It was a surprise award that Owen Director of Public Works Chad Smith had kept hidden, especially from the recipient. The Wisconsin Wastewater Operators Association (WWOA) Newcomer of the Year was being awarded to Matt Bottlemy.
Matt was kept in the dark as his friends, family, and officials from the City of Owen gathered at the Public Works shop for the presentation. The ruse was to bring Matt to the shop for lunch but the joke was almost on everyone else as Matt and CJ were working on a job and Matt suggested that they skip lunch and finish the job. CJ had to convince Matt that he was starving and needed his lunch. Only then did Matt break away from the project and head for the shop to be greeted by more than 20 well-wishers. Representing the WWOA were Don Litner and Ben Brooks.
Chad Smith opened the ceremony with a few words.
“I'd like to thank everybody for coming today. It's good to see this support for this certain person and with the great team we have in the city. a few months ago, I submitted a nomination for the Newcomer of the Year Award through the Wisconsin Wastewater Operators Association. when the previous wastewater operator become too sick to do the job anymore, the nominated individual decided to step up and try his hand in the wastewater field. I think that, at this point, you may now realize that I am talking about Matt Bottlemy here.
“Being a construction guy and being on our streets department with no wastewater experience, Matt started to try to figure this wastewater thing out. The previous wastewater operator was too ill to teach and previous DPW retired from our city which left Matt on his own but he pushed forward. He could have walked away many times but he didn’t. He stayed at it. Matt and I teamed up in August last year when I started working for the city. We both learned the plant together. There were ups and there were downs with our plant and, some days, there are more downs than ups, but we figured things out as we went along. We just teamed up and we figured it all. [Matt chimed in with “Yeah”]
“Matt has become a great wastewater operator. You can tell he cares. He cares about the quality of water being sent out into the black River, so that people could continue to fish and swim in the black River. He cares about the future of the wastewater and the city and, with that, I'd like to introduce Don Litner. He's going to present the award for Matt. Don is with the Wisconsin Wastewaters Operators Association.”
Don Litner then remarked, “It's really nice to see this many people here for this. You obviously make a very good impression. I guess word was out that you're going to receive is a WWOA Newcomer of the Year Award. WWOA’s Newcomer of the Year award has been developed to honor the efforts and achievements of new operators in the wastewater field in Wisconsin. All new wastewater operators deserve to be commended for their hard work. However, some stand out as being exceptional.
“The nominations for this award are designed to be placed by personnel that have been working closely with the nominees and appreciated their day-to-day efforts. Eligible candidates will have less than three years of wastewater operation experience as of August 1 of the year for which he or she has been nominated. Along with the plaque, the recipient of this award will receive a two-year membership to the Wisconsin Wastewater Operators Association. It is the hope of the WWOA that this award will give outstanding new operators the recognition and pride that they deserve. With that, Matt, here is your award.”
Matt was then given the opportunity to speak. Speaking through his heartfelt gratitude, he said, “Thank you. I do care. I hope to keep caring for a lot more years. That’s all I got.”
“We have pizza,” Chad announced.
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