Member Spotlight -- Doug Woodbeck
April 28, 2016

Faith, family and diplomacy

Job:  Public water system inspector for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

Educational background: Post high school coursework in water and wastewater systems operation, maintenance, and management from Michigan State University and the University of Southern California – Sacramento. Grade 1 Water Operators License, which is Nebraska’s highest license. Numerous other completed courses, licenses and training.

 Age:  57 

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? I have had opportunity to discuss this issue with many people in my career and the one subject that is always brought up is that of supervising and working with difficult people. You have to develop lots of patience and diplomacy and a caring and understanding mind to deal with personnel issues. I am no master of this, but I think I’ve done fairly well. There certainly are situations where you must draw the line in the sand, but if there is a way to come to a compromise where the desired outcome can be achieved and leave all involved at least not angry, I believe we have accomplished something positive.

What is something unexpected you learned on the job? A regulatory agency, namely the one I work for, goes to what I consider amazing lengths to help public water systems gain voluntary compliance before any steps are taken to enjoin an enforcement action. Having worked on both sides of the public water supply fence -- both operating and regulating a system -- gives me a unique understanding and ability to work with the regulated public.

Daily duties: My main duty is to inspect all levels of public water supply systems. I also provide technical and advisory service and assistance to PWS and help provide water operator license training courses.

What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on? Probably the most exciting project, if you can call it exciting, was providing direction to a system that had experienced a major flood that washed out its supply dams and damaged the piping system that brought water to the treatment plant. They had to develop new sources and accomplish major repairs to their system in a short time. Another project that was both interesting and frustrating was when their new treatment plant went online. It’s amazing the number of bugs that need to be worked out to get a new plant up and running.

Do you have a role at your section and how did you become a volunteer? I am the current Past Chair of the Nebraska Section AWWA. My involvement as an active volunteer with the Section began in 2003. Once I got on-board, so-to-speak, I became amazed at how much gets done with no one being paid to do it.

Why did you decide to go into the water field? The water field actually chose me. I was out of the Army and needed a job. The City of Gordon just lost a water system employee and was looking to hire someone. Within three months of being hired, my then-boss asked me if I wanted to get a water operator license because it was becoming mandatory and he wanted nothing to do with that. I accepted  and within the year he had moved on and I was promoted to the position of Utilities Superintendent of the Water and Wastewater systems. I’ve been in water ever since; sometimes hot water, but water nonetheless.

What is your biggest accomplishment? My biggest accomplishment in the water industry was being ground-floor instrumental in the development and implementation of the newly revised public water system sanitary survey process in Nebraska. Prior to my supervisory role with the State, we were always lagging significantly behind in accomplishing our work plan agreements with USEPA with regard to the number, frequency, and follow-up of sanitary surveys of public water systems. The thoroughness of our inspections was also constantly questioned by USEPA. Once in my supervisory role, the revisions to the sanitary survey form were finalized for the most part. We got caught up with our sanitary surveys  within two years and maintained our work plan agreement with USEPA for the remainder of my time as supervisor. During our annual USEPA evaluations, they always commented on how well we did in our inspections program and the completeness of our survey and inspection process. None of this would have been possible without having good staff.

What’s your motto in life?
  Trust in and put all your faith in Jesus Christ. Without God we have nothing that is worth anything.

Hobbies and outside interests:  My main interest is serving God. After God is my wife and family. Along with these, I enjoy shooting firearms, gunsmithing, archery, hunting, motorcycle riding, Tae Kwon Do, fast cars, and good food. I am a member of the Bible Baptist Church, Endowment Member of the National Rifle Association, Life Member of the North American Hunting Club, Director of the Western Sandhills American Legion Riders Chapter #34, and member of the Izaak Walton League of America, Lincoln Nebraska Chapter. My Ford Mustang isn’t fast enough so I plan to remedy that situation.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?  A martial artist and a soldier. Growing up, Bruce Lee was my hero and I loved watching the “Green Hornet”, “Rat Patrol”, and “Combat” on television. I accomplished both of those goals, though I wasn’t a soldier nearly long enough for my liking.

What is something that people would be surprised to know about you? I hold a 2nd degree black belt and my best breaking feat so far is four 2” x 10” x 16” concrete blocks. It’s amazing how hard concrete is.