2023 WWD Young Pros

May 10, 2023
The 2023 WWD Young Pros have answered the call of increased responsibility when asked, their career successes show promise for the next generation of water professionals.

Year-over-year, the problem of hiring and retention for utilities rises in magnitude. The WWD State of the Industry Report has noted this, and editors for WWD have heard this from numerous utility professionals across the country in first-hand conversations.

It is a problem than needs to be solved from both ends of the work pipeline.

The industry needs to engage students before they apply to colleges or graduate high school on the career opportunities that exist in the water industry. Moreover, the industry and broader society need to advocate more for students to enter the trades because, as much as the industry needs more engineers, it also needs more operators and plant personnel for the day-to-day work those engineers design.

Once those workers enter the pipeline, the challenge is keeping them. For the previous generation of employees, this was rarely an issue. It was commonplace to get a job and hold it for two to three decades, but the times have changed. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report in January 2022, the median number of years that wage and salary workers remained in a job was 4.1 years. Challenges with retaining employees longer than that period usually comes down to pay and growth opportunities that exceed what the utility is able to accommodate.

But, on the top end, there are employees with more than 20 years of experience who are comfortable, who love their jobs and who do not want increased responsibility. This is not a retention issue, but a growth opportunity issue for not only the individual who has been with the utility for a long time but also for the younger employee looking to move up.

The 2023 WWD Young Pros show how those who have been given opportunity for added responsibility have risen to the occasion. The majority of these young professionals have remained with their company for longer than the median of 4.1 years, with several having been with their company or utility for at least 10 years. Throughout the summer, we will feature several of these young professionals in video interviews, including questions of how the industry can address this growing issue. Be sure to visit www.wwdmag.com/videos to see those interviews as soon as they go live.

Cheyanne Harris, 28
  • Senior Associate Engineer
  • Brown and Caldwell
  • Sacramento, California

Biography

As a licensed professional engineer, Harris supports conveyance and pump stations projects while supporting program management. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Pacific and master’s degree from the University of California, Davis.

In 2019, she became an alum of the Water Education Foundation’s Water Leaders class following her studies of the impact of wildfires on water in California. She has presented on diversity, equity and inclusion for the California Water Environment Association and at American Water Works Association Annual Conference and Exhibition.

Harris is also involved in her community by volunteering her time to aid Sacramento-area STEM programs and by serving as a board member for the Water Education Foundation.

Professional Accomplishments

  • Licensed professional engineer in California
  • Water Education Foundation 2019 Water Leader graduate
  • Water Environment Federation 2022 Mentoring Program participant
  • Water Environment Federation/American Water Works Association Young Professionals Summit Local Host Committee vice chair
Cory Salmon, 30
  • Group Manager | Water & Wastewater
  • Herbert, Rowland & Grubic Inc.
  • King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

Biography

As group manager for the water and wastewater department in the King of Prussia office, Salmon leads and manages a team to develop projects, retain new clients and solve infrastructure challenges with innovative solutions. He is responsible for opening a new office for HRG’s top growth market in 2019, which exceeded annual sales goals by 47% in 2022.

Salmon is the first employee at Herbert, Rowland & Grubic to manage a lead service line replacement project, and was also the lead design engineer for the $10 million dollar Carlisle Letort Spring Run Rehabilitation Interceptor Project, which consisted of 20,000 feet of 42-inch diameter concrete pipe with additional 3,500 feet combined of 24-inch and 18-inch diameter pipe.

Salmon is a member of numerous professional organizations including WEF, the Pennsylvania Water Environment Association, and the AWWA Pennsylvania Chapter. He also serves as a board member for the Central Delaware County Authority and volunteers to plant trees for the Chester Ridley Crum Watersheds Association.

Professional Accomplishments

  • First HRG employee to manage an LSL replacement project
  • Design engineer for $10 million dollar interceptor rehabilitation project
  • Created 10-year capital improvement plan for the Pottstown Borough Authority
  • Licensed professional engineer in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware
  • Certified project management professional
  • Masters degree in business administration from Pennsylvania State University
Creed Campbell, 31
  • Director of Project Management
  • Harper General Contractors
  • Greenville, South Carolina

Biography

Campbell started in the co-op program at Harper General Contractors and has moved up in the organization from assistant project manager to director of project management. In this role, he plays a pivotal part in every project for the Harper General Contractors Environmental Systems Division. He supports and trains project management staff from the conception of projects to completion with an eye for serving clients and building trust.

Campbell was the project manager for the McCormick Water Treatment Plant Improvements Project, which earned the 2022 AGC Construction Excellence Award and the 2022 ACEC Engineering Excellence Award. He also holds an associate DBIA and is on course to earn full DBIA accreditation.

Campbell also volunteers with Homes of Hope, which develops affordable housing in partnership with Upstate Warrior Solutions. He volunteered to help fundraise and renovate a home for a local veteran.

Professional Accomplishments

  • Involved in 10-month Leadership Greenville program to develop future leaders in Greenville, South Carolina
  • Project manager for the award-winning McCormick Water Treatment Plant
  • Certified association Design-Build Professional through the Design-Build Institued of America
Kate Dotten-Holder, 38
  • Charlotte Office Director & Senior Project Manager
  • Harper General Contractors
  • Charlotte, North Carolina

Biography

Dotten-Holder is a University of Central Florida graduate who has risen from her role as project engineer to the Charlotte Office Director for Harper General Contractors. She opened the Charlotte office in 2017, where she leads a diverse team with an enthusiasm for teamwork and dedication to clients. Her creative approach offers inventive solutions to client problems, which resulted in numerous award-winning projects.

Her most recent project is the T.Z. Osborne Water Reclamation Facility in North Carolina, where she created more than 20 subcontractor packages, monitored participation for the City of Greensboro and held multiple meetings for minority and women-owned business enterprises and other local businesses.

Dotten-Holder volunteers with Heart Math Tutoring to assist elementary students with math to support their access to S.T.E.M. education. She also leads the Walk for People 5k at Harper General Contractors, which supports Water for People through fundraising and awareness.

Professional Accomplishments

  • Licensed professional engineer in North Carolina
  • Certified association Design-Build Professional through the Design-Build Institued of America
  • Leads internal risk management committee for Harper General Contractors
Katie Peach, 33
  • North American Domain Leader for Potable and Advanced Reuse
  • Veolia Water Technologies
  • Oakvill, Ontario, Canada

Biography

Prior to her current role, Peach worked in field service to commission water and wastewater facilities. She also worked as a process engineer for municipal wastewater and potable reuse applications. Her experience led her to the role of North American domain leader for potable and advanced reuse, where she works to develop water recycling solutions that can create sustainable water sources for her customers.

Peach is a graduate of the Water Environment Federation Water Leadership Institute and is also a member of the WEF Water Reuse Committee in addition to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Direct Potable Reuse Technical Advisory Group. At Veolia Water Technologies, she co-leads the Women’s Network Hub, which advocates for equity and career growth for women’s careers.

She earned the 2021 Suez Pinnacle Award and is a recognized thought leader on potable reuse topics, having published multiple papers with WEF, International Water Associations, the American Membrane Technology Association and others.

Professional Accomplishments

  • Licensed professional engineer in Ontario
  • Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering
  • 2021 Suez Pinnacle Award winner
  • 2021 WEF Water Leadership Institute graduate
  • WEF Water Reuse committee member
  • Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Direct Potable Reuse Technical Advisory Group member
Michaela Rempkowski, 32
  • Integrated Design Director
  • McCarthy Building Companies
  • Phoenix, Arizona

Biography

Rempkowski is the team director for the McCarthy Building Companies integrated design delivery team for the national water and wastewater group. She ensures the team minimizes risks and enhances quality and constructability of client projects. Rempkowski is involved in the start-up and commissioning of water and wastewater treatment plants with a focus on project team collaboration.

She spent most of her career as a process engineer where she designed municipal water and wastewater projects across the country. She is an active board member with the state society of professional engineers in New Mexico, Kansas and in Arizona where she is the current president of the Arizona Society of Professional Engineers. She is also an active WEF member and is recognized nationally for her professional work with McCarthy and WEF.

Professional Accomplishements

  • Licensed professional chemical engineer
  • 2023 President of the Arizona Society of Professional Engineers
  • Arizona Society of Professional Engineers National Honors and Awards Committee chair
Pollop Phonpornwithoon, 38
  • Division Director IV – Director of Utility Operations
  • Palm Beach County Water Utilities
  • West Palm Beach, Florida

Biography

Phonpornwithoon started his career as a student intern while studying engineering at FAU. He then became a project coordinator before being promoted to project coordinator II, and in both roles he oversaw small projects in his service area. He completed his engineering degree and earned the project management professional certification, leading him to a role as project manager, an increase in responsibility of people and projects. He was promoted to the role of utility operations director in 2021 and now oversees five water plants, three wastewater plants, the distribution lines team and all reclaimed water operations.

One notable project he managed was the development of the infiltration and inflow study for the Palm Beach Beach County Water Utilities District gravity sewer system for Belle Glade, Pahokee, and South Bay. This project included a sanitary sewer evaluation survey and I&I analysis, which resulted in a $3 million gravity sewer and manhole rehabilitation project.

Phonpornwithoon has presented at the Florida Section AWWA conference and published a paper titled “Capital Improvement Program Forecasting to Analytically Target Distressed Infrastructure” in the December 2018 issue of “Florida Water Resources Journal.” He also contributes to the Chidren’s Home Society, Palm Beach County Food Bank and is a repeat Community Champion Donor for United Way of Palm Beach County.

Professional Accomplishments

  • Led a non-revenue water capital planning project, which saved $1.25 million for The Glades
  • Elected board member for the East Central Regional Wastewater Treatment Facilities Board
  • Founder of the South Florida Institute of Asset Management
Sagrado Sparks, 36
  • Vice President of Operations
  • McCarthy Building Companies
  • Phoenix, Arizona

Biography

Sparks started as an assistant project manager and has risen through the ranks to vice president of operations for the national water and wastewater group at McCarthy Building Companies over the course of 10 years. He oversees technical and complex water projects across the country, including projects in Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Arizona and Nevada. In all, his collaborative delivery teams have delivered 720 million gallons per day and $1.2 billion in completed projects.

During his role as a project manager, his work on the Chandler Ocotillo Water Reclamation Facility Expansion earned the 2018 Engineering News Record Southwest Best Water/Environment Project of the Year as well as the Arizona Water Project of the Year.

Sparks is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Chi Epsilon Civil Engineering Honor Society.

Professional Accomplishments

  • Certification from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure
  • Licensed professional engineer through the National Council of Examiners for Engineering & Surveying
Yareliz Kaltenbach, 31
  • Process Engineer in Training
  • Stantec Consulting
  • Tampa Bay, Florida

Biography

As a process engineer in training, Kaltenbach fulfills multiple roles on projects at Stantec, including process-mechanical engineer, project engineer and project manager. She has worked with the City of Tampa, Tampa Bay Water, Hillsborough County and Miami Dade Water and Sewer Department to engage in preliminary design, detailed design, permitting, bidding and construction services. Kaltenbach is also an active member of the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association.

A notable element of her work included proactive identification of pipe sizing with hydraulic models, which she resolved efficiently before submitting final delivery to the client. She also prepared the in-house standard procedure of the permitting process to allow on-time submissions of permitting applications.

Outside the office, she practices meditation, plans social events for her community and the work place, and she spends time with her children.

Professional Accomplishments

  • Standardized project structure in BIM 360
  • Presented at the Florida Section AWWA Fall Conference 2022 about a hydraulic model on a wellfield project.
About the Author

Bob Crossen

Bob Crossen is the editorial director for the Endeavor Business Media Water Group, which publishes WaterWorld, Wastewater Digest and Stormwater Solutions. Crossen graduated from Illinois State University in Dec. 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in German and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. He worked for Campbell Publications, a weekly newspaper company in rural Illinois outside St. Louis for four years as a reporter and regional editor. 

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