Positive Wave Award: Past Winners

This page contains all of the past winners of the National Association of Water Company’s prestigious Positive Wave Award. New recipients will be added here as they are announced by NAWC.

September 2021: Susan Lancho

The September Positive Wave Award winner is Susan Lancho, Senior Manager, External Communications, at Kentucky American Water. Lancho oversees the company’s strategic communications and community outreach, including media relations, corporate philanthropy, and customer communications but her impact extends beyond the confines of her job.

Meriah Osbourne, who works in another department as Supervisor of Customer Advocacy, nominated Susan for recognition because of Susan’s generosity in serving as an informal mentor for people new to the company and to the industry, as well as for her laserlike focus on customers, particularly in underserved rural areas.

“The compassion and consideration that Susan shows our customers extends to her coworkers as well. As a young woman and new to the business, I often seek Susan’s guidance and advice,” said Meriah. “She seems to have an endless supply of patience, wisdom, and kindness. She makes those around her feel welcome, listened-to, and valued. She is so patient, and her plate is full all of the time, but she never makes me feel like I am a burden.”

Not satisfied to simply react to customer inquiries, Susan actively seeks out local organizations who could benefit from the AW Low-Income Assistance program, “H2O Help to Others.” Such programs are especially important in rural areas that may not have a lot of active nonprofits to help funnel those in need to sign up for the grant program. She is always looking to expand the number of nonprofit partner agencies.

It requires a certain amount of initial sign-up paperwork to get enrolled as a community partner so some organizations will say they are not interested, or not interested now. These organizations have very small staffs.

“Whereas some people would be content with the current list of agencies, Susan is constantly reaching out to encourage new community partners to sign up for the H2O Help to Others Program,” said Meriah. “If Susan gets a ‘no’ or a ‘not now,’ she follows up gently and tries to help them with the process. She does not give up because she knows these local organizations are key to helping those in need. When we do add them as an agency, she checks in to see if there is something that can be helped and keeps them updated on changes.”

Susan also is a wonderful volunteer on her own time. She has taken leadership roles in critical community nonprofits. She serves on the board for Women Leading Kentucky, Vice Chair on the board for Lexington Catholic High School and is a board member of the Lexington Public Library Foundation.

Every company would be lucky to have an employee like Susan Lancho!

August 2021: Jeffrey Gream

Safety. It is the number one priority for our member companies. Nothing matters more than making sure every employee returns home safely after a day on the job. Jeffrey (Jeff) Gream understands that and lives it every day.

In May 2021, while at a job site with contractors who were repairing a water main, Jeff noticed that a contractor had entered an excavated hole without proper shoring. The hole was deep—over the contractor’s head and potentially dangerous. Jeff used his stop work authority, ultimately shutting down the repair operation until the contractor took steps to make the excavation site safe and the contractor was held responsible for the safety violation.

Anyone who has ever had to stop work or even correct someone for a mistake or misstep knows the challenges behind it. You can feel like you are letting your team down, or are being too stringent, or even feel like you are adding to the number of safety incidents for your district and state.

It is a difficult call to make, knowing that reporting the incident and shutting down work would slow down the repair and potentially put a negative spotlight on the contractor.

But, as Jeff recounted the story, while he felt guilt for stopping work, he would have felt even more guilt had he not done anything, and someone lost their life.

Jeff, who is a member of IBEW Local Union 1393, has told this story to our local and regional safety committees and shared the story on an all-managers call for the state of Indiana.

“Jeff Gream represents what safety means at American Water and, I’m proud he had the courage to take action and keep safety a top priority,” said Christopher Hayes, Jeff’s direct manager at Indiana American Water who nominated Jeff for the honor. “Our field employees encounter instances that require critical thinking, problem solving, and courage every day without our knowing it and I am grateful for their efforts.”

Congratulations to you Jeff for making a positive wave in our industry by watching out for your colleagues!

July 2021: Alberto Coronado

NAWC’s first recipient of the Positive Wave Award is Alberto Coronado, maintenance foreman with SouthWest Water Company (SWWC).

Alberto was recognized for his courageous and selfless actions during the February 2021 winter storm that left millions of households in Texas without power and water. Alberto was integral in keeping the drinking water and wastewater services online for SWWC customers in Pflugerville, TX during Winter Storm Uri. He used a heavy-duty truck to move a mobile generator from facility to facility to power the wells and pumps that provide water supply for the system. He also used the generator to cycle the lift station pumps to move wastewater through the collection system to the treatment plant.

“Our company is proud of the exceptional work by Alberto. He is a prime example of how we will work hard to keep our customers in service, but also demonstrates the personal sacrifice our employees make to support their teammates, and our customers, in a challenging situation,” said Jeffrey L. McIntyre, President of Texas Water Utilities, SouthWest Water Company.

Congratulations Alberto and many thanks for your service and contributions to our industry!