Boards, committees help us make a difference

Boards, committees help us make a difference
Posted on 09/26/2022
Albert Gonzalez (from left), Ivan Ibarra, Martin Noriega, Jesus Cazares and Jose Castro-Ramos all contribute to outreach for El Paso Water at area technical schools. Castro-Ramos, Cazares and Ibarra sit on Western Technical College's Program Advisory Committee.

El Paso Water boasts a growing list of service-minded employees who want to impact the world around them.

Employees strive to make meaningful contributions to the advancement of EPWater, the water industry and local community. They also have a hand in guiding national, state and local policymaking.

More than 20 EPWater employees proudly serve on boards and committees at the local, state and national level, and all three executives – President/CEO John Balliew, Vice President of Strategic, Financial and Management Services Marcela Navarrete and Interim Vice President of Operations and Technical Services Paul Rivas – serve at the local and state level. Navarrete sits on the most, with five. 

“It is very impressive to see the number and variety of boards that our employees represent,” said Rivas, who is also President of the El Paso Centennial Lions Club. “I am very proud to see such leadership here at El Paso Water.”

Giving back

Marla St. Leon, Business and Customer Service Assistant Manager, long admired the work of Project Bravo in the community. When St. Leon discovered the nonprofit was looking for a representative from the Northeast, she seized the opportunity.

“We do outreach where we paint elderly residents’ homes, and that’s just such a good feeling,” said St. Leon, who serves as board secretary. “It makes me feel like I actually had a positive impact on my community.”

St. Leon often advocates and connects El Pasoans in need with Project Bravo’s programs, such as transitioning out of poverty, first-time home buyers’ assistance or utility assistance. She also frequently urges employees to get involved as well.

“It’s good for my soul,” said St. Leon, who called her experience wonderfully rewarding. “There is always an answer to a problem, and that has probably been the most beneficial way that my experience at Project Bravo has impacted my professional life.”

Influencing policy

Sustainability Program Specialist Drew Aliyas (far right) sits on U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar's Climate Crisis Advisory Committee. PSB Chair Dr, Kristina Mena (second from left) is also on the committee.  With a master’s degree in environmental sustainability, Sustainability Program Specialist Drew Aliyas is proud to sit on U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar’s Climate Crisis Advisory Committee as a representative for EPWater. Dr. Kristina Mena, Public Service Board Chair, also sits on the board.

Aliyas took the lead in writing the water resiliency section of the committee’s Climate Action Plan and found it a rewarding experience. As one of the city’s few sustainability professionals in the growing field, Aliyas was pleased to be tapped by Balliew to participate in the committee.   

“El Paso Water is one of the biggest employers in the region, and we are critical infrastructure,” Aliyas said. “Sharing our knowledge base with the community is an asset.”

Shaping future workforce

Martin Noriega’s team at the Fleet Maintenance Building is frequently asked to participate in professional industry functions at nearby colleges, such as Western Technical College and El Paso Community College.

Fleet Maintenance Chief Jose Castro-Ramos, Fleet Maintenance Supervisor Jesus Cazares and Fleet and Building Maintenance Superintendent Ivan Ibarra all sit on Western Tech’s Program Advisory Committee for Diesel Mechanics.

Ibarra and Cazares recently evaluated their curriculum for accreditation standards and to make sure the school has the proper equipment in place for students. Ibarra, Castro-Ramos and Noriega have performed mock interviews as well. Their involvement at Western Tech affords them the opportunity to participate in job fairs and other outreach for EPWater recruitment.

“I enjoy taking part because it’s interesting,” said Ibarra, adding the partnership has allowed them to explore Western Tech’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) training operations. “Heavy Equipment Trainer Supervisor Albert Gonzalez is learning how their program works so we can apply that in-house, too.”

Castro-Ramos recognizes the benefits in interacting with potential employees or interns.

“We get them from the interview stage, to the internship to make sure they learn our processes and procedures, and then if the position is available we urge them to apply,” he said.

“For me, the biggest thing is telling the community what El Paso Water is all about,” Noriega said. “The employees’ involvement shows they are invested in their community, too. Our relationship with partners is a two-way street, and both entities benefit.”  

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