Seeing Ourselves in Team Water

Dino in SCATA room


February’s Black History Month begins a calendar year of themed months designed to honor and celebrate our diversity as a United States of America. As Wisconsin hunters and farmers will tell you: diversity is key to the survival of populations. Without it, soils lose their dense array of rich nutrients, and deer herds fall prey to disease. And so it goes with people. 

A diversity of community in our neighborhoods and workplaces allows each of us the opportunity to try on new ideas and vantage points essential for health and growth. Yet, at the heart of diversity, lies the root of commonality. In coming together to learn and celebrate what makes each of our stories, struggles, and dreams unique, we also often discover what makes them the same.

At the heart of Madison Water Utility lies what employees call the “SCADA room.” SCADA is short for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. This singular room is stationed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week by a team of highly trained staff members licensed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to monitor all City of Madison’s water infrastructure. There are alarms to listen for, a wide range of data to monitor, and radio calls coming in from utility crews reporting on operations. 

After hours, SCADA staff serve as dispatchers for non-emergency calls from across city departments. They are ready to act at all hours of the night if a water main breaks, or a sewer line is hit, and crews need to be called out from warm beds into the dark city. 

The SCADA room is a beautiful example of diversity in action. The main team is made up of men and women, different races and religions; all working with a singular mission: to supply high quality water for consumption and fire protection, at a reasonable cost, while conserving and protecting our ground water resources for present and future generations.

For three years in the SCADA room and thirty-six years at Madison Water Utility, Waterworks Operator 1 Dino Lucas, has been devoting his life’s work to that mission. 

Dino grew up in Chicago and began his career in the Marine Corps, stationed in North Carolina. During a cold weather training in La Crosse, Wisconsin, he happened to meet a Wisconsin girl. And the rest was history. He could remain in the Marines and choose his dream station in Hawaii or marry this girl and move to Madison where she was attending beauty school. He chose the girl—the best decision of his life. 

With one year left in the Marines before arriving in Madison, he started putting feelers out for work. He had been a heavy equipment operator on the air base. Thinking a job in operations or labor may be a good fit, he put in an application with the City of Madison. They wanted to hire him right away. 

On January 13, 1988, he started his first day at Madison Water Utility. He still remembers the very first water hydrant he worked on, over on East Washington Avenue. Back in those days, there was no GPS or mapping on cell phones. He worked nights on the flushing crew and would get lost in the city. He’d have to call one of the old timers for directions. It was a great way to learn the city, street by street. 

Dino sees himself as Dino. He doesn’t think too much about representing anything broader than a guy who loves his family, his job, running, bike riding, and live music. And yet, for the rest of the community, seeing Dino as Dino and seeing Dino as a Black man, and a Black man who has served his way through the utility into the heart of the SCADA room, is important. 

His presence allows other people to see him, too. Students or community members from a wide range of diverse backgrounds and experiences who may have never considered working for the city, or a water utility, before may now see themselves in these vital roles.

Dino’s favorite moments are helping customers when they call in with questions. As he looks to the future, he thinks a lot about water: 

“How can I be thoughtful in my own work? How can we continue to do the very best job staying on top of regulations and ranges? How can we keep our water clean?” 

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison Water Utility.

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