Reflecting on her successful career, Carrie shares how things have changed in the water industry, especially for women.

Carrie Mattingly is a California utility leader with 30+ years in the water industry at special districts and municipalities in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties. She has managed department budgets in excess of $50 million, multi-million-dollar capital improvement projects, and 70+ employees. Carrie is passionate about One Water solutions and active in numerous professional organizations, including serving as a current Board Member at WSC and past President of the California Water Environment Association.

Engineering consultant

When Carrie started in the water industry in 1987, things were a lot different for women in the business. While there is always room to improve any workplace culture, it can be helpful to reflect back, remember where we came from, and celebrate the advancements and success women have been able to achieve in the water industry.

“To those who are considering a career in water: The profession is vast, challenging, rewarding, and exciting. Figure out what gets you excited about water and jump in!”

Carrie Mattingly, WSC Board Member

How did you get started in the water industry?
In January 1987 – with three kids ages 1, 4, and 6 – I was thrilled to be hired as a secretary for the Isla Vista Sanitary District (now Goleta West Sanitary District). From the jump, I was fascinated with the work. I got involved with CWEA right away.

I applied for a field position and became an inspector on construction projects, lateral line replacements, and industrial facilities. The pretreatment program was in its infancy and ever-changing – at times mind-boggling. We were all responsible for pump station and collection system maintenance.

For many years, I was the rare woman in my field. Luckily for me, the pretreatment program included several women, which was lovely.

How have things changed since you first started?
I’m so happy to see so many women experiencing marvelous careers in water today. In my early years, men and women did not have separate locker rooms and safety harnesses were made to fit men only. Thank goodness women’s safety is now given equal priority!

Overall, the water industry has continued to evolve, which we should all celebrate more! Now, the pretreatment program is mature and stormwater is the challenge. Computers are ubiquitous with myriad programs in which to store data – a lot of data. Out of sight/out of mind mentality is vanishing and proactive approaches to emerging challenges are being supported at all levels. We’ve made tremendous strides reducing pollution.

Reduced water use has profoundly changed the industry. Our water is not a waste and understanding of the one water concept is developing.

Are there women who mentored or advocated for you during your career?
I had two wonderful friends named Sally Coleman and Vicki Musgrove and we navigated water careers together in the Santa Barbara/Ventura County areas. They were smart, funny, wise women. We were informal mentors and advocates for one another. We made each other better by servings as sounding boards, brainstorming ideas, having open debates, sharing job opportunities, and listening to one another. We each went through hard times professionally and having this support system was critical to our individual success. Without their involvement in my life, I would not have applied for my positions at the Carpinteria Sanitary District or the City of Port Hueneme.

Additionally, Elizabeth Allan, CWEA Executive Director (retired), mentored to and advocated for me. Observing her professionalism and how she navigated difficult situations during my years on the CWEA State Board was a period of tremendous growth for me. Her words and actions taught me how to better deal with conflict and strong personalities. Without her words of advice, I would have never considered running for CWEA President.

As you might expect in the male-dominated field in which I worked at the time, there were numerous outstanding gentlemen who patiently taught me about engineering, construction crew tricks, pipeline inspections, electricity, equipment operation, and on and on; basically, how to do the job. They encouraged me when I didn’t feel like I had what it took to advance in my career. They believed in my skills and abilities. Their support helped me be brave.

Can you share any secrets of success with current and future water industry professionals?
Getting involved with a professional organization, stretching yourself to train and/or share your skills with others, and making friends/having fun doing work makes a world of difference to your career. There’s a lot of talk about mentors, which I support, but I don’t believe your mentorship has to be formalized for both people to benefit.

Be observant, be a good listener, be a friend, create relationships with people that are brave enough to challenge you, be open to change, and be brave to try something new.