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The Water Equation Campaign Donor Spotlight features Gene Koontz, P.E. Senior Vice President, Gannett Fleming


December 2016

 

Gene Koontz, P.E.
Senior Vice President, Gannett Fleming

While attending the Water Quality Technology Conference (WQTC) in Indianapolis last month, we had the pleasure of visiting with our distinguished Immediate Past President of the Board of Directors, Gene Koontz, P.E. With his height, Gene has an impressive frame, accentuated by his measured and deeply thoughtful speaking style.

Gene’s term as president concluded this past June at ACE16. We asked him to describe his tenure: “It was an amazing experience that I had never imagined. I was fortunate to travel all over North America, from San Juan to Anchorage, Halifax to Honolulu. I enjoyed meeting with and learning from AWWA members. My belief (shared by others) that water professionals are the best people in the world was confirmed,” he stated. He is also hopeful that his tenure as president allowed him to advance elements within AWWA’s mission.

Mr. Koontz is a Senior VP at Gannett Fleming and serves as director of the Water Business Line. In his role he oversees strategic initiatives, growth of the business and coordinates activities of regional groups that deal with total water solutions. His role is quite complementary to his AWWA responsibilities as he is often on the road meeting with Gannett Fleming clients and prospects. He enjoys both roles equally, although he has become much too familiar with airports.

He has been a member of AWWA since 1980 and for much of his career focused on AWWA Section volunteer duties. He served for a number of years on the Pennsylvania Water Quality Committee and for a time on the local district program committee. His experience with the Association was mainly attending conferences, ACE and WQTC. However, he opines: “barely a day would pass without using one or more AWWA resources in work activities.” As a water quality process engineer, Gene enthuses, “I was always looking for new technologies to create better projects for our clients. Twelve years ago my engagement with AWWA increased when I was Section Vice-Chair. In turn, I was offered the opportunity to serve as an Association Director.”

When asked about AWWA’s mission and programs and his involvement, Gene emphasizes that AWWA has always been integral to his work as a water professional and that he was hopeful to give back some of what he obtained from AWWA. “I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to become more engaged as an officer at the Section and Association level at a point in my career when I could balance the time commitments with my family and job,” he said.

We asked Gene what made him gravitate to the water industry and what excites him about the industry. He humbly indicated that a position in the old hydraulic division at Gannett Fleming was one of two offers he received (the other was in construction in a less desirable location). He further commented: “It was not part of any master plan, but in retrospect I cannot imagine a better outcome.”

Mr. Koontz has become a generous support of The Water Equation and tells us he believes that such giving allows us to bring the best of our next generation into our profession and affords them advanced learning opportunities to maximize their talents.

When pondering what serves as the biggest challenge facing the water industry, he believes we have our share of upcoming issues: “aging infrastructure, changing climate, uncertain finances, emerging contaminants, etc.” He is certain all of these are difficult but solvable, provided we renew the one resource we cannot survive without – human talent. Gene goes on to say, “We must engage the best talent from our next generation and provide them with the tools to solve these problems.”

Relating to advice for anyone considering a career in the water industry, Gene often presents at various forums to students and young professionals entering the field: “you will be getting paid for a job that that many others would volunteer to do – delivering a critical resource and protecting public health.”

He further stresses, “At the end of each day, we can all go home and feel good about our accomplishments in delivering safe water to every home at an affordable price. And you will work with great people and have some fun along the way. Not too many other career choices combine these attributes.”

Concluding our visit with Gene during WQTC, he is a lifelong basketball player and fan. His enthusiasm for the sport must be hereditary, as his daughter currently works for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets in a marketing analytics role. Legendary coach John Wooden is an idol of Gene’s. In achieving excellence in all phases of his work in water, it is not surprising that he incorporates one of Coach Wooden’s philosophies: “If you don’t think you have enough time to do something correctly, when will you find time to do it over?”

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