By Joel Hall
For one guy, Clayton County Water Authority Production Manager Guy Pihera has a lot of responsibility. As the managing operator of all of the county's raw water reservoirs, and all three of its water-production facilities, it's Pihera's job to make sure that more than 275,000 county residents have water that is safe to drink.
Pihera, who has held the title of water production manager since 1997, was recently honored by the Georgia Association of Water Professionals (GAWP) with a Lifetime Member Award, for 30 years of membership, as well as the Elizabeth McEntire Award. Named after Elizabeth McEntire, who served as GAWP's first female president in 1967, the Elizabeth McEntire Award is given once a year to a water professional, who excels in direct operation of water supply, treatment, or distribution systems.
According to Pihera, the awards were issued in July, during the GAWP's annual conference in Savannah, Ga., which he did not attend. He said he received the awards during the Clayton water authority's August business meeting on Aug. 5.
"I feel very honored to have been given this honor," Pihera said Wednesday. "I feel it's important because the health and safety of the entire population you serve is in your immediate responsibility. It takes a team effort from the folks who run the individual facilities, as well as the people who are managing the facilities to make sure that we are doing what we need to do, to keep the safety of the public in mind," said Pihera. "I feel like it's not just an award to me, but it's an award to everybody who I've worked with over the years."
As a state-wide professional organization for water utility employees, the GAWP provides education and training opportunities for people working in the water and wastewater field, according to the GAWP web site. Pihera said he joined 30 years ago in order to enhance his own career, but has since been able to bring back useful information to the water authority, and bring up younger individuals starting out in the field.
"The first half [of my time in the organization] was me benefiting from the experience, and the second half was me helping give back some of the knowledge that I have received," Pihera said. "It allowed me to broaden myself professionally. I think that I've also benefited because I have helped others in the organization, and [have] helped new people in their development.
"I can see the benefit of the information I have received, so I feel like we need to keep it going for the people coming in behind us," he said.
Clayton County Water Authority General Manager Mike Thomas praised Pihera for his dedication to both the GAWP and the water authority. "We're very proud of him," Thomas said. "[The awards] just show a lifetime of dedication to that industry. They only give it to one person a year. It shows what he's given to the industry, and what he has taught others at the water authority," said Thomas.
"He [Pihera] has a calming influence. When you might have an equipment emergency or a plant emergency, he is able to calmly give people directions. He's always very professional in his approach to things."