Monday, October 18, 2021

Homegrown Love and Healthy Respect: Jeffrey E. Poteet

On Duty

Photos by Andrea Leiner

General Manager of Water and Sewer for the City of Marco IslandJeff is a duallicensed Florida drinking water and wastewater treatment plant operator. He holds a Bachelors in Math Education from the University of South Florida, and an MBA from Hodges University. 

Among the many family photos surrounding Jeff Poteet’s desk and office walls, you will see the accolades from the 27 years of service to the water and wastewater industry. Among those awards, Jeff is an Honorary Life Member of the Florida Water & Pollution Control Operators Association (FW&PCOA) and was inducted in the Florida Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers in 2015.  

In 1972, Jeff’s family moved to Marco Island and as a product of Tommie Barfield Elementary, Jeff is a local with a homegrown love for Marco’s waterways and a healthy respect for the delicate balance between its inhabitants and the ecosystem. It was precisely this understanding that influenced Jeff’s decision to stay in utilities, growing with the department as it transitioned from private ownership to the City of Marco Island in 2003. 

“I love to teach, and I have been able to do that extensively in Florida with the FW&PCOA,” Jeff shared. The FW&PCOA advances the professional status of water and wastewater operators, provides a licensing system, certification programs, and arranges training courses throughout the state. Jeff served as President of the FW&PCOA in 2013 and again in 2014.  

Bragging about the Water and Sewer Department, “We have a great team,” Jeff stated. “We are a team that strives to help the community with their needs and their frustrations in a timely manner. If we can’t respond right away, we give a timeline and updates.” Every year, Jeff encourages the citizens to come to the Water and Sewer open house to learn about “all of the innovative things we do for the community. This year’s open house will be held on February 20th from 9 AMNoon at 807 E. Elkcam Circle. 

Jeff’s professional commitment and genuine empathy for Marco’s citizens are evidenced both in his daily duties and during extraordinary situations. Like other city workers, Jeff and his team are tasked with responding to emergencies and natural disasters alike, working all hours to mitigate and repair damages in real-time.  

“I remember going out in the middle of Hurricane Wilma to respond to a water main break. We needed to turn off water valves around the city to preserve our water source and prevent it from flowing out through the break,” Jeff recalled. “Following that storm, we made many improvements to keep our utilities sustainable and reliable in the face of these storms. During Irma, we had a great plan in place to prepare and deploy quickly, and we worked around the clock before, during, and after the storm. The team’s efforts paid off, athere was not a single wastewater spill and our potable water system was restored to full operational pressure within 4 days.” 

Providing clean water and effective sewer-waste management to an island community is no small task. There is a constant push-pull with the elements to maintain equipment and services, and extensive planning and vigilance needed to keep things in a state of readiness for the effects of powerful hurricanes. 

With those challenges in mind, Jeff and his team created a 5-year Capital Improvement Program, which is continually updated and presented yearly to the Marco Island City Council for approval. The plan contains recurring items like membrane and vehicle replacements, and larger-scale items such as the planned building of an Operations Center at their site on Elkcam Circle that will house Water and Sewer Administration and Distribution, IT, and Public Works for the City.  

While the Water and Sewer Department does not enjoy the recognition of the Fire Rescue and Police Departments, Jeff handles it with the ease and patience of a lifelong fisherman as he said, “I enjoy looking out for the best interest of the community. When there is a need, our team is there.” 

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