Clackamas Water Environment Services employee named Woman of Year
Clackamas Water Environment Services (WES) Capital Program Manager Lynne Chicoine has been named 2021 Woman of the Year by the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association (PNCWA), an association of utilities dedicated to water resources in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Chicoine's award recognizes women who have: excelled in their career; advanced clean water issues; made significant industry contributions and achievements; served as role models and mentors for other women and girls; advocated for closing the leadership gap and creating a more equitable society; and contributed back to their communities.
A West Linn resident, Chicoine since October 2015 has led the capital planning and implementation program for WES' wastewater infrastructure, which includes five wastewater treatment facilities, 23 pump stations and more than 360 miles of sewer pipes.
Despite the pandemic, Chicoine led her team and contractors to complete or continue progress on several major WES capital projects in 2020-21 to ensure reliable and affordable wastewater treatment services for several decades.
In honoring Chicoine, PNCWA judges considered Chicoine's leadership in the following WES projects, among other initiatives:
1. Tri-City Solids Handling Improvements Project
2. Tri-City Water Resource Recovery Facility Outfall Project
3. 82nd Drive Pipe/Pedestrian Bridge Improvement Project
4. Kellogg Creek Water Resource Recovery Facility Improvements Project
"Lynne's leadership on these and other projects benefits more than 190,000 WES customers," said WES Director Greg Geist. "Lynne is dedicated to maintaining a strong and reliable infrastructure that serves our communities now and well into the future."
Chicoine is an active advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion, and has worked extensively to ensure a respectful and inclusive workplace free of sexism, racism and discrimination.
The WES Capital and Surface Water workgroups are diverse, with three female registered professional engineers among a staff of six engineers.
"We value a diverse workforce on our projects and support meaningful efforts to increase the number of under-represented groups and sustain their participation," Chicoine said.
In addition to mentoring young women, Chicoine routinely participates in programs designed to encourage minority/female participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). She developed an educational program for high school students designed to inspire the next generation of engineers.
At Chicoine's recommendation, WES approached Clackamas Academy of Industrial Sciences (CAIS) with the goal to teach the next generation about career opportunities within engineering, construction and operations. Martin Rausch was an engineer before teaching at CAIS. He quickly realized that Chicoine's idea would be a great opportunity to give his students real-world experience and open them to a variety of future career opportunities.
The Solids Handling Improvement Project, led by Chicoine, includes building a third digester feed tank, a dewatering and digester control building and much more that will improve the overall treatment process and expand the treatment process at the Tri-City Water Resource Recovery Facility. Chicoine met with Rausch and collaborated on a class tour and multiple opportunities for students to meet with and talk to professionals within the engineering, operations and construction field.
Chicoine said, "Some of them are learning for the first time that when they take a shower, the water comes here. They're learning about the construction. They're asking questions of the people involved and they're getting to see firsthand what the real-life project looks like."
Geist said, "Lynne's passion, expertise and advocacy for women in STEM careers is truly inspiring."
When she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering more than 40 years ago, Chicoine was one of only a few women in her class.
"I'm honored to have been nominated by my colleagues and selected for this award," Chicoine said. "Today, the percentage of women in the field has grown to just 15%. This award allows me to serve as an example for young women, whose skills in math and science are matched by their passion for the water environment. For that, I am grateful. The profession, and society broadly, would both benefit if we encouraged and welcomed talented women in technical careers like civil engineering."
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