Veterans in Water: Paul Clarke, Director of Operations and Water Quality

Career Stories, Veterans in Water

Paul Clarke, Director of Operations and Water Quality
Twenty-two years at Padre Dam Municipal Water District
Marine Corps – four years

Paul Clarke is the Director of Operations and Water Quality at Padre Dam Municipal Water District. He became interested in water while serving in the Marine Corps, where his platoon operated and maintained reverse osmosis water purification units and other equipment to purify water. They set up their equipment at different water sources, including the ocean, and provided water for drinking, cooking and hygiene.

In the winter of 1993, the Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton experienced a large flood. At that time, Paul and his team were called upon to purify water for base housing and many of the barracks. The experience of providing a vital service to keep the base running during a disaster was rewarding for Paul and encouraged him to pursue a future in the water industry.

“The military taught me discipline, chain of command, perseverance, and that the mind is a very powerful thing,” commented Paul. “You can push through almost any challenge if you keep your mind focused on your goals.”

After his military service, Paul worked for a machine shop and a plumbing contractor. During this time, he pursued his passion for water by enrolling in the Water Technology Education Program at Palomar College. He earned his Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees after being hired as a pump technician at Padre Dam in 1996.

More than 20 years later, Paul now oversees a staff of over 60 and is responsible for the operation and maintenance of Padre Dam’s water, wastewater and recycled water systems as well as Padre Dam’s drinking water quality.

Paul is passionate about leading his team to provide the best possible water to the community. His favorite part of the job is seeing what his staff accomplishes on a daily basis, including supporting them in solving problems and using innovation to create efficiencies.

“I work with some of the best professionals in the industry,” Paul said. “Every day I get to see talented and dedicated people come together and use their skills to provide crucial services to our customers.”

Paul finds working to provide services during emergencies such as main breaks, floods and fires to be one of the most rewarding aspects of his career. Paul was part of Padre Dam’s response team in 2003, during the Santa Ana fueled Cedar Fire which devastated communities and destroyed over 2,200 homes. In order to keep water flowing to customers and fire hydrants, Paul’s team spent nearly two days straight setting up generators and flushing the water system to ensure water quality.

“Seeing the dedication of staff responding to these situations is always impressive,” said Paul.

Paul encourages veterans to consider a career in the water industry. He points out that military experience can provide a great base level of experience for a person trying to find a job in the water industry, and that veterans may already have years of related experience. He encourages those interested in a water-related field to pursue certifications from professional organizations.

“Public service can be a rewarding career and the industry needs good people with solid morals and ethics,” Paul explains. “There is a misconception that water industry careers are uninteresting, but that’s not the case. There are so many different career paths in the water industry, including operations, engineering, mapping, chemistry, biology, human resources, customer service and so much more. Whatever your passion is, you can use it to serve the public in the water industry.”

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