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Clay Campbell

Administrative Supervisor, Downers Grove Sanitary District, Ill.

Clay Campbell, Administrative Supervisor, Downers Grove Sanitary District, Ill.
|  Clay Campbell’s profile

The modern municipal sewer may seem like a relic of the 19th and 20th centuries, but Clay Campbell is working to change that, using technology focused on customer service and worker efficiencies to bring sewers into a new era.

For nearly 10 years, Campbell has been the administrative supervisor for the Downers Grove Sanitary District in Illinois, outside of Chicago and serving about 65,000 residents. The system has 250 miles of sewer lines and a treatment plant that processes 11 million gallons a day. Though the system is in its 98th year of operation, Campbell has shepherded in changes to make it a “self-service model.”

“In automating or streamlining certain citizen interactions,” Campbell said, “we free up our personnel for more worthy endeavors — to tackle the more complex or thorny issues impacting public service delivery.” He added that one of the benefits of government harnessing technology is “when implemented well, it allows the real stars — public employees — to shine and demonstrate their passion for public service in our communities.”

Part of that focus comes from looking to Amazon as a model of how to build services around customer needs, and Campbell makes smart use of social media to stay connected with water utility users. “We offer a consistent digital presence so our customers aren’t constrained by office hours,” he said, “but we also have real people answering our phones to assist in educating our citizens about all of the digital resources we offer.”

In the end, technology can offer a number of tools to not only serve customers better, but better manage resources too, he added.

“I embrace the concept that you should always try to leave a place better than how you found it,” said Campbell. “We are merely stewards of a public resource that belongs to the citizens, and it’s our duty to actively meet our communities where they are and align resources to needs. Technology is just another tool, albeit a very powerful one, in the tool belt toward that purpose."
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.