Easthampton, Mass has nation’s best tasting water


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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Easthampton Water Department from Easthampton, Mass. won the gold medal for best tasting water and the 16th annual Great American Water Taste Test, held as part of the Rural Water Rally on February 11th in Washington, D.C.

“I’m really proud of this,” Tom Newton, supervisor of Easthampton Water Works, told ABC News. “I’ve put 40 years of my life into this. I’m retiring this year. This is the victory lap.”

Newton says the water’s exceptional taste comes from its Ph.

“It’s very crisp,” he said. “It takes very little treatment.”

Easthampton water completed against water samples from across the nation in the areas of clarity, bouquet, and taste. Each state rural water association holds a drinking water taste test from among their members, and the winners of those competitions are eligible for the national taste test. Rogerson Water District from Buhl, Idaho won the silver award and City of Whittier, Alaska won bronze. Del Paso Manor Water District from Sacramento, Cal. and Francis City, Utah were the other five finalists.

The five finalists were selected from a preliminary round of tasting. A panel of special guest judges then selected the winners from the five finalists. This year’s guest judges included Jasper Schneider, acting administrator of the Rural Utilities Service, Chris Heggem, director of Coalition & Outreach for the House Ag Committee, and Daniel Ulmer, legislative assistant for Senator Thad Cochran.

Acting Administrator Honors States for Emergency Response


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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jasper Schneider, acting administrator of the Rural Utilities Service, honored three states during the NRWA Rural Water Rally in Washington, D.C.

“The administrator’s coin is really the highest award the administrator can bestow,” Schneider said.

He awarded coins to representatives from the state associations of Arkansas, Illinois, and Mississippi for their emergency response efforts after tornadoes struck each state, last year.

 

NRWA Opens 2015 Rural Water Rally


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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Rural Water Association opened the 2015 Rural Water Rally on February 10th with a ceremony that included speeches from NRWA President Charles Hilton, Congressman Robert Aderholt, and USDA Undersecretary of Rural Development Lisa Mensah.

Hilton, the NRWA President from South Carolina, began the rally by reminding the crowd about the power of association. As the nation grows, it has become a challenge for elected officials to maintain the close relationships they have with their constituents. By joining their voices in an association affords rural Americans a way to ensure their views are still heard and their needs still represented.

“We have associations in all 50 states,” Hilton said. “Never doubt the power of that.”

He also reminded the crowd of water professionals, that their work is the primary strength of the association.

“The National Rural Water Association is just a name without you,” Hilton said to the audience. “Your grassroots efforts and work in the field are what gives that name power.”

Congressman Aderholt from Alabama spoke about rural water driving rural economies.

“It’s something I have seen first-hand,” he said.

The congressman also detailed the programs and appropriations that have assisted rural communities and the future of those programs.

Undersecretary Mensah detailed how impressed she has been with rural water in her short time with rural utilities. She also sees President Hilton’s own water system, Breezy Hill Water & Sewer Company, as an example of USDA and rural water working together to benefit small communities.

“Just think, five people were able to get a loan that allowed them to bring water to an area of South Carolina, where there was none before,” she said. “What started as just 297 taps has grown into over 5,500 customers.”

After the opening session, water professionals from across the nation went to meet their Senators and Congressmen.

 

 

 

 

Nebraska Rural Water helps Ashland with sustainability


ASHLAND, Neb. – The City of Ashland, Neb. has been looking for ways to save money and improve the function of their water utility. Now, with the help of the Nebraska Rural Water Association, the system started to progress toward their goals.

“The training has reinforced what we were trying to do,” said Bill Torpy, Ashland public utility director. “It has added structure to what we were trying to do before and given us some direction on how to achieve our goals.”

Torpy and his assistant, Rob Josoff, attended an Effective Utility Management session that Patrick Peterson presented in Wahoo, Neb. Ashland, a city of 2,400 between Omaha and Lincoln, has actively pursued ways to save money and electricity in their water and wastewater operations.

“We’re very energy conscious, despite the cost of electricity being very-reasonably priced in this part of the world,” Torpy said.

One of the major concerns is the city’s wastewater facility. The system relies on a screening process to eliminate sludge from wastewater, but it has been largely ineffective.

“It takes 30,000 gallons of water to run the screening process, and a lot of sludge remains,” Torpy explained. “We’re hauling off the remaining slurry in a tractor to some city-owned farmable land so it can be incorporated into the soil.

“Every step of the process is costing us money.”

Ashland has plans to move to a reed bed system to absorb the wastewater. The plan has support, but it will be nearly a year before they can begin work.

“The budgeting process here starts in October and the class was in October,” Peterson explained. “It’s still very early in the process for the wastewater plans, but they are already starting to see some benefits from their new VFDs.”

Torpy was able to use earlier commitments to purchase Variable Frequency Drive systems for several pumps in the water utility. These VFDs adjust the amount of electricity used to drive pumps, saving electricity by matching the level of energy to the amount of work required.

“We’re starting to realize some cost savings and we’re even seeing less breakage in the distribution system,” Torpy said. “It looks like the soft start of the VFDs is creating less hydraulic pressure and reducing the strain on the pipes.”

Ashland plans to expand use of VFDs to all aspects of their utility. In addition to the wastewater changes, the city also plans to replace aging water mains. Many of those plans will be aided by the city’s relationship with rural water.

“We find Nebraska Rural Water very helpful in many ways,” Torpy said. “They provide great training and they’re a real go-to resource for us.”

Hilton speaks at SDWA 40th anniversary forum


hiltonWASHINGTON, D.C. – National Rural Water Association President Charles Hilton spoke during a celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act held on Dec. 9th at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The event was hosted by a collection of water organizations, including the American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, the National Association of Water Companies, and the National Rural Water Association.

“I was in the industry when both the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act were implemented. I have experienced events that have profound effects on the health and safety of millions of Americans every day now and in the future, while both restoring and protecting our most precious resource, our water,” said Hilton, who is the general manager of the Breezy Hill Water and Sewer Company in South Carolina.

The Safe Drinking Water Act was enacted in 1974 as a means to ensure safe drinking water for the public. While many states had drinking water regulations, the SDWA was the first time the federal government had a way to create enforceable, nation-wide drinking water standards.

“In his signing statement of the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, President Gerald Ford emphasized the most important precept of the Act for it to be judged successful;,” Hilton said.  “That precept was the idea of a partnership: a partnership beginning here in our nation’s capital, intermeshed with our 50 state governments, and ending in a place called Breezy Hill Water District that I manage – a partnership between the local community, state government, and finally the federal government.”

In many ways, the SDWA act lead to the creation of the National Rural Water Association. After the act, small water systems were faced with national standards that they often lacked the resources to meet, so they started forming associations with the goal of providing the necessary funding, training, and technical assistance to comply with the new regulations.

“The National Rural Water Association represents 30,000 of these small local communities,” Hilton said.  “Some are so small they are both governed and operated by unpaid volunteers.  Some are large enough to have professionals who lead the industry in technical, operational, and managerial skills.  But all 30,000 are committed to one end goal – they exist to protect the health of their respective communities by providing the safest water possible.”

In the 40 years since the law’s creation, the challenges have changed and grown more complex.

“Originally, I had written the remark that for the truly small systems, and even for systems the size of my system, our challenges are enormous,” Hilton said. “But while true, I immediately realized that every water system in our nation is equally challenged, some simply have more resources, but all are faced with the same problems.  Forty years ago preparedness meant having a repair clamp for every size of pipe in your system. Today we still have to have that clamp, but that is the easy part. The difficult problems are facing the Hurricane Katrinas and Superstorm Sandys; facing the fact that climate is changing and that we must prepare for droughts that we are experiencing now or the flooding that will occur elsewhere.”

Hilton took time to highlight the various partnerships that have helped rural water systems. Those include billions of dollars in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and both regulatory and financial assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“President Ford said in 1974, ‘I am pleased to say that we are moving ahead to confront these new problems threatening our drinking water.’  Forty years later we are still moving ahead,” Hilton said. “We have not reached our goal, but because of the individuals in this room, their organizations, and the involvement of our communities, we will overcome every challenge.”

Hilton’s speech was part of a day of events that included presentations from Peter Grevatt, Gina McCarthy, and Victor Kim of the EPA.

Rural Water trains for emergency water treatment; WaterStep unit converts brine into chlorine


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LONOKE, Ark. – Kurtis Daniels holds up a small pile of salt, enough to fit in the palm of his hand. It’s only a few cents worth of common table salt, but with a combination of ingenuity and technology, it’s the key ingredient to generating 10,000 gallons of clean drinking water. On December 3rd, rural water experts from six states gathered at the Arkansas Rural Water Association’s office in Lonoke to learn how to use this technology during emergencies and natural disasters.

Daniels and Doug Lark are part of WaterStep, an organization that brings clean drinking water solutions to developing countries. WaterStep’s mobile water systems are built to be simple, rugged, and able to run on limited resources – qualities necessary for working in developing countries; that also make the systems perfect for emergency response. In October, during the National Rural Water Association’s WaterPro Conference, HD Supply Waterworks donated two of the WaterStep mobile water systems to NRWA as part of their sponsorship of the organization.

“We’re really excited,” said Kevin Renckens, HD Supply Waterworks Director of National Sales. “We think this is a great opportunity to provide help for communities in emergency situations.”

WaterStep systems have already been serving communities in developing nations for nearly a decade, where they are saving lives.

“I first got into this, because a friend of mine showed me a demonstration of the chlorinator,” Daniels explained. “He told me: ‘Did you know that 25,000 people die every day from water-borne illnesses?’ I told him that couldn’t be right. He told me it was the equivalent of loading a 747 full of people and crashing it to the ground every 30 minutes.

“I looked up the numbers and he was right. After he demonstrated this system, I knew we had a way to make a difference.”

The mobile system’s potential to provide support during emergencies in this country is enormous. All the necessary components are stored in a small rolling cart, weighing only 445 pounds, and everything can be assembled in roughly 15 minutes. Yet, the system has the power to treat 1,250 gallons of water in one of its bladder tanks in 30 minutes.

IMG_6589The heart of the system is the M-100 Chlorinator. It looks like a simple jar of plastic and dangling hoses. Inside, though, are a pair of electrodes and a gas-permeable membrane that can convert a handful of salt, some water, and the electricity from a marine 12-volt battery into enough chlorine gas to treat thousands of gallons of water.

“We don’t have to bring in a train or boat loads of bleach and chemicals,” said Daniels, the WaterStep Director of Field Operations. “Salt is everywhere, it’s commonly available, and it’s cheap.”

The pound of salt used in the training session was bought for $.43 at a local store. Daniels mixes the salt into a brine solution and connects the chlorinator to a DV battery. Bubbles of hydrogen gurgle though the solution and a fog of gas begins collecting at the top of the chlorinator. In just a few minutes of operation, the membrane system is producing chlorine gas from salt, water, and electricity.

“We chlorinate to five parts per million, and that’s overkill,” Daniels said. “But, if we can get it to five parts per million and have 30 minutes of contact time, then if the chlorine level drops, it tells me a lot about the water. It tells me I need to filter the next batch.”

The mobile water system includes a filtration attachment that can be connected to the hoses at the water source. The package includes a 100 micron and a 25 micro disk filter.

IMG_6605“These disk filters are great because you don’t have to replace them. Just clean them out,” explained Lark.

The filtration attachment is made to quick-connect to the hoses filling the bladder tanks, but the system includes adapters that allow it to be connected to our source. Part of the system’s effectiveness is that the parts can be configured to numerous ways to fit each situation.

“In an emergency situation, your fire department will be best to bring the water to you,” Daniels said. “These will connect right to their pumpers and if the water is clear, you can connect the chlorinator in-line and chlorinate as you fill the tanks.

“In another case, you can use the pump to draw from a body of water like a pond or river, and filter it, then treat it in the tank,” Lark added.

The system can then distribute through common connections into portable containers or other applications. It can also supply water to Red Cross trailers, shower stations, or decontamination trailers. The chlorinator can also be connected to “water buffalo” towed storage tanks that are commonly brought in by National Guard units during emergencies, disinfecting those water supplies right in the tank.

“Anything you can think of, you can arrange the parts to do it,” Daniels said.

The system remains simple despite its power and flexibility. Most connections use a quick connect system and are color-coded for easy installation. Major parts have labels to ensure easy use.

IMG_6627“So you fill it to the line that says ‘Fill to Here,’” Daniels explains, holding up the chlorinator. “You pour the salt water into the spout that says ‘Pour Salt Water Here.’ It’s not rocket science.”

The entire system can be run by a hand pump, a power outlet, or with the included 12 volt DC marine battery. The package includes a battery charger and folding 60 watt solar cell capable of running the entire system while charging the battery. The rolling cart was selected to meet shipping specifications, ensuring there are no extended pieces that can be damaged in transport.

Every aspect of the system has been considered, engineered, and tested in real communities throughout the developing world. Even the byproducts from the chlorinator can be put to use. One side of the membrane produces sodium hydroxide, or lye, which can be used to kill flies and mosquito larva. The other side of the membrane creates a chlorine solution similar to bleach that can be used as a disinfectant or cleaning agent.

“A real world application you might encounter in a disaster is with Red Cross food trailers,” Lark said. “We know that in Sandy and in Joplin the Red Cross was struggling to find enough bleach to keep their kitchen trailers clean.”

The two water systems donated by HD Supply will be stored in Arkansas and New York, where they can be dispatched to other areas in case of emergency. The plan for the Arkansas unit is to house it in a small covered trailer that can be towed to systems in need.

IMG_6639“This is not our unit, this is everyone’s unit,” said Dennis Sternberg, executive director of the Arkansas Rural Water Association. “We’re all interested in this for the same thing, to help our members. This is just one more piece of equipment to do that.”

Nearly twenty rural water specialists from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee attended the training. The second WaterStep unit donated by HD Supply will be located in New York. Training is scheduled for New York Rural Water Association and surrounding states.

KRWA assists Burr Oak with contaminated well


burroak2BURR OAK, Kan. – Doug Guenther and Greg Metz, Technical Assistants with the Kansas Rural Water Association, went to the City of Burr Oak on June 24th to assist with a loss of chlorine and helped restore a contaminated well threatening the community’s health.

“I came at the request of Mayor Walter Wilson, because they had trouble maintaining their chlorine residuals,” Guenther explained.

Burr Oak has a unique arrangement. They purchase water from the nearby Jewell County Rural Water District #1 and blend it with water pumped from the Burr Oak city well. Water from the city well contains too much selenium, and the blending process reduced the concentrations to acceptable levels. Sometime during the process, however, the chlorine residual of the incoming water was being reduced from 1.9 mg/L to 0.0 mg/L, essentially nothing.

burroak1“I determined the loss of residue had to be from a contaminated well,” Guenther said. “I recommended they stop using the well until it could be decontaminated.”

The city relied on the Jewel County #1 water until Metz could return on June 30th to assist with super-chlorinating the well.

“We used a 1,500 gallon supply tank, and added 20 gallons of liquid 12 percent sodium hypochlorite,” Metz explained. “We pumped all of that back into the well and allowed it to rest for 24 hours.”

The next day they pumped the water from the well for nearly four hours until all the chlorine was removed.

“There was a substantial amount of discolored water at the start of pumping,” Metz said.

Once the water tested for 0.0 mg/L of chlorine, the well was put back on-line and Burr Oak began blending their water as they had previously. Metz conducted a follow-up a week later, and Mayor Wilson reported the utility was running fine and they were maintaining their chlorine residuals.

NRWA announces Septic Insight webinar


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DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association has announced a webinar, “Know your Septic System – Save Money” for 2 p.m. CST on December 18th. The webinar will focus on the information presented in the new Septic Insight mobile application.

Despite their simple design, common septic tanks rely on a number of complex chemical and biological processes to function properly. Septic tanks require regular care and maintenance to ensure they can adequately handle waste products while protecting the health of the household and the environment. Regular care can include everything from restricting the kinds of chemicals put down the toilet to how often laundry is washed. The National Rural Water Association has developed the Septic Insight App so that property owners can quickly assess the status of their septic practices and get helpful information about septic care. The Septic Insight App condenses information gathered from EPA’s Septic Smart program, university extension offices, engineering firms, and septic pumpers to offer a full range of relevant information in a quick, easy format.

Participants can enroll in the webinar by Clicking Here. Information on the Septic Insight app, and NRWA’s other mobile applications are available at https://nrwa.org/initiatives/apps.

Rural Water Spotlight: Grady Rural Water #6

Part of our series Rural Water Spotlight. See more stories in the newest issue of Rural Water magazine.

AMBER, Okla. – In a metal building west of the small Oklahoma town of Amber, Paul Jones is gathering his staff around a wall filled with color-coded pipe maps and a whiteboard scrawled with the day’s priorities. The office my not be impressive, but the transformation of this rural water utility has been remarkable.

“When I got here seven years ago, the infrastructure was in bad shape,” explained Jones, manager of Grady County Rural Water District #6. “The utility hadn’t received that level of maintenance it required.”

Grady #6 was also a purchasing utility, buying their water from the nearby City of Chickasha. The arrangement had created two problems. First, Chickasha was at a lower elevation, so Grady #6 was having to pump all its water uphill, andIMG_6299 second, the small utility was responsible for water quality that was out of their control.

“We had no control over what Chickasha did to their water, but we still had to sample and we could still be fined if they were out of compliance,” said Sharron Garrett, the utility office manager. “Your destiny is in someone else’s hands.”

The small system needed to adapt, to change, but it was facing many of the problems common to rural utilities. With a staff of six and 1,464 connections, Grady #6 had to maintain over 700 miles of pipe over 600 square miles of territory. The system supplies water to four different school districts and covers most of northern Grady County.

“It’s very difficult for a rural system to raise the capital to make big changes,” said Garrett, who started working at Grady #6 with her husband when the utility was started in 1975 and had 365 connections.

The utility started by making smaller changes, like making water loss a primary focus.

“When I started, water loss was around 45%,” Jones said. “Right now we average 25% water loss, but when we get to 10%, that’s when we’ve really worked on water loss.”

The utility started by replacing it’s neglected valves and installing line meters that measured flow through certain zones of the system.

“We can isolate different parts of the distribution system and see how much water is going into that area at different times,” Jones said, pointing to the color-coded utility map on the wall. “When you see a lot of water going into an area at 1 a.mIMG_6284. when everyone is asleep, then you know you have a problem. Once we identify a problem in a certain area, we go in to locate and repair any leaks.”

The approach has been so successful that it has even drawn attention from the US EPA. The Oklahoma Rural Water Association arranged for Dr. Peter Grevatt, director, and Becki Clark, deputy director, from the EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water to tour Grady #6.

“Grady Rural Water #6 was able to successfully overcome their challenges by implementing innovative yet practical, cost effective solutions to help the system deliver high quality water that will improve the health, economy and security of their community,” Dr. Grevatt said after touring the facility.

Jones appreciates the attention his team has received from their approach to water loss, and he sees it as a greater concern in the future.

“Finding good water is hard,” he said. “With the rules and regulations regarding potable water growing tighter all the time, keeping what you’ve produced is very important.”

The office whiteboard with the day’s tasks and priorities still has “Water Loss” written across the top. It is part of an effort to maintain the progress the utility has gained. Grady #6 has started the process of identifying pipe that needs to be up-sized or replaced. The system now also has a regular maintenance schedule that includes everything from exercising valves to mowing around lines and wells.

“We’re trying to get full life out of the equipment,” Jones said. “It all works together: we can prevent damage to our lines and if you have to repair a leak at 2 a.m. it helps if you’re not in head-high Bermuda grass.”

Grady #6 has made a number of changes and additions, but one of the most impressive new features is a 110-foot-tall, 1.4 million gallon water tower near the town of Minco. The fresh white tower was completed in August of 2013 and standsIMG_6286 near a field of tall, slow-spinning wind turbines. The tower is one of eight that store water pumped from the utility’s new two new wells. The news wells and tower are part of the effort to transition Grady #6 from purchasing water to producing its own.

“Our board has been very inspirational,” Jones said. “They had the foresight to pursue this.”

With the water contracts with Chickasha expiring in 2021, in addition to problems with pumping and quality, the Grady #6 board began exploring other water sources. The utility found a plentiful supply near the northwest corner of their system, near the small town of Cogar. The utility brought two wells on-line, with a third under development.

The change has created several advantages for Grady #6.

“Since we changed water sources, customers have been very happy with the taste,” said James Calhoun, a systems operations specialist. “I bottle it and take it home.”

Because of the elevation difference, the utility no longer has to pump water up-hill.

“Cogar is a slightly higher elevation, so most of the system is gravity fed now,” Jones said. “We went from needing eight pumps to needing one.”

The elevation also gives the utility some resistance against natural disasters.

“We have generators at the wells, so we can maintain service, even if an ice storm knocks out all the power,” Jones explained. “Unless a tornado directly hits the towers, we’re pretty much covered.”

One change at Grady #6, one Jones considers critical to continued success, has nothing to do with new equipment or infrastructure. That change is improved pay and time-off for his employees.IMG_6287

“People in the water industry don’t get enough praise,” he said. “They’ll fix a water leak in the middle of the night, and that doesn’t get noticed.”

“Just last week we had a leak where we started at 11:45 and we didn’t go home until 12:30 the next day,” Calhoun said.

“Most of that time was spent standing in a hole full of mud,” added Shawn Ortiz, system operations specialist.

“That was a fun day,” joked Morgan Britton and Matt Sierra, two members of the utility crew.

Jones hopes to keep improving the pay and benefits for his staff in the future, since he considers them as integral to the utility’s success as their new water source or focus on water loss.

“These guys are the driving force behind everything. They’re the ones out in the field with their boots on,” he said.

Hilton elected NRWA President


IMG_6550(crop)SEATTLE, Wash. – Charles Hilton from South Carolina was elected to serve as President of the National Rural Water Association on Wednesday, October 8th in Seattle, Wash.

Hilton was elected to the board of the South Carolina Rural Water Association in 1991 and to the NRWA board in 1999.

Hilton opened is inaugural speech by addressing the utility system operations specialist, managers, and board members in the audience.

“I look out on this crowd and I see operators and I see managers, I see board members, and the more that I have been involved in this, the more I realize you are the unsung heroes of America,” he said. “Nothing happens back home without you. And because you do your job so well – do it every day, 24-7, every week, every year – you are the unsung heroes. Economic growth does not come, you community cannot live without what you do each day. So I salute each one of you and say ‘thank you’ for what you do for rural America, for your towns and townships and communities back home.”

Hilton took time to thank those that have helped and supported his service on the NRWA board. Some of those included his wife Bobbie and his daughter Rachel, whose wedding was was only two days away. He also thank the board at the Breezy Hill Water & Sewer Co. who have supported his work with rural water, even though it took him out of the office. He also gave special mention to his assistant, Jeff Lowe, who manages the utility in Hilton’s absence.

“If I were not for this man, his integrity and his competence, and me knowing that he has my back, I would not be here tonight,” Hilton said.

Hilton also detailed the challenges he foresees for rural water.

“Secretary Vilsack of USDA said in December of 2012: ‘rural America is becoming less and less relevant.’ What did he mean?” Hilton asked. “We feed America we provide most of the military we provide most of the good things about the country, so what did that mean. It means that as more and more of the population shifts to the suburbs and exurbs around our towns, there are less and less of us that are speaking up.”

Hilton explained that the association had risen to meet challenges before, and that the secret to the association’s strength was in it’s local members.

“This organization is so strong because we are a grassroots movement,” he said. “What is that? That means people back home in the community get involved and get something done in this country. It’s not this board of directors or all the staff, it’s you back home.”

Hilton will serve a two-year term and will lead the association with the assistance of the NRWA Executive Board.

The NRWA Executive Board for 2015 will include:

President – Charles Hilton (SC)

Senior Vice President – Steve Fletcher (IL)

Vice President – Steve Wear (AR)

Secretary – David Baird (DE)

Treasurer – Kent Watson (TX)

At Large:

John O’Connell (NY)

Dusty Parker (OH)

Glen Womack (LA)

Immediate Past President Doug Anderton (GA)