Becky Spithill knows a thing or two about a thing or two. The Ellensburg native graduated from WWU's Huxley College and throughout her career has worked at the city, county, state and federal levels of government – from Washington State to Washington, D.C. Along the way she earned two (count 'em!) graduate degrees. It's all been great preamble to her work as Plant Operator.
“People would be amazed at the incredible breadth of knowledge and experience that plant operators must possess in order to do their jobs each and every day,” says Becky. Bellingham may be the only city its size in the nation to require that operators have multiple state certifications – in water and wastewater treatment and incineration. “Certification is no walk in the park. It requires extensive testing and training over several years – as well as knowledge of mechanical, hydraulic, electrical, laboratory and process control principles and practices.”
But wait, there's more! In addition to science and engineering capability, plant operators also need great people skills. That's because they're the ones who answer the phone after-hours and on the weekends.
“We interact with citizens dealing with sometimes-difficult situations, such as their water being shut off.” Becky says that interpersonal connection is one of her favorite parts of the job. It may be why she returned last year, for round two: Becky worked at Post Point 1993-2000, before leaving for graduate school in Wisconsin and stints with King County and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Q: What is important to know?
A: Our work protects the environment. It provides safe, high quality water to the people who turn on their taps every day.
Q: What people be surprised to know?
A: The team at the plants – Operators, Laboratory and Maintenance staff – is a great mix of professionals. From long-time staff with a wealth of institutional knowledge to those who bring expertise from other industries as well as millennials with their attitude of “I'm gonna give it all I have, and try to make 'where I am' a better place.”
“I wanted to work for a city like Bellingham. I like the size of it, because you see the people you serve. That's so important to me.” – Becky Spithill