One Water Leadership Insights
A Conversation with David Gadis, GM/CEO, DC Water
and Radhika Fox, CEO, US Water Alliance
Radhika: If you were to introduce yourself without using your professional title or organization, who would you say you are?
David: I am a person who believes in treating people the way I would want to be treated. Before I make any decision that would impact someone, I put myself in that person’s shoes.
Building on that, I’m a person who always keeps the Three P’s in my back pocket – people, place, and pay. I believe in people first, which means I believe in surrounding people with good people. I believe in place, which means I believe in creating an environment where people want to come to work and collaborate. And I believe in pay, which means I believe everyone – regardless of age, religion, race, gender – deserves to be paid equitably.
Radhika: You just celebrated your one-year anniversary at DC Water – congratulations! Can you tell us about your toughest day and your best day on the job in the past year?
David: The most challenging day I’ve had thus far happened just three weeks into the job when DC Water had the largest water boil advisory in its history. It’s hard when that happens, when you still feel like the new person and are still trying to get acclimated to the playbook. But we made all the right decisions, and no one ended up getting sick.
The best days on the job for me are when I’m able to visit with all 1,200 DC Water employees throughout the day. We call it the Roadshow, and we’ve done it four times so far.
David listens to poster presentations by DC Water interns.
Radhika: What does “One Water” mean to you?
David: To me, One Water means not thinking about drinking water and wastewater as separate entities. It means remembering that our water system runs downhill. It’s important to understand the need for those upstream to treat their water, because it’s the same water everyone downstream will eventually receive. In a One Water future, we’ll all be paying attention to how we treat water and how we treat the environment because we’re all upstream – and downstream – of someone else.
We’ve also adopted a version of the slogan to guide us in our own work: One DC Water, because all 1,200 team members are in this together.
Gadis leads his team as the basketball captain
at Southern Methodist University
Radhika: DC Water’s been on the forefront of adopting new ways of doing business – both in your internal operations and in supporting other utilities. What innovations or priorities are you focusing on now?
David: Right now, we’re working hard to understand the maintenance history of our existing infrastructure. We’re set to release one of our biggest technological innovations yet called “Pipe Sleuth.” With this tool, we can run a camera the length of a pipe and a computer will analyze the video. This technology gives us much more thorough and efficient data than the traditional method. It can take up to two hours for an employee to analyze one mile of pipe, but this tool can do the same thing in less than two minutes with greater accuracy. We’re excited about the data it’s giving us and are taking it to market soon.
Radhika: What book have you read that’s influenced your leadership style? Or, what’s something you’ve read recently that’s really rocked your boat?
David: I really enjoy reading books about leadership, and the one that stayed with me is called Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game.
Radhika: Who is your hero?
David: That’s easy – my dad. He’s the guy who taught me everything I know. I’m third generation water. My dad and my granddad worked in the industry before me. One thing I tell people about my dad is his response when I told him I’d been named President and CEO of Indianapolis Water Company. He was the first person I told and before he even said congratulations, he told me “The reason you were given that position is because you’re there to take care of people – and that’s your number one job.” That’s always resonated with me, and my dad is where my belief in putting people first comes from.Radhi