Guest Column | November 20, 2018

WWEMA Window: WWEMA Celebrates 110 Years

By Thacher Worthen, President and CEO, Schreiber LLC

On November 7 to 9, 2018, the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) arrived in West Palm Beach, FL, for its 110th Annual Meeting. The meeting was held at the beautiful Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa. Attendance was excellent, and the speaker lineup was fabulous. As WWEMA Chairman, I had the honor of chairing our Annual Meeting, which was coordinated by WWEMA’s Executive Director, Vanessa Leiby.

For 110 years, the Association has supported the interests of manufacturers in Washington and elsewhere as one voice.  That’s a major milestone in any organization, so a little history is needed! In 1908, a group of manufacturers who were part of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) realized the value of sharing technology information with utilities, engineers, and other water stakeholders. Thus, the Water Works Manufacturers Association (WWMA) was formed with the sole purpose of managing exhibits at AWWA conferences. In 1941, the name changed to Water and Sewage Works Manufacturers Association, Inc. (WSWMA) to reflect its expanded scope of tradeshow service to the newly formed Federation of Sewage Works Association (currently known as the Water Environment Federation; WEF). In 1964, the association changed its name to Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association, Inc. (WWEMA) in response to the national perception of water as a “commodity.” That name continues until today, reflecting representation of both the drinking water and wastewater industries.

This year’s meeting opened with a keynote address from our host utility of West Palm Beach. Scott Kelly, the Assistant Administrator for the City of West Palm, provided a regional perspective of South Florida and all the challenges of a water-limited area on the coast. Scott’s presentation was followed up with a series of great presentations that covered topics from marketing in a totally connected world; the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR); International Trade; The Science, The Art, and The Speed of Service; and a number of both industry-specific topics and general business-oriented topics.

A topic near and dear to all the manufacturers is the evolving subject of procurement. Linda Bonner, the Executive Operations Manager for the Water Design-Build Council, expounded on several procurement methods. This presentation used excerpts from the Water Design-Build Education Program Modules to explain the procurement differences and best practices for design-bid-build, construction management-at-risk, fixed-price, and progressive design-build delivery for water and wastewater projects. It also addressed the collaborative relationship of owners, design-builders, and contractors in the procurement processes. No doubt it left the room better educated and also with questions around the manufacturer’s role in each of the processes.

Richard Galen, Chairman, Barrington Worldwide, gave a light and spirited review of a very timely topic following that week’s midterm election results. He presented on the next two years of the Trump Administration and the potential impacts of the midterm elections. Rich was a former press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich during their time in Congress, and the communications director of the political office of Speaker Gingrich. He provided both a great education on congressional expectations and the importance of numbers for both parties beyond just controlling either the House or the Senate.

Rounding out a very wide variety of great topics, Gene Marks, Founder, The Marks Group, lit up the room with a high-energy topic of Strategies and Tips for Reducing Your Corporate and Individual Tax Expense. Gene is a past columnist for The New York Times and The Washington Post and now writes regularly for The Guardian, Forbes Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fox Business and regularly appears on MSNBC and Fox News. His discussion put into perspective great opportunities for our businesses under the new tax codes, and he even accomplished making tax talk fun and exciting!

Rounding out a wonderful meeting, I hosted the Chairman’s dinner and handed out distinguished awards, including a membership service award of 90 years to Water and Wastes Digest. The James C. Morris award, given in honor of Jimmy Morris of JCM Industries for excellence in the industry, was presented by Ron and John Collins of JCM Industries. The award recognizes significant give-back to our industry and to the WWEMA organization.  This year’s award went to Deborah LaVelle of Aquarius Technologies. Deb’s involvement over the last 18 years has been nothing short of excellent.

The meeting concluded with the presentation of the Chairman’s gavel from me to John Dyson of Aqua Aerobics Systems. WWEMA lived up to its mission as the voice of water and wastewater technology providers, promoting the advancement of technology solutions for clean water that ensures a future sustainable environment while improving its members’ economic viability.

Thacher Worthen is President and CEO of Schreiber LLC and current Chairman of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA).  WWEMA is a non-profit trade association founded in 1908. WWEMA’s vision is to be the “voice of water and wastewater technology providers” and its mission is to promote the advancement of technology solutions for clean water that ensures a future sustainable environment and to improve its members’ economic viability. More information about WWEMA can be found at