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.
Steven, Senior Mechanic
Committing to quality.
Steven supervises and manages the workload of 16 mechanics that maintain EBMUD’s extensive fleet of heavy equipment. How extensive? EBMUD has approximately 1,200 vehicles, and half are larger than a pickup truck (like construction vehicles and dump trucks). Steven puts it this way: “Anything with dual wheels in the back, that’s in my shop.”
Steven has been with EBMUD for 14 years and a supervisor for 12 of those years. It can be a challenge to manage so many staff in multiple locations, from Oakland, to Stockton, to the Pardee reservoir in the Sierra foothills. But what makes it easier is this: “We hire great talent – the cream of the crop. We don’t take shortcuts. We fix what needs to be fixed, and as a result, our vehicles are less likely to break down when they're needed on a water main break.”
Steven says EBMUD provides many tools for staff to learn new skills. He's a graduate of EBMUD’s leadership academy, a member of the Public Fleet Supervisors Association, and belongs to the District’s Toastmasters club.
“There are many things that you can do here to better yourself—both your career and personally.”
Louis, Paving Crew Foreman
Smoothing the way.Louis directs a paving crew of seven people, strategically planning the routing and scheduling of paving so East Bay residents can drive, bike, and walk over streets where pipe repairs or main breaks have recently taken place.
Louis occasionally drives over areas that he helped pave 25 years ago when he was first hired as a laborer with EBMUD. He shows the still-intact paving to his wife and children “like we’re on a field trip.” He’s happiest when working outdoors and in the field, where he interacts with EBMUD customers and the general public. Those interactions are almost universally positive: “People say thank you for fixing the street and the sidewalk.”
Louis says the best things about working for EBMUD are the friendships he’s built with people working at all levels of the organization. He points out that most of the paving foremen started out together as laborers, then rakers, before making foreman. He enjoys seeing his younger staff advance to the next level positions.
“It’s the greatest experience seeing people develop and grow.”
Ray, Meter Reader Mechanic
Matching up teamwork with meter work.
He started as a temporary staffer, but his desire to learn new skills and his technical knowledge led him to a full-time career in the water industry. “I heard many good things about EBMUD. I liked the people I worked with and quickly realized how great the morale is,” says Ray. “It’s one of the best companies I’ve worked for!”
Ray’s work locations vary, but the work is consistent. As a Meter Reader Mechanic, Ray reports to the office to review his routes and job orders, then stocks up on the new meters he’ll need and sets out in his truck. He spends half his time reading meters and the other half repairing, installing and maintaining water meters to ensure they are properly recording the amount of water residents and businesses are using (and being billed for). When he’s not manually reading meters, Ray uses a wireless system which reads automated meters as he drives through the neighborhoods served by EBMUD.
The work can be challenging because of the physical nature of the work, combined with weather conditions. “I’m grateful for the support of my team who back me up if needed,” says Ray. “I’m given the time and tools to do my job well – and safely.”
Field staff like Ray are the EBMUD employees that customers interact with the most. “During the drought, customers shared with me the steps they were taking to save water.” Meter Reader Mechanics are aware that customers will be out of water service during meter maintenance, so they prepare and think through the work ahead of time to minimize impacts of that outage. “It’s our job to serve,” says Ray.
“Teamwork helps me get the job done right. It motivates me when my managers take the time to help find good solutions quickly.”
Tony, Manager of Facility Maintenance & Construction
Jumping in with both feet.Tony manages a division of 160 tradespeople: carpenters, electrical technicians, instrument technicians, machinists, painters, gardeners, facility specialists, and janitors. The group maintains the operations of District facilities – keeping them reliable and operational and getting them back online quickly and efficiently when they fail. He welcomes the daily challenges – “I don’t call them problems” – because with well-qualified staff and the right equipment, EBMUD is able to take on and manage the wide variety of challenges that come with providing water to 1.4 million people.
Tony came to EBMUD from General Electric 15 years ago as an assistant engineer in EBMUD’s electrical design group. He admits he had heard some negative things about public employees, but was quickly impressed by his EBMUD colleagues – “great people who love their jobs” – in operations, engineering, field work, and throughout the organization.
“I jumped in with both feet and never looked back.”
Johnny, Network Analyst II
Helping the team stay connected.
Johnny works as a Network Analyst II in EBMUD’s Help Desk under the Information Systems Department (ISD). The department provides information technology support to over 1,900 employees. Johnny ensures that employees are equipped to perform their day to day operations, whether it is in an office setting or in the field at a construction site.
The Help Desk sets up and troubleshoots District computers, laptops, tablets, printers, cell phones and scanners. They ensure that staff members are networked to the internet and that EBMUD systems are secure.
Johnny is one of a dozen Help Desk staff assisting hundreds of employees in the Oakland administrative building along with over 20 additional EBMUD workplaces. No matter what office he’s in, Johnny loves coming to work. “The staff in Help Desk all came from different work experiences and I feel like I can learn from them every day. It’s also great to see that my supervisor has worked his way up in this department. EBMUD likes to grow their employees.”
An Oakland native, Johnny came to EBMUD with over 10 years of IT experience in the private sector.
“I grew up in Oakland and EBMUD was always a part of my life. I remember my second grade field trip to an EBMUD facility and was amazed at all the services EBMUD provides to the East Bay."
“I knew I wanted to be a part of it one day.”
Mackenzie, Plant Maintenance Worker II
Improving the “underground forest.”
Mackenzie is in her first year at EBMUD and is already moving on up. Originally hired out of Oakland’s Laney College as a machinist and welder, she’s now apprenticing with experienced wastewater workers on her way to achieving a journeyman level in the trades.
Mackenzie is fascinated by what she calls the “underground forest” – the pipes and pumping systems that make the East Bay’s wastewater plant work. She still does a lot of welding to fix or modify equipment, but also spends her days learning how to improve (and in some cases overhaul) the valves and chemical systems in wastewater pumping stations and wet weather stations throughout the Bay Area.
Mackenzie is learning firsthand about how wastewater solids are removed, treated and reused— including the process to convert waste into energy. She lives near the wastewater plant and now feels more connected to the town she calls home.
“There’s a whole city under the city that no one ever sees – it makes me think about space very differently.”
Laura, Manager of Pipeline Construction & Equipment
Solving problems every day.
Laura spends her days managing EBMUD’s pipeline construction crews, ensuring pipeline replacements and road restorations stay on track. With 4,200 miles of pipe in the EBMUD water distribution system, Laura’s team – which includes plumbers, pavers, heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, and equipment maintenance techs – is always on the move.
Laura’s job is a juggling act that comes with construction work: managing nine crews, keeping materials and equipment fully utilized and moving, and addressing challenges that crop up. (Can’t get 40-foot pipe on a truck up that street? How about by helicopter?) She also ensures our work is coordinated with the cities, counties, other agencies, and public that are nearby.
Laura believes in her crews and knows that EBMUD can always find a solution that works for all and is in the best interest of our customers.
Kristen, Wastewater Control Representative
Answering the question: "What happens when I 'go'?"
“When you flush the toilet, it doesn’t disappear by magic,” says wastewater control representative Kristen. Instead, it ends up at EBMUD’s Main Wastewater Treatment Plant in West Oakland, serving nearly 685,000 East Bay residents.
EBMUD ensures that the treated wastewater leaving the plant won’t harm human health or aquatic life. To be successful, we monitor what’s entering the plant to ensure it won’t kill beneficial bacteria (which eat the suspended waste in wastewater) and otherwise disrupt the treatment process. “People can help by only flushing the three P’s (pee, poop and toilet paper) and keeping fats, oils and grease out of sinks.”
Kristen majored in environmental studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and then taught science to Oakland high schoolers. At EBMUD, she educates residents of all ages about water and wastewater systems.
Given her experience teaching young students, it’s no surprise that Kristen is comfortable with making toilet talk relatable.
“We have another set of bacteria that digest sludge and fart out methane, which we use to produce electricity,” she explains. The main goal of wastewater treatment is to protect public health and the environment, but EBMUD's plant also transforms sewage and other organic wastes into green energy, nutrient-rich soil conditioner and recycled water. Kristen says people are “totally blown away by what we do with their poop” when they tour the treatment plant.
“I enjoy being a public servant. I’m proud to work for an organization that brings the public goods of fresh drinking water and wastewater treatment to my community.”
Debra, Wastewater Control Inspector II
Taking pride in protecting the Bay.
Although Debra lived by the beach while she was in her previous job, she couldn’t wait to get back to Oakland where she was born and raised. Now Debra is a Wastewater Control Inspector and is constantly out and about in the East Bay, where she investigates wastewater discharge from various industrial, commercial and institutional sources.
Not everyone can handle being out in urban and industrial areas all the time, but Debra is tough and does not scare easily. She’s also run into many people who have misconceptions of what an inspector is supposed to look like. “There are not a lot of people doing this kind of job who look like me.”
Debra keeps her focus on carrying out her duties to meet EBMUD’s high standards. She ensures water pollution control laws and regulations are being followed. She also stands ready to problem-solve at the drop of a hat if there’s a high rain event or spill that could trigger pollutants entering the San Francisco Bay.
Debra is proud to be a part of an agency where employees are really committed to their work and their communities – it’s what has kept her here for 23 years. Whether she’s training new inspectors or managing interns, Debra has been reflecting a lot on her future—and EBMUD’s. She encourages youth, particularly women and minorities, to get involved early in this career path that’s ultimately about protecting our Bay Area home.
“Our job is to protect the Bay. This is my home. And you want to take care of where you live. I have tons of nieces and nephews. When I leave here, I want to make sure I leave a clean and safe environment.”
Aunquise, Senior Customer Service Representative
A True Calling to Serve the East Bay
Try stumping Aunquise with a question about EBMUD and you’ll be hard pressed to do so. She’s mastered the art of researching tough questions and being plain “nosy” to find answers for inquiring customers.
Like a quiz show, she’s regularly peppered with a potpourri of questions, from billing issues to meter reading. She’ll often don a detective hat to investigate mysterious high bills, asking customers to take pictures of their meters and send them in so she can get a “closer” look.
Aunquise answers nearly 300 customer emails weekly and fields calls and letters, as well. With a soothing voice that can temper any caller, she’s helpful, resourceful and, above all, kind in her approach.
“I treat people as if I were on the phone with my mother, my grandmother or my aunt,” she says.
Starting at 14, she learned communication skills during an internship with the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Training other interns to perform her tasks was part of her job. Zoom to now, she’s imparting trainings to classrooms of Customer Service Representatives.
“I’ve always been eager to help,” she says. “I enjoy empowering customers.”
It’s more than a coincidence; Aunquise’s line of work is a true calling. In fact, today she works in EBMUD’s office, one street away from her childhood home.
“I want to help the community that I grew up in,” she says. “Not only do I get to do it on my own time, but I get to do it while working. It doesn’t get better than that.”