Keeping customers happy — that’s what has motived Daniel Tegene during his three decades at Louisville Water. As Manager of Engineering Distribution Extensions, he works with residential and commercial developers to make sure their developments have water service, which brings Louisville Water new customers and extends the distribution system.
Tegene, who plans to retire at the end of the month, is now looking forward to having more time to travel — perhaps all the way to Ethiopia, which is where he and his wife, a Louisville MSD project engineer, grew up. We talked to him about his career, the challenges he’s faced, and his most memorable day at Louisville Water.
When did you first start working for Louisville Water and what brought you to the company?
I started in August of 1992. Prior to that, I worked for a local consulting firm. When business slowed down, I joined Louisville Water in anticipation of going back to consulting after a few years. That was thirty years ago!
I started as a project manager in the MRRP [Main Replacement and Rehabilitation Program] group designing replacement projects. I spent the first year cross-training as an inspector. I enjoyed the field work and learned quite a lot from the inspectors and contractors. I then moved to Process Owner of Capital Planning and Hydraulics, Manager of Distribution Extensions, Manager of MRRP, and now Manager of Engineering Distribution Extensions.
What do you do in your current position?
Distribution Extensions deals with developers and individuals who are building residential or commercial developments and require water service. We get plans of the proposed developments and design water main extensions. Our group works closely with the Building Industry Association. Developers help bring customers to Louisville Water and contribute significantly to our distribution system. We work hard to meet the developers’ tight schedules. We are also involved in the relocation of water mains for developers when they have conflicts while installing sewers, gas mains, cables, etc.
What’s your favorite part of the job? What are some of the challenges?
My favorite part is making our customers happy. Timing can be a challenge. Timing is extremely important to developers because they gauge the market. When they are ready to build, they sometimes don’t give us enough time to design the projects and give them the final plans. I consider it an achievement when we meet their schedule. Some of our challenges are with individuals who build houses far from a public main and request water service. The cost to extend a water main to their property becomes prohibitive, and they don’t take this information kindly.
Have you had a “most memorable day” at Louisville Water?
There have been numerous memorable days. The 60-inch main break near the B.E. Payne plant in 2009 was the most memorable for me. That morning, we were in ductile iron pipe/valves training and suddenly phones started ringing. Everyone in the room got up and walked out. The presenter could not believe what was happening. We all rushed to the site to get a firsthand look at the break. The steel cylinder of the main had a catastrophic failure and millions of gallons of water were gushing out of the pipe into Harrods Creek. About 20 expensive vehicles parked in the condominium garage near the break site got flooded. That is when I saw the strength of the water company staff and their work with our contractors. I also noticed the resiliency of the distribution system. The water main was repaired and placed back in service with minimum disruption to customers.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like to travel and watch sports and old movies. I have seen Shawshank Redemption more than I like to admit. I also like to get together with family and friends and get into lengthy discussions on how to solve world problems! I have two sons that I am very proud of. One is a University of Kentucky graduate in Electrical Engineering and the other is a University of Louisville graduate in Computer Science. I think they both got their brains from their mother. By the way, as a project engineer at MSD, my wife manages multiple sewer and pump station projects. She works closely with consultants in the design of these projects.
With my wife and I retiring, we will have the opportunity to go back to Ethiopia. We want to tour the old country and might even get a chance to visit the church where the Ark of the Covenant is preserved.