As part of OCWA’s monthly series highlighting some of our dedicated employees and the important jobs they perform, this month we’re featuring Jeff B. from our Administration Department. Each month we’re asking a different employee a series of ten questions about his/her background, what he/she does at OCWA and some of the employee’s most interesting work experiences.
1. What is your current position at OCWA?
Legal Counsel and Public Affairs Officer
2. What other jobs have you held, both OCWA and non-OCWA position?
In addition to performing the additional duties of Records Management Officer and Privacy Officer at OCWA, I also currently serve as a Lieutenant Colonel and Director of Complaints Resolution for the 174th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard here in Syracuse. Prior to working at OCWA, I held positions as partner with the Mackenzie Hughes law firm, member of the New York State Assembly, regional attorney for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), associate attorney with a large national law firm in Washington, DC, and law clerk for United States District Court Judge Howard Munson.
3. When did you join OCWA, and what brought you here?
I started in April 2013. At the time, I was outside legal counsel to the Onondaga County Water District (Metropolitan Water Board or MWB) which gave me the opportunity to work with OCWA on a number of important joint initiatives. One day I was contacted by Terry Pickard, the then-OCWA legal counsel, who advised me of his impending retirement and asked if I would be interested in his job. I jumped at the chance, and eventually was offered the job by the Authority.
4. What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Given my varied job responsibilities, each day tends to be somewhat different than the next. I could be doing anything from reviewing contracts, interacting with the media, conducting legal research, writing news stories, drafting leases, managing historical documents, providing information security training, communicating with municipal officials, updating our website or providing legal advice.
5. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Knowing that I’m playing a small part in helping ensure that 500,000+ Central New Yorkers receive safe, reliable and affordable drinking water each and every day. None of my other jobs gave me the level of satisfaction I feel in being able to provide such a basic necessity. Routinely interacting with so many experienced, dedicated and professional employees at the Authority makes my job all that more rewarding.
6. What has been your favorite project at OCWA?
One of my favorite projects was negotiating the agreement to consolidate our operations with MWB. We had only a few months to accomplish such a major project, which resulted in a 250+ page agreement (including attachments) with Onondaga County which governs our relationship today.
7. Before working at OCWA, what was the most interesting/unusual job you’ve ever had?
I drove out to Southern California one summer, rented an apartment in Los Angeles and worked as a sous chef in an upscale restaurant near the beach in Playa Del Rey.
8. What three words best describe you?
Hardworking, optimistic and friendly
9. What is your educational background?
I have a B.S. degree from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, J.D. from the Syracuse University College of Law and M.B.A. from the State University of New York at Oswego.
10. Why did you select the career you are in?
I grew up spending time in the Adirondacks with my family which really kickstarted my interest in working in the environmental/water sector. When I moved back to Syracuse from Washington DC in the late 1990s, I was fortunate to land a job with the DEC which allowed me to experience environmental/water issues from a regulatory perspective and further cemented my interest in the field. Eventually, I was given the opportunity to work for our local wholesale provider of Lake Ontario water (MWB) while working in private law practice. One of the major projects I worked on with OCWA was negotiating the agreement to fund and construct covered water storage facilities at the Eastern & Western reservoirs. This experience led to the opportunity to be hired full-time at OCWA.