AWWA Articles

AWWA Member Spotlight – U.S. Veteran Kevin Carter, San Diego, Calif.

Kevin Carter served nine years in the U.S. Navy, five of them as a machinist mate on a nuclear-powered submarine that took him on three Western Pacific tours.

Now he’s working toward a career in the water sector and completing a 32-week internship with the San Diego County Water Authority.Kevin Carter

“Onboard the USS Asheville, I worked with every system and every piece of machinery – HVAC, refrigeration, pneumatic, hydraulic, diesel engines and electric motors,” said Carter, a student member of the American Water Works Association.

“It seems like just yesterday I was pulling a valve apart and doing pre-maintenance on a motor,” he added. “What I’m doing now at the North City Water Reclamation Plant feels like I’ve come full circle.”

Carter, whose family has a long history of military service, grew up outside of Detroit. After his first year at the University of Michigan, he enlisted in the Navy to develop a clearer vision of what he wanted to do with his life.

“It was the best thing I could have done,” he said. “I visited 22 countries before I was 22 years old. I wouldn’t trade my time in the Navy for anything.”

After retiring from active duty, Carter worked in the private sector in Detroit and Las Vegas before joining Qualcomm Inc. in San Diego. He worked there for nearly nine years before being one of 5,000 employees laid off in a global downsizing in 2015.

A fishing buddy of Carter’s -- a wastewater operator -- suggested he look at jobs in the water sector. “He gave me a tour of his facility and I thought, ‘this is kind of what I’m used to, it pays well, it’s pretty recession proof and you can make a career of it.’”

Kevin Carter with wife and daughterCarter, who lives in San Diego with his wife, Morgan, and daughter, Kaelani, took classes at Cuyamaca College and the Sacramento State Office of Water Programs before starting his internship. “It’s been a lot of fun, it really has,” he said. “In the water and wastewater community here, everybody knows everybody. It’s a nice, familiar feeling.”

He passed the first two levels of the water treatment operator certification exam and the first level of the wastewater operator certification exam and is waiting to hear the results from his recent Grade 2 wastewater operator exam.

Many of the skills and values he developed in the Navy – like leadership, team support, camaraderie, safety – he believes are useful in the water sector.

“As vets, we’re halfway trained already. You just have to get us the rest of the way there. Give us an SOP (standard operating procedure) and a wrench and we’re good. You can count on us.”

In the future, Carter plans to “find a great job that I love, make a career of it, and go as high as I can go.”