38-year career leads to learning opportunities

38-year career leads to learning opportunities
Posted on 12/23/2022
Interim Vice President Paul Rivas retires from El Paso Water after 38 years.

Interim Vice President Paul Rivas marveled at the opportunities he found at El Paso Water 38 years after he first donned a lab coat.

After an initial jittery interview with future President and CEO John Balliew, Rivas was hired in December 1984 for an entry-level lab job at the new Fred Hervey Plant.

“It was a 24-hour-a-day lab,” Rivas said. “We monitored the wastewater every eight hours, and we worked shifts.”

Eventually earning his degree in microbiology at the University of Texas at El Paso, Rivas’ early memories at the lab include stripping and waxing floors on weekends as well as mopping. The young lab employee steadily moved up the ladder through the new Laboratory Services section.


Interim Vice President Paul Rivas retires from El Paso Water after 38 years.When Rivas became Laboratory Manager, he helped usher in a Quality Control Program. Shortly thereafter, the water utility began seeking accreditation from the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program that was eventually secured.

“The QC Program increased and intensified the amount of work that had to be done for analysis,” Rivas said. “The next step was to create a centralized laboratory location.”

The International Water Quality Laboratory opened in spring 2006, and Rivas was up for the challenge. He had completed 30 years in the lab when he was selected as Environmental Compliance Manager.

“The position had an engineering degree requirement,” said Balliew, adding the job specifications were changed. “That was one of the first times we did that because we recognize there are talented people who can easily do the job.”

At that point, Rivas remembers thinking that was the highest position he would attain at the utility.

That was when Balliew tapped him as Interim Chief Operations Officer. An executive position followed shortly thereafter for his final stint as Interim Vice President of Plant Operations and Technical Services.

This final position is the one that taught him the most.

“Having moved up from the bottom and learned all the different information has been really cool,” Rivas said.

Solid support

Former employees who are now colleagues are grateful for the experience of working with Rivas.

“He was my boss for 28 years,” said Richard Wilcox, Water Supply Manager. “When he selected me for the new Quality Assurance Chemist position, it really allowed me to flourish. Between the both of us, we built a credible quality assurance program that eventually led to accreditation of the laboratory.”

Pretreatment Manager Nancy Nye remembers the beginning of her career at EPWater, with Rivas kindly showing her the ropes around the lab and the Pretreatment Program.

“This was an invaluable learning experience,” Nye said. “Paul’s generosity solidified in my mind I had found ‘the job,’ and I could see myself working here for a long time.”

Chief Learning Officer Ana Sanchez called Rivas the “true blue spirit of El Paso Water.”

“He’s an example that if you work hard and you work smart, the opportunities can be there for you,” Sanchez said.

Rivas expressed his gratitude for Balliew, calling him a huge blessing in his life and career.

“I really think if John hadn’t been here, I would still have been laboratory manager right now or I would have retired long ago,” Rivas said.

“One of the things I recognized in Paul was a great deal of talent,” Balliew said. “He worked extremely well with people, and he was technically competent.”

As he gets ready to welcome retirement, Rivas hoped he made a good impression on EPWater employees.

“I would like to be remembered as somebody who got his job done,” Rivas said. “It’s been extremely rewarding, and I couldn’t have asked for a better career.”


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