Alan Cranford, PO, and his family have been involved in the water industry for decades, and now his children are starting to find their fit in the industry as well. We heard firsthand from Alan, and his daughter Alana, about their experiences in being introduced to the water industry through their dads and the impact that had on finding the right career fit!
Alan was introduced to, and began working in the water industry, before most kids even have a concept of what a career is.
“My father worked at the Hamilton Waterworks and Sewer Board in Hamilton, Alabama. I started to work for my dad when I was 7 years old. At that age, most of the work I did was pulling weeds and keeping the area nice and clean, but when I turned 8, I started doing lab tests and chemical work."
Alan said being introduced to the water industry at such a young age was really interesting for him, and he had a passion from the start.
“As soon as I could, I would go riding around with some of the other operators to read meters. And sometimes, if I was in the office and the ladies were busy, if someone were making a payment, I would take the payment and stamp it. I really got to do a little bit of everything at a young age.”
Alan said his first certification class was at the age of 9, and he worked for his dad until the age of 14.
To further his learning and service to others, Alan joined the National Guard at the age of 17 as a water purification specialist. Alan’s father was already in the guard serving as a section sergeant for the water purification section. “When I joined the guard, my dad was my boss there as well.” Alan’s career in the Guard, and water industry progressed rapidly.
Alan's Career Snapshot
From1978-1990, other than the National Guard, Alan was away from the water industry. This was when he was finishing high school and the first part of college. He reentered the industry in 1990 as a laborer for Mobile Water Service System in Mobile, Alabama. At this time, he took and passed the Grade II and Grade III Water Certification from ADEM in Alabama.
After 6 months (1991), he was hired as an Assistant Maintenance and Construction Foreman for Athens Utilities in Athens, Alabama and he took and passed by Grade II Wastewater and Grade IV Water from ADEM. In 1992 he was hired as an Engineering Technician for Cullman County Water Department in Cullman, Alabama.
I had another excellent mentor that was my boss in Athens and Cullman (Mr. Bill Sacra). He is the one that told me that I needed to interview for the position in Smyrna.
In 1993, Alan was hired as Water Treatment Plant Manager in Smyrna, Tennessee at the young age of 28. In 2003, he left Smyrna and started his current job as Superintendent of the Water Treatment Plant, now Manager of the Water Treatment Plant, for the City of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
In 2015, Alan added the Professional Operator (PO) title to his name and has been a proud advocate for operator development and support. With the PO program, operators can join a community of mentors and peers, grow as professionals, show commitment to public health, and increase mobility, all in a process that can take as little as a few weeks.
"For me, the biggest benefit is a matter of making a statement that I’ve gone above and beyond. Other people are also seeing benefits. It helps if you’re applying for a new position somewhere and it’s a credential to set you apart. People who are hiring recognize that."
It's clear that Alan held an impressive amount of titles, both in the military and the water industry. He certainly has a wide range of exposure in the industry.
The Next Generation
Alana, Alans middle daughter and obvious namesake, said she had a passion for the work her dad did since she was very young. Even as young as kindergarten, she was very adamant about explaining the water industry to her friends. She thought everyone should know about it because no one really paid attention to where their water came from.
”It was so exciting when dad would come to school for career day. He would come to my classes and bring his CD’s and DVD’s explaining the water cycle. I was always really proud.”
Because Alan's kids were so knowledgeable and excited about the water industry, they always had a lot of respect for it.
“Since Alana and the kids were so familiar with water operations, it wasn’t uncommon for them to play ‘count the fire hydrants’ during car rides. Those things that most people don’t pay much attention to, my children had a real appreciation for.”
And Alana and her siblings would always look forward to attending conferences with her parents every year.
“The conference exhibit halls felt like Halloween to us kids; they always had little freebies like pens or candy. As much as we loved the freebies and the candy, we also learned a lot while going around the booths. We got a really good educational experience out of it, and we enjoyed the environment. But at that age, I don’t think any of us really saw it as a career choice just yet. It’s funny, now that I am actually getting into the industry as a professional, I have to reconsider the way I’ve always looked at the exhibit halls.”
Alana is currently starting her third year at Auburn University studying civil engineering, specializing in Water Resources Engineering, and will be graduating in May of 2022. Alana spent this past summer interning at the same plant that her father manages as an Operations Intern. For Alana, the networking and learning she did while growing up has had a direct impact on her professional development.
“When I was younger, I never really considered that the people I was meeting through my dad’s work would one day be the people that I am now contacting and working with daily. The basic knowledge I learned as a kid is much more than some people come into this field with, and I am grateful for that.”
As inspiring as this father daughter duo is, they both shared that while it sounds fun, working for your dad isn’t always what it seems. For Alan, he worked hard to meet his father's expectations.
“Working for my dad definitely didn’t make it easier. Alana and the kids can probably say the same about me, but my dad was harder on me than he was on other folks. I didn’t get any easy breaks, but he always supported me and wanted me to have those learning opportunities. Whether it was the military side, or the civilian side, he supported me.”
With full giggling, Alana shared a pretty similar opinion in that working with her dad has been “mostly a positive experience”.
“He definitely holds me to a higher standard like he mentioned, but that’s not anything new. But being able to learn from him and his experiences has been so helpful to me. Seeing almost an insider’s perspective and learning from him has really been a great experience.”