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Thank You Debra McCarty

posted Mar 15, 2019, 7:50 AM by Louis Rodriguez   [ updated Mar 15, 2019, 7:52 AM ]
When I started my career at the Philadelphia Water Department back in 1991, I remember looking across the room at the sea of cubicles and realizing something odd.  There were no female engineers on my floor, not one.   

A few years later, the first female graduate engineers were hired and I was given the opportunity to train one of them.  It was my first time I had insight on the challenges that women faced working in a male-dominated industry.  Not technical challenges, they were equal if not more capable then the men, but social challenges.  

Over the course of the 1990’s and 2000’s, I witnessed the wave of technology moving through the engineering industry and the wave of women moving into management positions.  I was blessed with the opportunity to work for and with some amazing female engineers.  They were and still are, some of the greatest mentors of mine.  People like Sue Lior, Debbie Ayars, Cheryl McKissack, and...Debra McCarty.

The first time I met Deb was on the volleyball court playing in the PWD Volleyball League.  Here was this tiny woman playing volleyball amongst a sea of tall, mostly out of shape, middle-aged men.  In many ways, the volleyball court was a microcosm of the Department.  Despite the challenges in height, Deb could clearly play the game and it was obvious she was the leader of her team. She had an incredibly pleasant personality but commanded the respect of everyone around her.

Although we worked on different sides of the water industry for most of our careers (plant versus street), our paths crossed a number of times. I was always amazed at her professionalism and the respect she commanded from her staff, especially the men. Everyone I met spoke extremely highly of her technical and leadership skills.

In 2015, I had the privilege of serving on Mayor Kenney’s Transition Team and it was during this time that my career would cross paths with Deb’s again as she was the newly appointed Water Commissioner.  This was really the first time I had the opportunity to sit in meetings with her and witness, firsthand, her love for the Department, the city, and the engineering profession.  I did not envy her job of having to run one of the country’s largest municipally-owned water utilities, but I had no doubt she was going to be a great commissioner.

Over the past four years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Deb through candid conversations we would have over coffee or in her office.  We discussed the challenges women and minorities faced owning and operating businesses.  We also discussed the need to introduce STEM fields to children at an early age in order to change the demographics of the engineering field. But, most importantly, we discussed our love for the city and the profession we chose.

Selfishly, I wish Deb would push retirement off a few more years but I know that she leaves the Department in good hands.  Deb, I just want to say that it has been an honor to operate a business in Philadelphia that has worked for a Department under your leadership.  You are truly an inspiration to countless people and I wish you all the best in your retirement.
God bless.