A lifelong Pennsylvania resident, Mike Kyle began his journey with water and wastewater as a chemist at a local water treatment plant for the Springettsbury Township in the late 1970s. Over the next 20 years, he worked his way up to Wastewater Director. Then, in 1999, Mike was hired as the Executive Director for the Lancaster Area Sewer Authority (LASW), where he has remained ever since. Mike’s industry career has spanned an impressive 43 years.
At LASW, he oversees operations for a 600-mile wastewater system, complete with 45 pump stations and two treatment plants. The company requires all employees—whether they are plant operators, collection operators, or mechanics—to be certified through the state. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Mike has always been passionate about enhancing the certification process. In the 1980s, he was appointed to Pennsylvania’s Operator Certification Board, which utilized WPI for their exams at the time. The board soon went on to conduct their own exams but continued sending members to WPI conferences. “I’ve always had a soft spot for them,” Mike says fondly.
About a decade ago, Mike became more involved with the Water Environment Federation, commonly known as WEF. WEF, established in 1928, is an international nonprofit association that specializes in providing education/training for water quality professionals. Over the years, Mike has been the chair for many of WEF’s operator-focused work groups. He also ended up chairing their Operator Advisory Panel in 2019, where he learned that there would soon be an opening on the board at WPI. “I jumped on it and I’m glad I did,” he states.
Mike has now been serving on the WPI board as the WEF representative for four years. He brings forth a unique perspective because he is still heavily involved with operator certification even though he no longer uses WPI’s exam services. Likewise, his role with WPI has made him more of a resource for those at WEF as well. “Many of them know very little about WPI or even certification,” he says. “I’ve helped enlighten some members.” Whether through WEFTEC (the annual water quality event) or the Operator Advisory Panel, operator certification is becoming widely discussed among the WEF community.
In terms of aspirations for the field, Mike is confident in WEF’s strategic plan to better engage operators, particularly when it comes to their professional development. “There’s a lot of energy and passion out there, especially when certification comes up,” he declares. Mike has broader goals for the industry as well: “The one goal that everyone is really striving for is universal reciprocity, or national certification.” Luckily, both WPI and WEF are focusing on promoting these ideals.
After being in the industry as long as he has, Mike compares his role in water to that of a parent. “Watching your children, you don’t really realize how [much] they’re growing until you step back and take a snapshot from one time to another,” he admits. However, given the collaboration between WPI and WEF, he believes there have been major improvements in communication, coordination, and cooperation between the jurisdictions concerning certification. Mike looks forward to continuing as a catalyst for these advancements as an active participant in both organizations.