Women in Water: Brenda Gastelum, Long Beach Water Department

Members in the News, Wastewater Life, Women in Water

Name: Brenda Gastelum
Title: Water Utility Mechanic II
Tenure: 2 years, 3 months
Agency: Long Beach Water Department

Brenda Gastelum Long Beach Water Brenda Gastelum Long Beach Water

What is your role?

My role as a Water Utility Mechanic ll is to clean, inspect and make repairs on sewer lines. Currently, I am a member of our sewer section Pipe Patch crew. This is a new program at our agency where we use trenchless technology to repair City-owned laterals. I also serve on the Long Beach Water Department’s ECO Committee (Employee Communication Organization).

What/who inspired you to work in water?

Growing up in Long Beach, I have always had the desire to work for the city where I was born and raised. I have always loved this community and regularly searched the City’s website for employment opportunities. That’s where I saw a flyer for the Long Beach Water Department’s “Water Utility Academy.” This was perfect for me because they wanted candidates who were driven and self-motivated; prior industry experience was not required. Meeting the criteria, I applied, interviewed, and was accepted into the Department’s “Water Utility Academy,” Class of 2018.  Upon completion, I was placed in the Sewer Operations division, where I was offered a permanent position as a Water Utility Mechanic in March 2019.

What fuels your passion for your work?

What fuels my passion is knowing how extremely important our job is to the community. What we do every day is vital to our customers’ health and quality of life. We provide an essential service to the City’s residents, businesses, and other members of the public. Being able to do that in the city I grew up in gives me a lot of pride.

Does the water profession welcome and support women? What was your experience?

In my experience yes, the water profession has welcomed me since day one. During the interview process, before I was hired, I noticed that a female was on the interview panel, which at the moment, made feel that I might have an opportunity here. Upon entering the Academy, I found that I wasn’t the only woman working in this field. One of my co-workers is female, and one of the Supervisors in Water Main Construction is also a female. Not only that, but it turned out that the lady who interviewed me happens to be our Superintendent here in Sewer Operations. To top it off, our Director of Water Operations is also a female with over 30 years of experience in the industry! That gives me confidence in my future here, and I feel so fortunate to have this position.

How many years before we get to 50/50 women and men?

I think we’re quite a few years away from an equal ratio of women to men. Although I am encouraged by how much change is possible. Just 10 years ago, there were no women working in the Field Operations side of the Long Beach Water Department, but now we have 5. I would hope that in another 10 years we could double that with 10 women and after another 10 years maybe that number would triple to about 15. We are a long way away from a 50/50 workforce, but with more emphasis on outreach and programs like the “Water Utility Academy,” the future does look promising for women!

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

The most rewarding aspect of my work is that I am constantly developing the skills that I need to succeed. Recently, I was promoted to a Water Utility Mechanic II, and was chosen to be a member of the Pipe Patch crew. This is a brand-new program that allows us to perform minor lateral repairs without the time and expense of more traditional, open-excavation methods. The system that our crew uses allows us to fix our customer’s sewer line with less disruption to the street and neighborhood.  It feels great to have a job where I am always learning, while also doing a valuable service for our customers. I love how everyone on my crew shares the same vision and are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to complete our mission.