August 25, 2011
Graves Leaves DWR for University Job
On Aug. 26, Paul Graves, assistant chief engineer, will be leaving the Division of Water Resources to “build campuses” at the University of Kansas in the newly created position of deputy director in the Design and Construction Management Department.
Specifically, Graves will be responsible for managing workloads, overseeing quality control and contract administration, helping manage the department’s budget, coordinating with other groups, reporting on the department’s work, managing special projects and other tasks to help the department fulfill its mission of improving the university’s teaching, research, office and living facilities and environments.
When Graves first started working at DWR in 2006, he took on a job that hadn’t existed for some time and which was reinstated to help ease the burdens on the chief engineer. “The position has evolved over time,” Graves said. “Under David Pope [chief engineer from 1983-2007], for example, I served as hearing officer on a number of adjudicative hearings where people were appealing permit decisions. That element of the job has mostly gone away because DWR now contracts with a former agency attorney to conduct those hearings.”
Other aspects of the job – notably budget management and participation in the legislative process – grew over time as positions were consolidated and other changes occurred in the agency’s organization.
Graves said during his time at DWR he’s striven to increase the quality and frequency of both internal and external communication. An example of this is his contributions to the division’s weekly newsletter, DWR Currents, of which Graves has served as editor since 2008.
Collaborating with other organizations has also been part of his role. “I hope that one of the ways I’ve defined my job is improving and increasing the coordination with other agencies and other organizations,” Graves said. “For example, I’ve had the good fortune to be active in Western States Water Council. I think I’ve helped to increase Kansas’ profile in that organization, which helps increase our ability to influence federal legislation related to water policy and also helps in our relationships with other states and with the exchange of information so that we can learn from them and they can learn from us.”
Chief Engineer David Barfield commented, “Paul has been an exceptional assistant chief engineer and a pleasure to work with. His good judgment, hard work and professionalism will be greatly missed here. He has helped us become a better organization in so many ways, even during a period of ever declining budgets.”
In the DWR timeline, Graves labels his years as a “transition” period. Besides the changes resulting from turnover of secretaries and chief engineers, Graves mentioned the inherent changes accompanying moving from a “healthy budget environment to a more constrained budget.”
This decreased budget influenced the emphasis of in-house training that Graves developed. To enable licensed staff to earn professional development hours and other staff to gain knowledge applicable to their jobs, for example, he orchestrated lunch seminars instructed by rotating staff. The goal, he said, was not only to provide information but to build staff capability in presentation skills.
When discussing his assistive role, Graves said he was fortunate to have a good working relationship with Chief Engineer David Barfield, citing Barfield’s clear articulation of ideas and rationale, open communication style and appropriate use of group input on decision making. “David is so knowledgeable in this area – having worked over 27 years in various roles at DWR – and he’s continually exploring ways to improve analytical techniques while also considering the human factors involved in managing the state’s water resources. It’s been an honor to work with him and the rest of the team,” Graves said.
Other job aids have been the DWR program managers, field offices, and staff in their efforts to meet agency objectives. “We are very, very fortunate in the program mangers that we have now. They are extremely capable,” Graves said, noting the managers’ communication skills, decisiveness and ability to be leaders who also can be team players.
Graves called the DWR field offices a “point of community pride.” “Field offices are a great asset to this agency,” Graves said. “By having staff located in field offices throughout the state, we’re able to be more efficient by cutting down on travel times. It also makes the staff more approachable for our customers when they want to come in and initiate an application or get information on their water rights.”
While he worked on many interesting and challenging projects for the agency, Graves said, “It’s the great people at DWR I will miss the most. It’s a place where people want to work, and they are very professional and dedicated to their jobs.”
Wason Retires After 25 Years at DWR
One DWR employee taking advantage of the recent early retirement incentive for state employees is Jim Wason, applications developer III, who has developed DWR computer programs for almost 25 years.
Although, he hasn’t made any set plans, Wason would like to see the national parks. He and his wife also have children in Nebraska, Colorado, North Carolina and Manhattan to visit.
About joining DWR, Wason said, “In 1980, I was hired by DISC, which is part of the Department of Administration, to work for DWR on a project to get off a visual index cards system, for each water right, to a Cincom online mainframe system.”
Summarizing Wason’s DWR career encapsulates the division’s electronic storage metamorphosis. “Jim was involved as a programmer when water rights information was first computerized,” said Jim Bagley, Technical Services Section. “That system went online in 1980. He was involved with the migration of that system from a mainframe computer to the present Oracle platform. He also was involved in the migration of the water structures inventory database from dBase to the present Oracle platform.”
Much of Wason’s work involved creating user-screens through which DWR staff enter data to and query information from the databases. Wason also performed programming to maintain the databases and add new functions over time. While Wason did not work on the Water Information Management and Analysis System (WIMAS), this publicly-accessible data portal is populated by data from the Water Rights Information System (WRIS) that Wason helped manage.
The changing nature of Oracle, which DWR has used since 1996, soon will impact DWR, Wason predicted. “Currently, Oracle has requested everyone using the tools we used to put all the systems together — WRIS, WSI, RECS — to look for a new platform as it will not support these products in the coming years.”
Wason’s leave-taking is DWR’s loss. “To say he will be missed is a gross understatement,” Bagley said. “There is no way to replace that institutional knowledge.”
August 31 marks Wason’s last official day in the office. “Congratulations and best wishes,” said Brenda Curl, Data Management. “Enjoy your retirement. I know you will.”
Vaughn Departs DWR, Returns to Indiana
When Sandra Vaughn graduated with her master’s degree from the University of Indiana in 2008, she analyzed water job descriptions and decided Kansas offered the best working environment. Vaughn applied for an Environmental Specialist II position in DWR’s Garden City field office and was hired.
Her work primarily concentrated on investigating complaints and enforcing water rights in the Arkansas River basin. She also measured groundwater levels every two weeks in Meade County’s Spring Creek area as well as performing monthly measures of streamflows in that same area as part of a long-term study.
On August 12, Vaughn returned to Indiana with her husband, who has a new job opportunity there.
“Sandra has an excellent work ethic, is very intelligent and friendly,” said Mike Meyer, water commissioner of the Garden City field office, which covers southwest Kansas.
“She created an access database for this office [see recent article, DWR Uses GIS for Efficient Fieldwork, regarding the Division’s spreadsheet conversion to a database]. She took it upon herself as a personal project to learn Access [database software] and to help the field office as a database tracking system was needed. It’s now the tracking system for all our [Garden City] field and office activities. Sandra also took up the cello and played in local orchestra while she was here.”
“We hope that Sandra gained valuable experience with the Department for her future career. We will miss her and wish her the best in her personal life and her career.”
- Aug. 30-31: Republican River Compact Administration Engineering Committee Meeting and Annual Meeting (Burlington, Colorado)
- Sep. 1: Northwest Kansas GMD 4 Board Meeting (Colby)
- Sep. 7-8: Kansas Association for Floodplain Management Conference (Manhattan)
- Sep. 8: Big Bend GMD 5 Board Meeting (Stafford)
For more information about these and other upcoming events, please check our online events listings.