By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND — After 30 years in a job he calls “very rewarding,” Bill West, superintendent of the town’s Water and Wastewater, is retiring.
“I want to start working more around my farm, and maybe do a little more golfing, hunting, and fishing,” said West, who turns 58 this year. “I’d like to do some volunteer work, too, like Water for the People; I have expertise in that field.”
West started working for the town in 1977, when he was in college; he did part-time work during his summer breaks, while earning his associate’s degree in mathematics and then his bachelor’s degree in environmental science.
“I kind of always wanted to become a forest ranger, but life happens when you’re making other plans,” West said.
After he graduated from college, he moved back to Guilderland, got married, and needed a job with benefits.
“So, they hired me,” he said. He began working as the deputy superintendent in the Water and Wastewater Department in April of 1982.
“It’s been great,” said West. “I can’t say anything but good things about this department and the job.”
He described the job as having three “phases.” The first, he said, is day-to-day operation — overseeing the plants, distributing and collecting water, dealing with personnel issues, paying the bills, and preparing the budget.
The second phase, he said, involves dealing with development and growth, and handling with commercial and private builders and contractors.
The third phase is planning for the future.
“Today, you’re growing, and you have new developments coming in that will use more water, and more sewer, and you have to think about whether you can provide,” West said. “Some of the facilities are limited, so you have to look at all of that as a long-term thing.”
West said he had a schedule based on historical growth, and, as an example, he said, the water plant could be at its capacity in 2018, which has a population of about 34,000.
“Then we would have to plan, in the next two or three years, what we would do,” said West. “Build an addition? Buy water from Albany? We have to consider the town’s master plan, too.”
West said he had already been through two sewer expansions and two water expansions during his time with the town.
“We’re kind of set for now,” he said, “but, if I were going to be here for another 20 years, I’d have to be looking at what is going to happen.”
Planning for growth was fun, he said.
“It can be kind of like watching your baby grow,” said West. The town, a suburb of Albany, grew rapidly during his three decades with the department.
West said the most rewarding part of the job, though, in his opinion, was dealing with an emergency.
“When you’re hit with something, like a natural disaster, and everybody comes together with all of their training and preparation, you can look back on it and say you got the job done,” said West. “I’ve gone through lots of hurricanes, floods, electrical outages, ice storms, water-main breaks, and just getting the basic job done is rewarding.”
The appreciation from town residents was also gratifying, he said.
“I remember when we first got water connected in the west end of town, and we had people who were so thankful, because they had been trucking water in for years,” he said. “I will miss dealing with and helping the public.”
If West could give any advice to his successor, he said it would be “not to micromanage everything.”
The department is full of knowledgeable, dedicated workers, he said.
“You’ve got a lot of people around you and they know what they’re doing; all you have to do is support them,” said West. “I think we have one of the best water districts in the Capital Region, if not the state, and it’s not me that did that, it’s the operators.”
West said he thought the field of water and wastewater management had a lot of opportunity for young people and is something more people should consider.
“I get to go outside, I’m working with my hands, and I’m constantly learning — it’s not redundant every day,” he said. “Every job has its moments, but I have loved it; what more can you ask for?”