At the Water Environment Federation’s annual conference, WEFTEC, held in late September in New Orleans, the organization welcomed its new president, Rick Warner. In addition to serving at the helm of WEF, Warner is a senior engineer for the Washoe County Community Services Department in Reno, Nevada, where he is responsible for planning, design, and construction of regional water resource recovery and recycled water projects.
I sat down with Mr. Warner during WEFTEC to talk about some of his major objectives for his term in office. At the top of his list is strengthening the relationship with WEF’s national and international partners.
“I really want to hone our organization around our partners,” he said. “The theme I’ve come up with to sort of capture that is ‘Partnering for Impact’ and it has just gained a lot of excitement with our international and national partners.”
Collectively, Warner said, these entities can have more impact in the water sector as a group, working together, understanding each other’s missions, and finding opportunities to collaborate in a more purposeful way.
“We’re all here together this week,” he said, “and what I want to do is build that trust a little bit, find some ways we can work together, and then start to create a framework where, maybe a year from now, we look back and say this was the point at which we made a paradigm shift.
“Together, we can go much further and faster than we can separately,” he continued. Bringing people together is extremely important, he said, and getting out to as many of WEF’s 76 affiliated member organizations as possible this year is one of his goals. “I’m going to try to carry that theme (Partnering for Impact) as much as I can,” he said.
Another major initiative for Warner is connecting on innovation, bringing together product manufacturers, the research community, students, and young professionals to create and nurture the technical expertise that’s going come up through the organization over the next 20 to 30 years. “There’s a theme we carry within our organization about being relevant,” he said. “You can be successful, you can be the biggest, you can be the best, but if we’re not relevant to [our customers], we’re not doing our job.”
And Warner isn’t just talking the talk; back home, he’s working on bringing his regional agencies together “to work on something big and bold”: potable wastewater reuse, taking domestic sewage all the way through advanced treatment processes, redundancy, monitoring and lab testing to its final end product - drinking water.
“I get really excited about that concept because I think it brings together everything that we’ve talked about for years: Watershed management, drinking water, ordinance changes at the local community, public awareness. So really I get excited about taking on a big challenge like that. But it’s the technical part, it’s the public communication, it’s a lot about trust and legitimacy: these things I really embrace.”
Here's the full interview with Rick Warner.