Cathy Bernardino Bailey started her career at the EPA, and now she keeps our water system clean and safe as the first woman to serve as Executive Director of Greater Cincinnati Water Works. She offers a behind-the-scenes look at her role for our February 2021 Cincinnati At Work issue.
Executive Director, Greater Cincinnati Water Works
How long have you been in this job and field of work?
I started in 1990 and worked two years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a research chemist before coming to Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW). I’ve been executive director since 2015.
Why did you get into this field of work?
In college, I enjoyed the research and water testing at the EPA. I didn’t know it was “a thing” until that job. I later pursued a job at GCWW to work in the granular activated carbon treatment plant, which opened my eyes to the “world of water.”
Best part of your job?
Seeing the energy and skill sets of so many of my coworkers bring meaningful solutions forward for our city.
The difficulties facing us every day that we have to juggle and try to afford. We try hard to minimize costs, but we need federal funds to upgrade and maintain our infrastructure, replace lead service lines, and deal with other challenges.
What value does this work provide to the community at large?
We’re in the public health and safety business, providing safe drinking water to the region. Water is life.
What value does it provide you?
This is meaningful work that aligns with what I feel is my purpose, which is serving and helping others.
How has the pandemic impacted your work?
It can be challenging trying to keep 600 employees safe—motivate them and check in on their physical and mental health—while leading solutions that maintain quality water in the region. I try to remind my team that we’re in this storm together, not all in the same boat, and we need each other to get through it.
What’s a fun fact about your job that the public wouldn’t know?
I expanded employee recognition in 2019 by adding a new award series called “The Baileys” to recognize innovative GCWW teams and trailblazers. I cooked all the food and baked plenty of cakes to celebrate our amazing team. When not celebrating in person, I write fun (and often corny) poetry to employees to discuss what we’re doing, point out a milestone, or celebrate the department’s accomplishments.