|Major: Water/Wastewater Technology|
|Hometown: Escanaba, MI|
|Current City: Red House, WV|
Currently, Brian Bruce is the vice president of the Gulf Coast Region for Veolia North America – one of the world's largest water and wastewater companies. But his journey in the industry started decades earlier when he earned his associate degree in water resource management at Bay College.
Brian grew up in Escanaba and graduated from Escanaba Senior High School in 1985. He did not go to Bay immediately after his high school graduation; instead, he served in the Navy from 1986 to 1990.
"I served on two Navy ships. I was classified as a boiler technician, but I also I took care of the lab. There, I tested all the water and fuel onboard the ships," he said.
After he got out of the Navy, Brian started thinking about his next steps and looked at Bay College as a place where he could get started. At that time, he did not have a career pathway in mind. However, his admission counselor encouraged him to enter Bay's water resource management program due to his previous experience in the field.
Brian started taking classes at Bay in the fall of 1991. While he said he "wasn't a college person" by nature, he appreciated these classes for providing him with the knowledge he still relies on today.
A few of Brian's favorite courses in the program were led by local people employed in the industry.
"Some of the classes on the water and wastewater side were actually taught by professionals in the field. The water and wastewater superintendents in Escanaba at the time both taught a class, which provided real-life experience. It wasn't just another instructor – it provided a different perspective," he said.
Along with that, Brian enjoyed doing lab work while studying at Bay. As part of this, he completed two internships at a water plant and wastewater plant in the summer between his two years at Bay.
"Going and doing those internships that summer solidified it for me. I think that's a great part of the program – if somebody has a doubt that the program's not for them, the internships should help," Brian said.
Brian graduated from Bay with an associate degree in water resource management when the winter 1993 semester ended. Shortly after getting his degree, he started working at a small water plant in Howell, MI. After two years there, he began working for a larger plant in Manitowoc, WI. At that plant, he handled additional duties and expanded his industry knowledge.
In 2002, Brian took the next step in his career. That year, he earned a bachelor's degree in business management from Silver Lake College in Manitowoc – allowing him to move into plant management.
"They had just started an adult program on nights and weekends, so it worked out," he said.
After getting his bachelor's degree, Brian started working as the water plant manager in Papillion, Nebraska. He said this was a significant change from his past jobs, but the plant's smaller size made it an excellent place to start with the management side of things.
"I was only an operator, and I wasn't in charge of anybody before. Now, I was managing the department – I think it was nine people under me there. I was in charge of the budget and the employees, along with running the plant," he said.
Brian began working with the public utility company American Water in 2005. He spent 13 years there, handling water operations across three states. Then, he took a job in Mason County in West Virginia. However, he did not stay there long before a senior vice president at Veolia who happened to know him reached out.
In February 2020, Brian started with Veolia. At first, he went to Richmond, CA, where he worked as the city's general manager of wastewater operations.
After Veolia purchased and merged with Suez Water Technologies in 2022, Brian was named the company's vice president of central operations. Later that year, his job title was adjusted, making him the vice president of the Gulf Coast Region.
In his current role, Brian oversees plants in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
"I'm responsible for the overall contracts we have in these regions. Right now, we have 21 contracts with different municipalities – some are wastewater, some are water," he said.
The largest contract under Brian's supervision is an operations and maintenance contract with the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans for two wastewater plants in the city. While he has come quite a long way since he started working in the water and wastewater industry, he said none of this would have been possible without the fundamentals he learned at Bay.
"It all started with the basics of water and wastewater. That's still important for me today," he said.
Brian encouraged today's college students to seriously consider the water and wastewater industry, as there are many job openings in the field right now.
"The whole country relies on water and wastewater. Every county has a need for it, but there's a severe shortage of certified water and wastewater operators. It's not a glamorous job, but it'll take care of your family and provide great benefits," he said.
He also said that associate degree programs in water and wastewater are rare. As a result, Bay's program is an incredible opportunity for people thinking about pursuing this career pathway.
"You don't need a degree to get into the field, but it'll obviously help you get higher pay. You'll also be qualified for higher-level exams sooner than someone without a degree," Brian said.