Emerging Leader: Sergio Villegas, South County Regional Wastewater Authority

Lead Operator, South County Regional Wastewater Authority (Jacobs)
Jim Force, Emerging Leaders, Members in the News

Operators join the wastewater team for a variety of reasons, but for Sergio Villegas, it was a case of curiosity at a cheese plant. “I was working at a cheese plant, and we had to control the amount of Biochemical Oxygen Demand we were putting into the local sewer system,” he recalls.

Since he loves to fish and is concerned about clean water, he became curious about wastewater treatment and the water environment. When he saw a hiring opportunity at the South County Regional Wastewater Authority (SCRWA) facility in Gilroy, he interviewed and got the job.

That was seven years ago. Today, he’s the lead operator, working on his Grade 4 state certification, and is an invaluable part of the Jacobs team, which operates the 9 mgd (design) Gilroy-Morgan Hill SCRWA facility.

“Sergio is a fast learner and welcomes the opportunity to take on new responsibilities and challenges,” says John Edgar, operations supervisor. “He devotes a great amount of personal time updating his skills and job-related education. He communicates well with co-workers and supervisors, is always open to suggestions to improve operations, displays sound judgment, and is a conscientious and dependable worker.”

Villegas doesn’t shy away from hard work. “I like to get out there,” he says. “I like to get dirty and work on major projects like our recent oxidation ditch takedown. Everyone came together, working as a team, everyone feeding off each other, getting the job done safely and efficiently.”

“There’s no end to the projects he’s completed,” says Edgar. That includes big jobs like cleaning out the grit chamber or the chlorine contact basin, and smaller tasks like fixing a pipe, repairing a vehicle, even mowing the lawn.

“He’s also our on-site stormwater coordinator, handles our relationship with our water reclamation users, and gives plant tours,” says Edgar. “He completes projects ahead of schedule so we can get processes back on line.”

The key, Villegas says, is leading by example. “Respect others and create a sustainable environment for team members to enjoy their jobs and learn.”

He cites the help and opportunities he’s received from his colleagues during his seven years at Gilroy. “I’m learning everyday,” he says. “When you are surrounded by people with experience and knowledge—they make you better.”