed lands by picking up trash which can hurt animals and birds if eaten, and by giving native plants a boost by cutting back brush and pulling weeds and invasive plants.

Virginia loves that her job positively affects the local environment.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to work on projects that I feel are important. For me that is environmental education and restoration.” 

Rischa, Secretary of the District

Ensuring anyone can learn about what we do. 

Rischa, Secretary of the District

Rischa, Secretary of the District

A Richmond native, Rischa began her career at EBMUD 20 years ago as an Administrative Clerk supporting various functions across the District. While working full time, Rischa took advantage of the District’s Tuition Reimbursement Program and obtained an A.A. degree in Liberal Studies and a B.S. degree in Business Administration.

Today, as Secretary of the District, Rischa is charged with keeping track of all current and historic Board decisions and ensuring those decisions are accurately recorded and maintained. In addition, she supports the Board of Directors and the District and is our legal Custodian of Records. Rischa’s experience interacting with all District departments makes her uniquely qualified to respond to public inquiries, support the Board and District actions and mentor staff.

“As an agency funded by our bill paying customers, the public has a right to know what we do and how we spend their money. I am a part of the team that prepares and reviews the written reports, minutes, and other communications to support our Board and staff in making effective, financially responsible decisions for everyone who relies on us.”

 “I am honored to be a part of ensuring that anyone can learn about what we do through accurate, accessible records.”