| Legendary competitor looking forward to ACE23 Hydrant Hysteria
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Legendary competitor looking forward to ACE23 Hydrant Hysteria

To those who are in the know about all things involving Hydrant Hysteria – a fast-paced competition where two-member teams assemble a specific water hydrant as quickly as possible -- the name Bart Romero is considered legendary.

Romero, a water division foreman with the Village of Wauconda in Illinois, was on the winning men’s team at the North American competition at the American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE) in Denver in 2019, with partner David Schilf, a water operator in Wauconda. Romero repeated as champion in San Antonio in 2022 (after competitions were halted in 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic) with partner Brian Burton from the City of Des Plaines water department.

Photos of Bart Romero and his highlights from Hydrant HysteriaRomero and Burton are returning defend their title at ACE23 in Toronto after taking first place at the Illinois Section competition. They are hoping to beat their 2022 title time of 1:16.91.

“What I personally love the most about Hydrant Hysteria is the fierce competition,” Romero said. “That’s when my inner fire comes out.” 

He recalls a humorous moment when he and his partner were approached by another team while they were observing another section’s Hydrant Hysteria competition. “They approached us and said, ‘The legends are here. We thought you would be bigger and meaner looking.’ ” (Pictured above from left: Romero; Romero and partner Brian Burton competing; Romero, Burton and Mike Schmidt.)

Romero’s winning record goes back to 2015, when he and Schilf placed second at the Illinois Section competition. In 2016, the dynamic duo placed first at the section competition and first at ACE in Chicago. In 2017, they placed first at the section competition and fourth at ACE17 in Philadelphia. In 2018, they placed second at the Illinois Section competition. They were coached by Mark Gedde from 2015 through 2019 and Mike Schmidt beginning in 2022. 

“For many years I have pushed myself as far as I can and this year, I’m hoping to encourage others to go beyond what they have before,” Romero said. “It goes beyond practicing the reassembly hundreds of times. As we progress and competition improves, we need to be mentally, physically and emotionally stronger.”

Romero joined the Village of Wauconda in 2001 as a maintenance service technician in the Street Division and was hired into the Water Division in 2003. He earned his Drinking Water Operator Class C certification in 2005 and Class B certification in 2011. He was promoted to foreman and became a certified Commercial Driver’s License instructor in 2022.

“I hold my head high and take pride in a career that helps provide safe drinking water to our residents,” he said. 

Romero recommends involvement in Hydrant Hysteria and other competitions as a development opportunity. “It’s a wonderful way to increase motivation and performance and it provides validation,” he said. 

He thanked AWWA and its sections for hosting the competitions and recognized Mike Ramsey, the national Hydrant Hysteria chair and founder; Brett Fritzler, the Illinois Section Hydrant Hysteria chair; and all supporting hydrant manufacturers for their contributions and support.

“I am humbled, grateful, and express my gratitude for all they have done,” he said.