Growing a Culture for Wastewater Treatment and Employment

Growing a Culture for Wastewater Treatment and Employment

How careers in the wastewater industry are creating opportunities and providing long-term stability to Payson, Arizona, and the surrounding communities.

Garrett Goldman visits KRIM 96.3FM Community Spotlight to talk about Careers at Green Valley Water in Payson, Arizona.

Perhaps it’s because Green Valley Water is often overlooked as that “obscure facility at the end of the golf course” or that it’s responsible for treating unpleasant byproducts of human existence. Whatever the case, Green Valley Water is unquestionably Payson’s diamond in the rough—an entity with many surprising qualities.

Before Garrett Goldman stepped into the Green Valley Water District Manager position in 2017, this public utility with $65 million in assets and a small but mighty crew quietly maintained its reputation for being one of Payson’s best employers.  Growing the staff from 17 to 24 employees in four years, Goldman has created a positive culture.  With this team of 24 maintaining over 175 miles of underground pipes and overseeing the processing of more than a million gallons of wastewater daily, Garrett understands that highly motivated people can get a lot more done than those less motivated. The Green Valley Water staff takes pride in what they do—where there is no job that is someone else’s job: when there is a need, everyone pitches in and ensures the customer is satisfied.  And the employees are rewarded for their efforts with competitive wages similar to other utilities and generous benefits including comprehensive medical insurance, two weeks of vacation time, sick leave, as well as short and long-term disability—all offered to entice people to remain with Green Valley Water in this small, rural community.

Garrett Goldman talks to some of the Green Valley Water maintenance crew.

Through his leadership, Goldman has created a culture by modeling, teaching, and encouraging growth. He manages with clear objectives for continuous improvement while taking incremental steps towards added efficiency.  Part of this vision for proactive change was implementing the Geographical Information System (GIS) to replace the numerous paper copies of maps with digital “live” maps.  This also introduced technology to employees who were then trained to use iPads to access the GIS while working in the field. Though there was initial resistance to the technology, a more forward-thinking attitude quickly took hold as complaints were replaced with new questions, pushing their use of the GIS beyond their training and expectations. Creating a solution during the peak of Covid also helped to build culture as Green Valley Water employees were empowered to develop an alternative to their standard 7:00 am to 4:00 pm weekday schedule.  Each department’s solution of staggered schedules and four 10-hour days across seven days resulted in a better work-life balance and improved performance for both the staff and the organic wastewater matter, all leading to customer benefits.

Similarly, Garrett promotes advancement in wastewater treatment management, a career industry that exists across the nation and around the globe, not requiring a college degree.  Though only a few of the 24 Green Valley Water employees hold degrees, all Green Valley Water operators must be certified through the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) with certifications available in two areas: wastewater collection and treatment.  New hires receive on-the-job training toward a Level I certification with Green Valley Water providing resources and covering exam costs.  Garrett has spent many early mornings coaching those employees seeking a path toward promotion, and he encourages operators to obtain certifications in both areas to increase their industry value as well as their knowledge. Operator tests are standardized across the US with reciprocity offered in all states.  An operator grade of level 3 or 4 allows the employee to pursue employment even internationally because all of the world has wastewater treatment needs.

A small but highly motivated staff, positive work culture, and opportunities for advancement are all attributes making Green Valley Water a desirable employer.  Another is its investment in the Rim Country.  Green Valley Water obtained grants that funded the development of the Green Valley Lakes project.  Additionally, they maintain working partnerships with the Town of PaysonGila County, and utilities.   But something few career industries can claim is that of their 24 employees, 58 percent of them are locally grown—graduates of Payson High School with one from Young:  Keaton Duran, Konner Duran, Garrett Goldman, Derek Harris, McKyla Hill, John (Willie) Johnson, Daucett Keith, Clifford Lopez, Michell Marinelli, Tony McNeeley, David Millien, Ryan Ricke, Michele Sikes, and Tyler Winters.  Half of the 14 employees are in their 20s or 30s.  Two long-haulers, Robert DePugh and David Millien have served the company for 38 and 39 years, respectively.  Many of the remaining employees are long-time Payson residents.

The combination of these qualities, whether hidden or not, overcome any stigma associated with Green Valley Water, Payson’s wastewater treatment facility.  In a recent search for a Level 3 or 4 operator, Green Valley Water posted the position on public job sites as well as industry-related boards and sent out 178 emails to potential candidates; many are happy where they are, limiting the applicant pool, with only one applicant advancing to an interview.  This is especially true at Green Valley Water, where turnover is rare, occurring mainly through retirement.  When a position becomes available, these gems are advertised on their own website at and via KRIM 96.3FMPayson RoundupFacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram.  What the 24 employees understand is that this highly motivated staff of forward-thinking, proactive, problem-solvers working toward continuous improvement love their jobs and feel valued while taking care of Payson’s wastewater needs.  Though the work may not be glitzy, they are the diamonds that bring the shine to Green Valley Water and the Town of Payson.