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Member Spotlight — Steve Tagert
June 8, 2016
Company president puts himself in employees’ shoes
Job: President, Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc.

Educational background: B.S. Construction Management, Drexel UniversityDaily duties: Responsible for the water and wastewater operations serving 450,000 customers (1.4 million people) in 32 counties in Pennsylvania.

Toughest thing about your job?
 I think with any manager, personnel issues are always the toughest ones to deal with. Our employees are so critical to the success of our organization, and our customers rely on their expertise and commitment to bring a quality product into their homes. Keep in mind that water is the only utility that is ingested, so you need very competent employees to operate your business.

What is your philosophy for dealing with personnel issues? When I’m managing people, I always believe in being objective, listening to them, and expecting the best from our employees. I always try to place myself in their shoes and remember that we are a team and all working toward the same goals.

What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on?  The project that comes to mind is the first major water main cleaning and lining project our company did in the 1970s. Although I have been involved in many other exciting projects, including complete rehabilitation of several treatment plants and the current schedule of replacing about 150 miles of main annually, my first leadership role was the management of water main cleaning and lining program.

What is something unexpected you learned on the job? The regulatory and political landscape is ever-changing and utilities need to be, and stay, involved as changes are being considered. Businesses and organizations also need to plan well in advance to meet any new regulations.

Why did you decide to go into the water field?  I needed a job with benefits as my wife and I had a family on the way. My choices were a job at the telephone company or the water company. Fortunately, I took a position as a meter reader at the water company, which was then named Philadelphia Suburban Water Company, and it has worked out very well for me.

What is your biggest accomplishment?  My biggest accomplishment was becoming president of the company that has been so good to me for all these years. I am so proud to be president of a company where I had a great opportunity to learn the business by working my way from the ground up. The water and wastewater business is an exciting profession.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
 Obtaining my college degree at night while working long hours on our maintenance crews.  I was fortunate enough to have a great wife and children who supported me every step of the way with both my job and school by understanding why I was not able to be at home three or four nights a week.

Do you have a role at your section and how did you become a volunteer?  I began serving on the Water Utility Council for PA-AWWA as Chairman and on the PA-AWWA Board in 2006.  I also served on award committees as well as the Education and The David A. Long Educational Scholarship committees, and worked with a group to establish and continue to serve on the PA WARN Board of Directors.

What’s your motto in life?
 Enjoy life to the fullest, be happy with your work and in everything that you do, and always be respectful of others.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?  Truck driver. I think every boy has always wanted to drive a tractor trailer.

What is something that people would be surprised to know about you?
I raced cars before I got married, then I got the sense of responsibility that is needed with a family and gave it up.

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