View All Posts

Mar 19

Breaking Barriers in Water Utilites

Posted on March 19, 2021 at 10:48 AM by Shelby Abner

Being one of the few women in the room isn’t unusual for Water Utilities Director Kathy Dillon. That’s been common since her days at Indiana State University, where she was often the only female in the room as she pursued her bachelor’s degree in geology. She didn’t rub elbows with many other women in her chemistry classes, either. 

When Kathy had just about completed her master’s degree in geology, she got a heads up on
a summer job that paid better than the typical grad assistant gig. It was in the laboratory of the City of Terre Haute’s wastewater department. 

“I loved it!” said Kathy. “I stayed six-and-a-half years.” 

In that short time, she worked her way up from laboratory technician to lab manager and finally to assistant superintendent. At that point, Kathy was ready to try her hand at running a plant and found the opportunity here in Brownsburg.

“I have some family close to Brownsburg and the pay was better than in Terre Haute,” said Kathy. So she and her family moved into a home just 15 miles west of town.

“We like the country lifestyle and we needed acreage to live the life we wanted,” she said. While her children are now grown, she and husband, Tom, continue to care for goats, chickens, dogs and a cat.

Kathy Dillon over a Wastewater treatment pool

Kathy joined the Town as Wastewater Superintendent in August 1997. Along with her daily duties, Kathy made sure to fit time into her schedule to host tours of the wastewater treatment plant and to meet with small groups to talk about the importance of protecting the environment. She also led groups in trash pickup activities. 

In January, Kathy was named Water Utility Director, overseeing both the wastewater and and water divisions. This new role makes her atypical in her industry.

“It’s definitely pretty unusual to have a woman in the lead,” Kathy said, noting that most women prefer to stay in the lab setting versus out in the field. Lifting manhole covers and other physically demanding tasks aren’t necessarily attractive.

After years of doing the hands-on work of the department, Kathy is finding one of the most difficult aspects of her new role is letting go of past responsibilities. “Some of the challenges I face are learning the water side of the job, and what everyone does on that side,” she said. “And getting a better sense of budgeting for everything.” She noted a big project on her plate is completing infrastructure mapping that puts all data in one place versus having it scattered in numerous databases. 

What keeps Kathy so excited about working in the same job for decades? “I think it’s that reward of making a difference in the community and the environment. And the challenge of figuring out an issue and solving it, with the hope of keeping it from happening again or minimizing future incidents.”