Meet Emerging Leader: Joey Hilliard, Utility Worker IV, Goleta West Sanitary District

CA Water Pros, Emerging Leaders, Members in the News, Wastewater Life

Joey Hilliard does a little bit of everything for the Goleta West Sanitary District. 

As a Utility 4 worker, sometimes he runs the Vactor unit or the CCTV truck, other times he’s maintaining lift pumps, implementing the utility’s FOG program, inspecting projects like lateral replacements, taking care of billing, and filling out permitting forms. He was named Collection System Person of the Year this year. 

Hilliard started at Goleta West a couple years out of high school. He says he’d worked on cars all his life and wanted a change. He had friends at the utility and with his set of mechanical skills, he fit right in.  

“That was nine years ago, and I’m really happy on the job,” he says. He says he’s never stopped learning, taking courses, attending conferences and seminars, earning certifications. 

He says his biggest challenges are keeping up with regulations, staying on top of his changing roles in the department, and tracking new technology—much of which offers improved efficiency and safer operations. 

He doesn’t put the Covid-19 pandemic on the same level, noting that sewer crews work with personal protection equipment and are extra safety conscious all the time. “It’s really business as usual for us.” 

If anything, he says the pandemic has caused shortages of necessary items. “We’ve always had everything we needed,” he says. “But now it’s harder to get gloves, masks, and safety eyewear. We haven’t been able to get hand sanitizer at all. This is stuff that’s essential for us to do our job.” 

Looking ahead, Hilliard wants to pursue a career in public administration and has gone back to college to complete the necessary coursework. 

He says he’s driven to keep getting better, and the clean water profession can be very satisfying.   

“Unless you’re complacent,” he says, “it’s always rewarding.”


We are looking for accomplished water professionals who are making a significant, positive impact on California’s water and they have not yet been recognized for that effort.

Emerging leader describes an individual who:

  • Has demonstrated the potential to assume a leadership role in an organization.
  • Are strong performers who have the potential, ability, and aspiration for continuing their impact on the profession in a leadership role.
  • Show commitment to the organization, exert influence, and demonstrate a willingness to step up and take on more responsibility.
  • Have desire to grow both personally and professionally through networking with like-minded professionals and volunteer work in our profession.
  • Impact will last for a couple of years or more.

Nominators need to be a CWEA member. The nominee does not have to be a CWEA member but should be involved with California water and should live in California. Self nominations are eligible – make your case for the impact you’ve had and you might get picked!

The Emerging Leaders will be selected by a panel of seasoned industry leaders and will be interviewed and profiled in Clean Water.

Nominations due April 1!

Submit application.