Ask any long-time attendee to describe NACWA Conferences, and they would somehow reference the “warm buzz” hovering over the crowd—familiar and welcoming. With new members and new event features at Winter Conference 2017, that buzz was enhanced, which bodes well for the Association’s overarching goal of increasing engagement among its members nationwide.
Conference Committees Define Collaboration
The Conference committees and workgroups are a staple for Association-wide collaboration, and this year was no exception. With packed rooms and packed agendas, NACWA’s various committees addressed the clean water utility’s biggest issues and challenges with workmanlike efficiency.
Peer-to-Peer Goes One-2-One
But the tone for peer-to-peer engagement was set early with the debut of NACWA’s One-2-One Networking Event. The activity allowed attendees to request and set up—via website—a series of 15-minute, one-on-one meetings with other attendees, which resulted in participants interacting with more key contacts than they likely would have by trying to find them in a crowded hall. This time, participating attendees didn’t have to leave the conference “wishing they talked to that person.” Feedback on the One-2-One event was universally positive, with a touch of surprise at how easy the setup was, and how valuable the resulting dialogues had been.
The night was capped by an epic (and historic) Superbowl LI watch party at the large outdoor patio of Ferg’s Live Bar and Grill. With Board Chair Ray Marshall leading the charge in rooting for the New England Patriots, and attending Atlanta fans loudly following suit, it was the spirit of “NACWA Community” at its best.
Women Inspire Leadership at Water Network Breakfast
Nearly fifty female leaders of the clean water utility sector came together at the Women’s Water Networking Breakfast to talk leadership, share unique experiences and inspire one another to excel. The group conversation was facilitated by an impressive panel comprised of Karen Pallansch, Chief Executive Officer of Alexandria Renew Enterprises, VA; Susan Pekarek, General Manager of Johnson County Wastewater, KS; Hilary Meltzer, Deputy Chief of the Environmental Law Division, NYC Department of Law; and Leisa Thompson, General Manager of Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, MN.
The engaging conversations—ranging in topic from work/life balance to management best practices to mentorship—laid the foundation for future collaboration, as the women’s water network committed to continuing the discussions via NACWA’s Engage Forum, and to using the topics as a basis for programming at future NACWA conferences.
Beyond WinterCon 2017
With the 2017 Winter Conference now adjourned, NACWA looks forward to seeing a year of growth on multiple levels, having built upon its foundation of “Strength in Community,” and reaffirmed its dedication to the principles of strong peer-to-peer member engagement.