This February marks an especially important anniversary at Water Professionals International. Paul Bishop, CAE, has served as President and CEO for 15 impactful years. In that time, he has developed skills with team members, trust with board members, and unity with committee members to focus on the advancement of all things related to certification. It is not uncommon to hear words like “leader,” “innovative,” and “inspiring” when people discuss Paul. However, he will credit his success to his team, his family, and the many members and operators who make this organization so necessary.
Paul was sought after by WPI based on his history with public health and association work. Through a thorough interview process, Paul had the chance to meet the board members, the volunteers, and the team working at the organization. He commented on how well done the process was and shared, “I didn’t know how it would all play out, but it’s been 15 great years.”
Walking into a company as CEO does come with hurdles. In the early years, Paul’s focus was on being patient. Change and synergy take time. He had to demonstrate that he could take things slow and help the association grow versus walking in with a list of changes to implement at once. He recalled a newsletter called “Vector” and an example that on a map if you change course by 1 degree, you end up in a completely different place the farther you go. “I’ve always loved as an analogy for what we’re doing here and by doing that, we raise the volume just a little.” Paul continued by explaining that even though he would love national standardized certification to happen overnight, he’s dedicated to creating a voice and giving WPI space to have the discussion.
The growth of WPI speaks for itself. Under Paul’s leadership membership has had a 98% retention rate and 20% increase, and exams administered per year have over doubled. In addition, the financial growth has allowed the development of the Professional Operator Program, which provides the only internationally recognized professional designation for water and wastewater operators. Exposure has increased across multiple platforms, including social media, a blog, and a rebranded name from “The Association of Boards of Certification” to the more direct “Water Professionals International.”
Paul explained how reflecting on those early years is humbling. The challenges he faced taught him to be transparent, patient, and trusting. His wisdom for leading WPI is to trust his team and encourage them to have their own opinions and provide feedback. He credits the growth over the last 15 years to the efforts of his team, the board, and then himself. “I think we are able to, as an organization, effect change. The recognition – while I’ve been at the helm of it and maybe a few things have been my ideas or generated from my conversations – for the most part, they’ve always been collective.”
It goes without saying that WPI has benefited from the decision 15 years ago to hire Paul as CEO. In discussions with members, staff, and board, it is easy to see that he is so much more than just “the boss.” Paul has proven repeatedly that he leads with mercy and grace, always encouraging the best outcome for everyone. He goes through his life with heart and authenticity in every encounter. Between his mind and his compassion, there are no limits to what WPI can achieve next.