Have You Seen CWEA’s New 5-S Bear Shovel?


CWEA’s New 5-S Bear Shovel 

The History Committee article about the origins of CWEA’s Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers (5-S) was prompted by an historical change in the program – the adoption of a new design for California’s 5-S shovel. As Past-President Connie Leonard explains it, the design of the shovel was updated to make it unique to California.  

So how and why did this change come about? 

Connie, in one of her earlier terms on the CWEA board, served as one of CWEA’s WEF delegates. In that capacity, she had the opportunity to meet leaders from other member associations (MAs). One thing she noted was that some MAs had shovels that were customized to capture something specific to the MA’s area. For example, the Rocky Mountain MA has the mountains on their shovel, Alaska has a gold nugget, the Pacific Northwest had a salmon, the New England MA has a lobster.  

During her presidential year, Connie was challenged by then-WEF President Jenny Hartfelder to come up with a unique shovel design for California. Jenny could not believe that California, as one of the largest MA’s, didn’t have something special for its shovels. She suggested the bear from the California state flag. So, Connie got to work, getting the help of CWEA staff Director of Communications and Marketing Alec Mackie as well as Communications Manager Megan Barillo. The first prototype was of the bear on all fours, as shown on the flag. However, the jeweler had difficult time with that design, and it seemed as if the bear would easily snap off the shovel if it snagged. So, back to the drawing board! 

Connie suggested something upright, such as the bear in the “I Love You California” image inspired by the state song of California. She sent the image to the designers and they came up with the shovel as it looks now, with the bear holding the shovel.

The Inspiration for the New California 5-S Shovel

While some compare the new CWEA 5-S shovel to Smokey Bear, it is meant to convey the love and dedication our volunteer leaders and professionals have for protecting the water environment of California – with a uniquely California Bear Flag flair! By the way, the old, or standard, CWEA 5-S shovel is not obsolete and still symbolizes membership in the 5-S, so wear either shovel with pride!

The New California 5-S Shovel (2019)


Old (Standard) California 5-S Shovel with Engraved Year of Issue (1992)

Interested in upgrading your standard shovel to the bear? Contact Megan Barillo for details.