Reflecting on Almost 40 Years and Planning for the Future: Blair Roy Marks Retirement from the City of St. Albert
After a 38 year-career, City of St. Albert water/wastewater operations veteran Blair Roy has made the move to retirement. Even though he officially retired on April 23, 2021, he still treats the municipality he served like his own. Known for phoning in to fix an issue, even on holidays, Blair admits he still notices things.
“I think when you work for a municipality as long as I have, you act like it’s your own City.” – Blair Roy
Thirty-five of Blair’s years with the City were spent in water/wastewater. Beginning as a labourer, he moved through the ranks from operator to team lead, operations supervisor and finally the supervisor of construction and maintenance. His career officially began as a casual, working on an outdoor skating rink before moving to full-time employment in the Parks department. He also joined the transportation department for a brief spell before arriving in the Water and Wastewater department. In the Water and Wastewater department, Blair felt like he could advance and make a career for himself. As shown by his various positions over the years, Blair was fortunate enough to do just that.
Blair learned the ins and outs of water/wastewater operations the old-fashioned way – on the job. Additional training came through Sacramento University and AWWOA. He also took continuing education courses through NAIT and the University of Alberta where he studied project management.
Blair’s greatest achievements reflect a core value he was lucky enough to share with his municipality: continued growth and training. While with the City of St. Albert, he became a Level IV certified operator, earned Level III in the APWA Supervisor Program, and obtained certification in construction inspection and project management.
“When I sit back and think about the amount of money that the City invested in me, in terms of education, I’m a very lucky man. The knowledge and networking obtained through conferences and training was one of my best achievements with the City.” – Blair Roy
Transferring Knowledge, Offering Training and Providing Mentorship
With Blair’s dedicated service and leadership, comes understanding of how to invest in and retain operators. Through the sharing of knowledge within the utilities department, extensive education opportunities, openness to new ideas and a willingness to mentor younger operators, a municipality can set itself up for success.
When operators come into the utilities department at the City of St. Albert, the importance of working in water/wastewater is shared with them.
“You’re responsible for the water and wastewater system for the City, so it’s a big responsibility. We give them all the tools to succeed in terms of education and job shadowing, training. The staff are generally eager to grab the opportunity and run with it.”
– Blair Roy
As shown by Blair’s own example, the City of St. Albert sees the importance of investing in its operators through education. Staff is encouraged to start getting their certification levels and utilize the City’s education and development plan to set a course for success. Training is available to those who want it but the City is also open to employees bringing in new training.
“I’ve really noticed how open we are to training opportunities and trying new things. If it’s brought forward, we’ll definitely listen and if we feel it’s beneficial, let’s run with it and see what happens.” – Blair Roy
To keep information moving between water/wastewater operations team members, the City of St. Albert implements a few practices. For example, operators and leads are moved around ever year or so to ensure everyone is well-versed in different aspects of the job. Also, if an employee is going to be away for a few weeks, operators will cover for team leads and team leads will cover for supervisors. Doing so is encouraged and the City offers a lot of support for the operators and leads to get their feet wet in new challenges.
Supervisors and team leads are also always open to helping out younger staff. From his own personal experience, Blair shares that he encouraged his own niece to get involved in the industry, acting as a mentor for her.
“She didn’t know what she wanted to do and I started to talk to her about the water and wastewater program at NAIT and I kind of pushed her towards it. Now she’s working with EPCOR in a treatment plant doing a really good job and she loves her work.” – Blair Roy
Advice to New and Prospect Operators
While the industry is constantly evolving and adapting, it’s not going away. Everyone needs water for the rest of their lives. Blair encourages new operators to stay positive, always be open to change and don’t be afraid to take chances or bring something forward.
“The water and wastewater industry is changing every day and the one thing I’d always tell employees is, you have the opportunity to learn something new every day if you allow yourself.” – Blair Roy
Blair has many stories and memories from his time in the industry but his favourite part was the people that he worked with and the relationships he was able to develop, both with co-workers and contractors. He’s proud that he was able to serve his community and that includes being out in the middle of the night, assisting with repairs getting people’s water back on or clearing a service lateral.
With his new-found time, Blair plans on taking the summer off to relax and figure things out.
“What I do in the future? Time will tell.” – Blair Roy