SWPA hosted its Annual Meeting in Chicago on November 15, 2018. SWPA members gathered from around the country to participate in the annual event, a highlight of many professionals’ calendars. In addition to the comradery and networking, ample time was devoted to the organization’s plans for the upcoming year and establishing the agenda for promoting innovation, shared leadership, and growth.


The meeting kicked off with a “State of the Industry” presentation by Thomas Decker, an industry veteran and retired vice president at Brown and Caldwell. After a career spanning more than four decades, Decker saddled up his horse, rode into the sunset, and crossed full-time employment for large diversified engineering and construction companies off his bucket list. Following his formal retirement, Decker now devotes his energies toward leading Thomas E. Decker Consulting. Based in Northern Virginia, Thomas E. Decker Consulting provides market strategy and business management expertise to water and wastewater sector companies, organizations, and agencies.

Prior to becoming, as he jokingly said during his address, “the best boss he has ever worked for,” Decker was a vice president and geographic area leader for Brown and Caldwell, a vice president, regional business group manager, and principal program manager with CH2M HILL, a vice president and business development director with the Parsons Corporation, and a partner and director of marketing for the infrastructure business of Black and Veatch. He has served on the board of directors of the Water Environment Federation and the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists and is a past president of the Missouri Water Environment Association.

WWEMA Executive Director Vanessa M. Leiby

During his long and eventful engagement in the water and wastewater field, he has led worldwide and national business development operations, directed numerous growth initiatives ranging from geographic expansions to acquisitions of companies, orchestrated “an impossible to count” number of direct sales efforts for engineering and construction services, developed strategic plans for entire business units as well as individual service lines, directed business unit operations, led business planning efforts for water and wastewater utilities, and has been a program manager for large capital improvement programs. At one point in his career, he even operated wastewater treatment plants.

Because of this very expansive background, he has comprehensive and unique grasp of the business of water and is a frequent speaker to a variety of trade and professional groups on the issues and trends impacting the water and wastewater marketplace. He is also a registered professional engineer in multiple states and is a Board Certified Environmental Engineer by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists. His assessment of the submersible pump industry was insightful, thorough, and welcomed by all attendees.


Vanessa M. Leiby, the executive director of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA), also addressed this year’s meeting. Leiby has a B.S. and M.S. in zoology, with emphasis in aquatic ecology and aquatic toxicology respectively, from Ohio State University. An environmental scientist and policy analyst, she has over thirty years’ experience in regulatory, legislative, and policy issues associated with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and Clean Water Act (CWA). In her current capacity heading WWEMA, she provides leadership in advocacy work with congress, the U.S. EPA, the Department of Commerce, and other federal and state agencies. Information exchange is also a key piece of the association’s strategic plan as well as connecting manufacturers with people, industries, and agencies to further the goal of environmental protection.

Prior to joining WWEMA she was a principal for ten years at the Cadmus Group, an environmental consulting firm with mission support contracts to EPA’s Office of Water. She began her career in the Washington, DC, area in 1989. She was executive director of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) from 1991 to 2003. In that capacity, she worked closely with the states, EPA, water industry organizations, congress, and other non-governmental organizations on water-related issues. She was instrumental in the 1996 reauthorization of the SDWA and participated in discussions and negotiations on key aspects of the Bioterrorism Act that related to the water sector. Her experience covers the state revolving loan funds including “Buy American” provisions, regulation development, implementation, enforcement, security, water and energy efficiency, the SDWA/CWA interface, training, and data management. Leiby updated the meeting on all of the legislative action in 2018 as well as a preview of things to come in 2019.


SWPA also held its Marketing and Technical Committee Meetings. Committee Meetings are a major component of each and every SWPA Meeting. It is at these highly interactive sessions that much of the Association’s work is done—where decisions are made concerning all of the association’s programs and activities. The Marketing Committee’s focus is on expanding as well as enhancing current programs and activities; creating and implementing plans for new ones; and enhancing membership benefits and services. That means determining the marketability of potential new products and identifying target audiences for those, which are referred to the Technical Committee for development. It also includes developing a business/marketing plan for each major activity and maintaining and updating the Business Plans for ongoing programs and activities.

The Technical Committee’s focus and responsibility is to insure the technical accuracy of the information SWPA disseminates—initially creating it and then insuring its ongoing correctness. The Annual Business Meeting follow, where SWPA Executive Director Adam Stolberg presented the 2019 Industry Outlook. Unavailable from any other source, SWPA’s annual survey is now in its nineteenth year. Each year, SWPA members report that the organization’s Industry Outlook is an event not to be missed!


SWPA Annual Meeting concluded with a nod toward the future of the industry. In addition to an awards presentation recognizing SWPA members for their achievements, two $1,000 Charles G. Stolberg Memorial Scholarships were presented to college students in the water/wastewater and engineering fields. The scholarships, named in honor of past SWPA Executive Director Charles G. Stolberg, continue his vision for a submersible wastewater pump industry that is interconnected and forward looking.

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