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Gene Koontz Gets The Gavel

Gene C. Koontz, president of Gannett Fleming in Harrisburg, Pa., (left) accepts the gavel as President of AWWA from Immediate Past President John J. Donahue during ACE15 in Anaheim, Calif. (From AWWA Connections)

Koontz loves baseball, project work, and AWWA

June 10, 2015
From AWWA Connections

Gene Koontz just took over the helm at AWWA, but don’t expect a major change in course.

Koontz began his one-year presidential term at the 2015 Annual Conference & Exhibition this week and said he likes where the association is headed. He hopes to maintain the momentum of projects launched in the last few years, including AWWA2020, AWWAIndia, the Community Engineering Corps, The Water Equation Campaign and Total Water Solutions.

“I think it’s time to take a look at each of these to see if they are progressing as intended and see if any need tweaking or additional resources to better ensure success,” Koontz said.

Tweaking targets include student and Young Professional programs.

“We must increase engagement of our younger members if AWWA is to continue to thrive over the next few decades when we baby boomers are retired,” said Koontz, noting that the median age of AWWA members is 50.

Koontz, 61, joined AWWA more than three decades ago. A nationally known water quality expert, he oversees environmental services for Gannett Fleming, a global infrastructure firm that provides planning, design, technology and construction management services for a diverse range of markets and disciplines.

Koontz lives in Bedford, Pa. and volunteers for the AWWA Pennsylvania Section and at the Association level. He is married and has two grown children.

Found his calling

Four decades ago, Koontz stumbled into his calling. He graduated in 1975 from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania with a degree in civil engineering, just as the nation emerged from a crippling recession.

“After interviewing with over a dozen places, I got two offers, one from a large contractor on a project in a distant location and one from a small consulting firm close to my home,” Koontz recalled. “I took the consulting job, and it turned out to be in the water supply section.

“Just like the rest of us, once in and engaged in the water profession, I never had a desire to go anywhere else. The people, the projects and the challenges all exceeded my expectations.”

And so did the initial workload. As a young engineer, he labored on more than 50 plant designs in less than 10 years. The accelerated learning curve widened his network and laid the groundwork for his reputation as a sharp, easygoing professional with a can-do attitude.

“I had to be self-motivated,” he said. “There wasn’t any time for me to be told what to do. I had to establish my own schedule, tasks, deadlines and processes and make sure they got done.”

Asked if he’d change any part of his career journey, Koontz said he’d engage sooner at the Association level of AWWA. “I was very active with the section, but did very little at the Association level until fairly recently. With what I have learned since becoming a member of the AWWA Board of Directors about the many volunteer opportunities available, I realize I missed out on chances to contribute and learn.”

Value of self-motivation

Something unexpected he’s learned? “The education you receive in high school or college gets you in the door and gives you the basic technical skills to stay there. Everything else to advance your career comes from your motivation, your ability to interact with people and what you learn through doing your job.”

Strengths and weaknesses? “I’m a logical, typical engineer. I can plan and execute a project. I struggle a little bit with the soft skills. Sometimes I’m introverted and have difficulty delegating.”

Hobbies? “I occasionally play golf and I am an avid sports fan. My favorites are the Pittsburgh Pirates, Steelers and Penguins, and the Charlotte Hornets.”

Koontz also travels whenever he can, which is often. In the fall, he’ll visit the Netherlands, Belgium and France. He expects to log nearly 100,000 Frequent Flier miles this year, much of it for Gannett Fleming and AWWA.

Baseball park agenda

Next up? Fulfill his goal to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. He lacks six – Seattle, Houston, Minnesota, Chicago Cubs, Detroit and Cleveland.

Koontz’s new role at AWWA is a home run of sorts.

“I am absolutely thrilled to have this opportunity,” he said. “This is something that wasn’t on my radar screen even three years ago. I didn’t even think it would be possible.”

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