Jennifer Whitaker, Chief Engineer, Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority
Where were you born (and raised, if different)?
I was born near Savannah, Georgia, at Hunter Army Airfield. We moved two weeks later. My dad was a helicopter pilot and early on, we moved quite frequently. I have lived in Georgia, Alabama, Texas, California, Connecticut, Germany, and ultimately Virginia.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
I attended UVA in the early 1990s and moved back in 1999 when my husband started his PhD program at the University.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
We live mostly in Mosby Mountain in Albemarle County, just south of town.
Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?
My husband Steve is a professor Education at Longwood University. We have two wonderful children, Jack (7) and Grace (4) and a faithful dog Emma (16).
What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?
I spent my first three years at the UVA studying Aerospace Engineering, but switched to Civil Engineering, earning a BS in 1995.
What were you doing before you came to work for the RWSA?
I worked as the Charlottesville Assistant City Engineer, in Neighborhood Development Services. Prior to that, I worked for a consulting engineering firm.
Your job title is Chief Engineer for the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority – what, in your own words, would you say you do?
Day to day I am responsible for running the engineering department at the Authority. The department is responsible for the Capital Improvement Program, construction inspection, development design review, GIS implementation, utility locating, and providing technical assistance to the operational arm of the Authority.
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
The best part of my job is working to find solutions to large regional issues pertaining to water and wastewater. I enjoy the responsibility that comes with providing vital public health and environmental services to the community. Balancing different viewpoints on public policy issues certainly can be challenging.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
The Authority operates five reservoirs, five wastewater treatment plants, and five regional water treatment plants as well as the large diameter trunk mains in the Charlottesville/Albemarle region. Much of the work I do involves the study, design, and construction of infrastructure improvements at these locations. The goal is to improve the operation and efficiency of our core mission.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the RWSA?
I have been working on the Ragged Mountain Dam since I started with RWSA in 2003. In addition, I have been closely involved in the $48M upgrade at the Moores Creek Waste Water Treatment plant. In this project we were able to decrease the nutrient loading to our waterways, improve energy efficiency, increase reliability, address wet weather flows, and generate electricity through the use of bio-gas produced on the plant. Many people worked to bring this project to fruition, and it is a source of pride for everyone.
What is a little-known fact about you?
I am a complete Olympics junkie. I will spend countless hours in August watching the pageantry, the competition, and the sheer athleticism.
What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc.?
Anything outside! I love to hike, bike, swim, run, paddle, snowshoe, garden, camp. I try to convince my family and friends to join me as much as possible.