| AWWA Member Spotlight – Doriel Pagán Crespo, Caguas, Puerto Rico
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AWWA Member Spotlight – Doriel Pagán Crespo, Caguas, Puerto Rico

Doriel CrespoAs AWWA recognizes Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re pleased to share this conversation with Doriel Ivette Pagán Crespo, an accomplished water sector leader and AWWA member in Puerto Rico.

Job title: Executive President, Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority AAA (PRASA)

Education: B.S., Chemical Engineering, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez University Campus

How and why did you get involved in the water sector? Since I started my professional career, it has always related to water management and treatment. My first job was at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical in San German, doing water balancing. Then I was put in charge of the utilities, including the reverse osmosis unit, purification system and manufacturing. Later I became a process engineer. I moved to PRASA 29 years ago, as supervisor of the Miradero’s filter plant in Mayagüez.

Doriel and other crew members at construction siteWhat have been the biggest challenges and successes you’ve experienced as PRASA’s leader in the aftermath of the 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria? It has been challenging to find resources to rebuild, both external and financial, and it’s taken time to execute rebuilding projects. At the same time, it has been our greatest opportunity to improve our system infrastructure and we are maximizing such an opportunity. (Fourth from left, Crespo is pictured at the reconstruction site for a new Central Laboratory of Caguas, which was destroyed by Hurricane Maria).

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Puerto Rico and PRASA’s operations? Our greatest challenge has been to ensure the safety of our employees while developing protocols to maintain the operation of our facilities. We have maintained operational continuity by balancing face-to-face human resources and remote work. This has enabled us to deliver services and continue to achieve our objectives and goals. Effective communication at all levels has been instrumental to keeping all stakeholders and work sectors engaged, and we’ve had to use technology to do this in our new remote work scenario.  

To what do you attribute your success during your extensive career? My parents, who I thank God for, have been my guides to achieving success. They taught me that wherever I worked, to do so with integrity and excellence. They insisted that I always give the best of me. I’ve applied these teachings in every opportunity I have had, which has opened doors to increasingly challenging responsibilities.

What does PRASA hope to accomplish over the next year? We plan to continue to maximize the use of federal funds from the $3.7 billion awarded by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency in January 2021. We’re continuing to advance our strategy of minimizing unbilled water and hope to gain FEMA approval to carry out dredging work in the Carraízo reservoir. We’re also working to optimize and streamline our internal processes and expand our communications capabilities. We will update our 10-year master plan to plan for capital improvements, including those to address climate change and ensure the availability of future water resources.

What suggestions do you have for other women aspiring to leadership in the water sector? I am honored to be the first woman to hold all operational positions at PRASA since I began working 29 here years ago. Today, I am satisfied to see a large number of female colleagues in operational positions. My recommendation for these women is to always stay committed, not to limit themselves when facing new challenges, and be eager to embrace new opportunities.

Doriel Crespo in meeting at AWWA's government affairs office)How has PRASA benefited from being an AWWA member since 2006? We have a network of professionals who help us stay updated with new technologies. By participating in AWWA activities, we stay current on progress and achievements in the water sector. (Pictured right, Crespo meeting with Puerto Rico Section Chair Marcos Carrasquillo, left, and Section Director Carlos Ortiz, center.)

Please describe your personal interests and family: I’m very interested in the topic of leadership and professional development and was certified as a professional coach in 2017, with a specialty in resilience. I’m also an active chaplain in my church. My priority is my family, including my husband, Jorge Balaguer, to whom I have been married for 28 years. Our eldest son is Jorge R. Balaguer Pagán, 27; and our younger son is Daniel O. Balaguer Pagán, 20. And, of course, my parents, Roberto Pagán and Doris Crespo.