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Awards of Excellence

Recognizing the outstanding contributions of rural water & wastewater professionals is one of the highlights of Idaho Rural Water Association’s Spring Conferences. This is an opportunity to place recognition for outstanding performance and professionalism where it is deserved!

Awards are presented during our Annual Spring Conference in March.   

The deadline for the 2022 Awards of Excellence is Friday, February 4th, 2022.

If you know someone (or a system) who is doing a great job, recognize them by completing the Awards of Excellence Nomination Form!


Award Category Descriptions

Water / Wastewater Operations Specialist of the Year: This award recognizes both an Idaho licensed drinking water and Idaho licensed wastewater operations specialist who are actively working in the field with outstanding leadership abilities and accomplishments in the drinking water/wastewater operations. 

Rookie of the Year: This award recognizes someone who has acquired their operator's license in the State of Idaho (drinking water or wastewater) within the last twelve months that does an outstanding job.

Administrator of the Year: This award recognizes an administrative employee (City Clerk, Recorder, Treasurer, Administrator, Manager, etc.) for outstanding performance in office management, customer service and any other procedures that have benefited the operation of the utility.

Doug Mac Nichol Humanitarian of the Year: This award recognizes someone concerned with the interest and welfare of the public and is one who possesses traits of compassion for other humans by their acts of kindness. They go above and beyond for their community.

Water / Wastewater System of the Year: This award recognizes a water and wastewater utility system that has demonstrated exceptional efforts to properly manage, operate and maintain their systems.

Source Water Protection System of the Year: This award recognizes a water utility system in Idaho that has demonstrated exceptional efforts to protect their drinking water for its customers and neighbors through the development or implementation of a source water protection plan.

Kelly Dahlquist Community Impact Award: This award recognizes an individual who uses herculean efforts to build up Idaho communities through drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects, strategic planning for city revitalization or has developed creative solutions to longstanding community challenges. This individual will embody a spirit of generosity and passion for Idaho’s communities.

 

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Publish Date: Friday, March 18, 2022

2022 Awards of Excellence Award Recipients

  • 2022 Administrator of the Year
  • 2022 Rookie of the Year
  • 2022 Drinking Water Operations Specialist of the Year
  • 2022 Wastewater Operations Specialist of the Year
  • 2022 Drinking Water System of the Year
  • 2022 Source Water Protection System of the Year
  • 2022 Friend of Rural Water Award
  • 2022 Idaho's Great American Water Taste Test Winner

Branden Rose - Hayden Lake Irrigation District

Administrator of the Year

Since taking the administrator position, this nominee for Administrator of the year has been instrumental in achieving this utility’s 2-million-gallon storage tank, tying in many water services from old infrastructure to new lines. He always jumps in when his skills and experience are needed on mainline breaks and emergencies and is excellent with customer skills. He is also very supportive educating staff and encouraging staff to acquire new certifications. 

Jake Wright - City of Grace

Rookie of the Year

This year’s Rookie of the Year has been working with the city for 5 years. And this year he has earned his wastewater collection license. In the last couple years, he has taken over the wastewater treatment plant because the last operator retired. He stepped up and learned the plant very quickly and he has done all the tests that come with running the wastewater plant. He has also been learning how to provide water services and read meters He has been a great help to his city in just the 5 years he has been there.

Jordan Foster - City of Hagerman 

Drinking Water Operations Specialist of the Year

On top of this award winners normal day-to-day duties, 2 years ago was given the water meter reading and maintenance program. He has worked hard to fix meter programming problems, meter sequence adjustments, and meter usage multipliers with some help from the new assistant clerk. He has repaired or replaced all the meters that had issues and stopped reading. He has also installed radio transmitters on all the residential meters. His efforts promoted water savings from meters that didn’t read. Fixing the meters and multipliers also brought back the missing revenue to maintain and operate the system. He has been a huge asset to his City’s Public Works Team and is excited to learn and help wherever he can.

 

Charles Jones - City of American Falls

Waste Water Operations Specialist of the Year

This year’s Wastewater Operations Specialist of the year is a great asset to his city. He has grown as an operator since enrolling in the advanced IRWA apprenticeship program. He is working on earning his class III license in wastewater treatment and becoming an in-charge operator. He has spent hundreds of hours of class time and will soon complete the needed 600 hours of training to complete the advanced apprenticeship program. He is able to do permit compliance testing in the laboratory. These tests include BOD5, TSS, and Total Ammonia. His understanding of the city’s activated sludge/MBR system has kept the treatment process operating smoothly.

 

City of Gooding

Drinking Water System of the Year of the Year

This city being recognized for Drinking Water system of the Year believes safe and readily available water is important for public health whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food growth, or recreational purposes and takes pride in providing their town just that. 

This city has made many upgrades in its effort to better manage water supply, one of the biggest improvements being its meter reading. They acquired and installed approximately 1200 MXUs. These meters transmit a remote signal reporting water usage which shortens the meter reading time by a day and a half each month and has have saved the city and community over $300,000 dollars. 

The community also worked with IRWA to develop a GIS mapping system which helps the city crews locate water lines, manholes, fire hydrants and valves. 

The city has been working on their SCADA system which constantly monitors remote sites.  This helps with being able to monitor pressure and water flows and speeds up response time and troubleshooting when there are problems.  The city has also added two backup power generators so that in an emergency they will not lose system pressure. 

This city takes pride in helping the community and has been educating the public on how to conserve water and detect leaks in their homes. 


 

 City of Kimberly

Source Water Protection System of the Year 

The community being recognized as source water protection system of the year has worked tirelessly to reduce the number of non-beneficial groundwater resources. They properly abandoned a 16” test well to IDWR requirements as well as investigated the feasibility of abandoning another large well adjacent to the city library no longer used by the city but is used as a multi-agency monitoring location. 

The city has installed security cameras at each of its six groundwater source locations to monitor facilities and deter vandalism and unauthorized access.  The city has fenced most well sources and even worked with a local developer to acquire land to secure additional property around one of its wells.  City staff have participated in water awareness week to promote sourcewater protection.

The system has collected information from local businesses on their chemical use, storage, and application to recertifie the city’s source water protection plan and update its emergency response plan.

This city has an active cross-connection control strategy and program in place to further help protect the quality of source water. 

Lastly, this city utilizes electronic radio meters on all of its residential and commercial users to reduce excessive farming of the most valuable source water resource. This practice helps further protect the quantity of water which is the most precious resource to this community and all Idahoans. 


 

Johanna Bell -  Association of Idaho Cities

Friend of Rural Water 

This year’s Friend of Rural Water has worked with federal, state, and local agencies since the mid-1980’s managing programs concerned with water and energy resource planning, regulation, compliance, and outreach. She is a Registered Professional Civil Engineer with a long history of working with the Idaho utilities, agencies, boards, counties, mayors, city council members, engineers, and more. 

This individual is a mentor and friend to our association, our staff, and most of the rural communities in Idaho.  The background and expertise of this individual has facilitated development of some key working groups within the industry and has helped build collaborative working relationships between a variety of organizations and communities.  This person developed new technical education sessions to train industry leadership around the state, including the annal Water Summit.  She strongly believes in educating City Government about the importance of sustainable utilities and investment in utilities. To further that goal, she has organized many educational courses for decision-makers throughout the state. These courses were crucial to getting decision-makers on your side and aware of the challenges you face daily in your job. She has played a key role in helping communities identify challenging permit compliance factors and advocating for change with the regulatory agency, which can be an intimidating process.  Over the course of the last several years working with this individual I have personally learned a lot and I am sure many of you have as well.  While her plans are to retire in the upcoming year, and we wish her the best, but the impact she has made on many of us will not be forgotten.  Please join me in recognizing Johanna Bell as a Friend of Rural Water


 

City of Rogerson

Idaho's Great American Taste Test Winner

 

  • 2021 Administrator of the Year
  • 2021 Rookie of the Year
  • 2021 Wastewater System of the Year
  • 2021 Drinking Water Operations Specialist of the Year
  • 2021 Wastewater Operations Specialist of the Year
  • 2021 Friend of Rural Water
  • 2021 Kelly Dahlquist Community Impact Award
  • 2021 Doug MacNichol Humanitarian Award
  • 2021 Idaho's Great American Water Taste Test Winner

Gilbert Sanchez - City of Jerome

Administrator of the Year

This year’s Administrator of the Year award goes to a person who knowingly came into a struggling facility that was under a consent decree due to violations. Due to his leadership the facility has been able to maintain compliance and do so consistently and is now one of the top treatment facilities in the state. This administrator asks that his crew continue to increase their knowledge and certification levels, which they have done in an admirable way. If anything happened to him, he knows his crew could continue without him and never miss a beat. This administrator has given nearly the last 45 years of his life to the wastewater profession and this recognition is well-deserved.  (Pictured at left: IRWA President Robert Dial and Gilbert Sanchez, Wastewater Superintendent for the City of Jerome.)

Braiden Klingler - City of Tetonia

Rookie of the Year

This year's rookie of the year award goes to an individual who wears many hats in his small community. He serves as Public Works Director, which includes maintenance and monitoring of the city’s water and sewer systems. He takes pride in his community and has refurbished the city’s welcome sign; improved the landscaping at the park and provided a ramp to the library as well providing colorful flower and herb planters in front of the building. He has even improved the Christmas decorations. He brings energy, enthusiasm, and a positive attitude to his job. He has done all this while studying for and earning his Very Small Water License and he has been a dedicated participant of IRWA’s Apprenticeship Program. (Pictured at left: IRWA President Robert Dial and Braiden Klingler, Public Works Director for the City of Tetonia.)

City of Nampa

Wastewater System of the Year

This city took on the big project of upgrading its solids processing facility at its wastewater treatment plant. The dated and worn-out equipment previously in place led to costly repairs and significant under performance.  The upgrades provided additional solids handling capacity to accommodate projected community growth. The new facility includes a 52-foot tall, three story concrete masonry building to house the wastewater solids processing equipment. The new facility contains rotary drum thickeners and dewatering equipment to improve efficiency and help the city meet anticipated future permit limits. In addition to the solids handling system, the project installed an equalization tank, which provides a means of controlling recycle flows, and a new plant drain lift station to transport drain water -collected throughout the treatment plant- back to the front of the treatment process. The enhanced system control reduces shock loads to the treatment facility and improves the overall plant treatment process. (Pictured at left: IRWA President Robert Dial and City of Nampa employees: Andy Zimmerman (Wastewater Superintendent), Dave Gassel (Asst. Superintendent over operations and maintenance), and Nathan Costner (Asst. Superintendent over lab and pretreatment).

 

Bob Kuchenski - Bayview Water and Sewer District

Drinking Water Operations Specialist of the Year

This year’s Water Operations Specialist of the Year has assisted the board in multiple projects such as creating a Source Water Protection Plan and an Emergency Response Plan. His knowledge of his system has been instrumental in supporting the engineer in designing the Facility Plan for a much-needed system upgrade. His extensive knowledge and problem-solving skills make him a champion in his community.  This individual continually shows ongoing initiative, leadership and dedication to the residents he serves.  His expertise is essential in supplying feedback to the hoard in making critical system decisions.  He is always available to response to requests and finds quick and solid solutions to system issues.  It has been said to know Kuch is to respect Kuch!  (Pictured at left: IRWA President Robert Dial and Bob Kuchenski, System Operator, for Bayview Water and Sewer District.)

 

Steven Holyoak - City of Hailey

Wastewater Operations Specialist of the Year

This year’s Wastewater Operations Specialist of the Year is nearing retirement age and his co-workers wanted to nominate him for his hard work and leadership in the wastewater industry. He works tirelessly at his own system and has embraced new technology and changes. He also takes calls from other plants and helps where he can.  His employees say that he is a good boss and a great example of what a Wastewater Operator should strive to be. (Pictured at left: IRWA President Robert Dial and Steven Holyoak, Wastewater Department Manager, City of Hailey.)

 

Dicsie Gullick - Idaho Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses

Friend of Rural Water

This year’s Friend of Rural Water loves helping people with achieving their goals. In her position, she assisted many of our water and wastewater operators and did her best to answer questions and complaints since she started her job in October 2016. She is a Friend to the Idaho Rural Water Association staff as she was assigned to process their applications asking for continuing education units or CEUs for their trainings. Sadly, this person has taken a position with another state agency, so it is fitting that we can thank her and recognize her for being a Friend to Rural Water. (Pictured at left: IRWA President Robert Dial and Dicsie Gullick.)

 

John Lynn -  Area Specialist for USDA Rural Development

Kelly Dahlquist Community Impact Award

This year’s recipient of the Kelly Dahlquist Community Impact of the Year award is a person who has been employed for nearly 12 years as an Area Specialist. In this position, he helps provide funding and oversees the construction of the infrastructure projects throughout northern Idaho. He has processed 113 loan and grants for USDA Rural Development and developed projects that include water, wastewater, hospitals, food banks, clinics, city halls, libraries, community centers, police vehicles, rehab centers, animal shelters, schools, and fire stations which has directly and indirectly improved the quality of life of 300,000 people in Idaho’s Panhandle. Before this recipient joins his wife, Mary, in retirement, we would like to recognize him for his efforts in helping communities overcome challenges that are unique to rural areas and that improve the vitality and sustainability of these communities. (Pictured at left: IRWA President Robert Dial and John Lynn, Community Programs Specialist, USDA Rural Development.)

 

Craig Hartman - Energy Management Corp.

Doug MacNichol Humanitarian Award

This year we are recognizing Craig Hartman who died on December 20, 2020 of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, a rare type of blood cancer. We would like to recognize the contributions he gave during his 69-years of life. He joined Energy Management in 2003 as Vice President of Engineering. Craig was critical to EMC’s success through his technical leadership, expertise as a professional engineer and his selfless sharing of knowledge through seminars and webinars to thousands of individuals. He was part of a professional community of engineers who designed complex motor and generator systems for cities, hospitals, military bases, and sporting facilities. Co-worker Chet Crawford called “Craig one of the most loyal and selfless individuals he has known. He would make everyone else feel important and he had a rare gift to be able to communicate something that was highly technical in a way that anyone could understand.” Craig had a lifetime obsession with magic, a hobby he shared with his best friend, Kim for more than 50 years. They became a magical duo for fundraising and charity events throughout the Salt Lake Valley.  As a magician, he selflessly brightened the days of thousands of individuals whether it was an associate dropping by his office or hundreds of children through his many volunteering activities.

 

City of American Falls

Idaho's Great American Taste Test Winner

The City of American Falls claimed the 2021 title of Idaho’s best tasting drinking water during the  Idaho Rural Water Association’s (IRWA) Spring Conference on May 26, 2021. Second place went to the Rogerson Water District in the Buhl area and the third-place winner was the City of Jerome. IRWA will send a representative of the City of American Falls to Washington D.C. with their system’s water to compete against the other states’ rural water association winners in a nationwide contest, The Great American Water Taste Test, which will take place in February 2022 as part of the Rural Water Rally. Finalists were selected in a preliminary round. The final round was judged by a panel of experts which included John Lynn, USDA Rural Development; Cassandra Lemmons, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and Erik Boe, Idaho Department of Water Resources. Judges rated each water sample based on its clarity, bouquet and taste. Each of the judges commended the quality of water and noted the difficulty in choosing the best tasting water in the state. The City of American Falls’ water originates from Sunbeam Springs and six wells throughout the city that service 1,500 connections in a community with a population of 4,225. (Pictured at left: IRWA President Robert Dial and City of American Falls Water and Wastewater Employees: Charles Jones, Micah Miller, Daniel Weimer, and Andrew Tysor.)

 


  • 2020 Administrator of the Year
  • 2020 Rookie of the Year
  • 2020 Drinking Water System of the Year
  • 2020 Drinking Water Operations Specialist of the Year
  • 2020 Source Water Protection System of the Year
  • 2020 Wastewater Operations Specialist of the Year
  • 2020 Friend of Rural Water
  • 2020 Idaho's Great American Water Taste Test Winner

Sara Allen - City of Plummer

Administrator of the Year

This year’s Administrator of the Year award goes to a person who started as an accounts receivable clerk with the City and transitioned to City Clerk. She embraced the leadership role and just kept going! The Mayor of Plummer stated she is instrumental to the city's operations and jokingly refers to her as 'half of his brain'. Her commitment and dedication to the city's residents is certainly worthy of recognition!

 

Everton Oliveira - City of Bellevue

Rookie of the Year

This year's rookie of the year award goes to an individual who quickly demonstrated initiative by earning a collections 1 license before beginning to learn about wastewater treatment after an unexpected change in personnel. He stepped up quickly to begin to fill that role and in a short time has become an essential part of the team. His personal drive to learn and perform his very best has been a tremendous help to his supervisor and is well on his way to become a very knowledgeable wastewater treatment operations specialist! (pictured on the left)

 

City of Ketchum

Water System of the Year

This year’s Drinking Water System of the year award goes to a system that accomplished significant improvements over a period of time with careful planning and smart budgeting.All these investments were paid for through power savings earned by lower production, reduced emergency repair costs and through planned rate increases. This community provides a great example of how well planned ‘small steps’ can transform a water system.

 

Craig Cardwell - City of Nez Perce

Drinking Water Operations Specialist of the Year

This year’s Drinking Water Operations Specialist of the Year has worked 19 years for this community and has had a real challenge keeping the system in good working condition and in compliance which is over 100 years old! He works very hard and is available day or night. He is always very professional and has a great attitude with the public and also his supervisors!

 

City of Bellevue

Source Water Protection System of the Year

This community is in the process of finalizing their first source water protection plan. They have been successful in engaging proactive community members to participate on the planning team. Last summer they scheduled an edible aquifer activity with the city librarian in conjunction with their summer reading program that was a hit! The event leaders that interacted with the kids included 4 city employees, 2 members of the planning team and city planning and zoning members.(Kelly West accepting on its behalf)

 

Dustin Brinkly - City of Genesee

Wastewater Operations Specialist of the Year

This year’s wastewater operations specialist of the year has worked very hard at addressing severe infrastructure deficiencies from both physical and operational standpoints. His unique ‘fix anything’ approach has facilitated improvements of an antiquated wastewater treatment system to perform on par with much newer systems saving the City’s ratepayers from expenditures that weren’t absolutely necessary. His advanced capabilities as an equipment operator learned during his time as a construction foreman has been vital to the City’s efforts and he works hard to get the job done right the first time!

 

Shelly Hammons and Dave Flesher

Friend of Rural Water


 

City of Hagerman

Idaho's Great American Water Taste Test Winner

 

 


  • 2019 Administrator of the Year
  • 2019 Rookie of the Year
  • 2019 Drinking Water System of the Year
  • 2019 Drinking Water Operations Specialist of the Year
  • 2019 Wastewater System of the Year
  • 2019 Wastewater Operations Specialist of the Year
  • 2019 Friend of Rural Water
  • 2019 Idaho's Great American Water Taste Test Winner

Frank Suwanrit – City of Bellevue

Administrator of the Year

This year’s Administrator of the Year award goes to a person who has accomplished a lot in their short time serving as Public Works Director. This individual has worked diligently to assemble a cohesive and effective team and make sure that everyone on the team is happy. They are very hands on with their position and are always the first person to show up on every project.

 

Clay Thomas - Hecla Limited Lucky Friday Mine

Rookie of the Year

(Judy Cloos accepting on behalf of Clay Thomas) This year’s rookie of the year award goes to an individual who has demonstrated excellent knowledge and ability as a drinking water operator. They have put forth a great deal of effort to become a proficient operator and have, in the last year, already become instrumental in designing and implementing a plan to upgrade the water system. They helped develop this plan in order to increase the reliability and automation of the water system. This individual has enthusiastically assumed increasing roles and responsibilities, demonstrated effective leadership, and continues to advance rapidly.

 

City of Bellevue

Water System of the Year

This year’s water system of the year award goes to a system that accomplished great things this past year with a tight budget. They have been working on a meter project, installed new sample stations, and have actively pushed a hydrant flushing program. They have also worked with their city council to update and add new types of C12 systems, including C12 analyzers for each of their pump houses. Additionally, this system has met and exceeded all of DEQ’s requests successfully throughout the year.

 

Judy Cloos - Hecla Limited Lucky Friday Mine

Water Operations Specialist of the Year

This year’s Water Operations Specialist of the Year has contributed over 44 years to the drinking water industry. This individual has always maintained an exemplary attitude regardless of any challenges in the system. This person has provided a legacy of almost flawless maintenance and supervisory contributions to their system since the mid-80’s, particularly influenced by their efforts in preventative maintenance. As this person nears retirement, we are proud to offer them this award and the recognition they deserve from their commitment.

 

City of Hagerman

Wastewater System of the Year

Although this system completed an impressive project during this last year, they have been working diligently for the last six years to improve their facilities while being sensitive to the needs of their residents. They were able to collaborate with several agencies to fund about half of their project, keeping the cost to their residents relatively low. The project, which included a new 17 million gallon winter storage pond, a new pumping station to land apply on 99 acres, and 2 new lift stations, was completed in the spring of 2018. This system is excited to now recycle their waste water instead of discharging it into the Snake River. Their dedication to the wellbeing of their residents, tenacity in problem solving, and enthusiasm for caring for the environment make this system an obvious choice for this award.

 

Mike Wade – City of Dover

Wastewater Operations Specialist of the Year

This year’s wastewater operations specialist of the year is a critical part of their water system. Not only does this individual take the lead on the system’s water and wastewater operations, but also has taken on a critical role with the City Council, Mayor, and other staff. This role is significant for the future of the system, planning for upgrades and expansions.

 

Jami Delmore – Southwest District Health Office

Friend of Rural Water


 

Salmon River Meadows Mutual Water Company

Idaho's Great American Water Taste Test Winner

 

 


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