Miami Beach Public Works Director Roy Coley is leaving to become the new Director of the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department (WASD), the largest water and sewer utility in the southeastern United States serving nearly 2.3 million residents including those within the City of Miami Beach.
In announcing the appointment, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said, “I’m thrilled to welcome Roy to this critical role overseeing the work of our Water and Sewer Department, which is at the center of our public and environmental health. Roy brings 20+ years of excellence in water operations to the County, including the start-up and operations of high-quality drinking water and wastewater treatment plants, capital improvement plan implementation, septic to sewer conversion, and more.”
“He is a forward-thinking leader who will ensure that WASD not only continues to meet the highest water quality standards, but develops water systems better prepared to withstand the impacts of climate change and sea level rise," Levine Cava said.
Coley said one of the things that attracted him to the job was the opportunity to work on Levine Cava’s goal to be a leader in the “one water approach” to conserve and reuse water.
“Because we’ve had an abundance of water, we’re pretty wasteful with our water,” Coley told RE:MiamiBeach. “When you look at it from a global view, only three percent of the world’s water is fresh, drinkable water.” With most of that water contained in glaciers or deep underground aquifers that are unreachable, “only about one half of one percent is actually available to us to drink,” he said. “As our population grows, we have to recognize that and recognize that we have to be more efficient with our approach.”
Reuse can include a number of options, Coley said, from irrigation, to indirect potable to potable uses. “South Florida’s population is growing. It’s growing faster than we might have thought pre-COVID and, due to the COVID pandemic, more and more people want to move to South Florida and we need to be prepared for that.”
Reflecting on his time in Miami Beach, Coley said, “My greatest pride… is leaving behind a well-prepared team that we have developed through training and recruitment of talent to take care of the infrastructure of Miami Beach.” He also led the development of a 25-year plan for infrastructure improvements that includes a five-year critical plan to replace aging infrastructure, some of which dates back 80 years.
As one member of the team on the forefront of efforts to combat sea level rise, the ride was not always smooth for Coley. The City took a "pause" to review its resiliency program parts of which, including road raising, have been controversial, but now appears ready to move ahead with the multi-year plan. Though the initial review process from experts that included the Urban Land Institute involved a holistic approach to what the City got right and what it needed to do to improve, an Inspector General's report released earlier this year took a more critical view with regard to the City's first Neighborhood Improvement Project on Palm and Hibiscus Island.
Coley was appointed Public Works Director in 2018. At the County, he’ll once again report to former Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales who joined the County as Chief Operations Officer after Levine Cava's election last year. When he was appointed Public Works Director, Morales said Coley had “pioneered a new water quality management technique in drinking water systems” in Key West. Other accomplishments include “the startup and operations of three reverse osmosis drinking water plants, and five wastewater treatment plants. Four treatment plants under his direction received operational excellence awards by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for consistently exceeding regulatory requirements,” Morales said at the time.
In the announcement of his County appointment, Morales said, "Delivering excellent customer service to residents and creating an environment for WASD employees to do their best work in serving the community is at the core of the work of the Department Director. Roy has extensive experience in developing programs to help employees earn new skills and certifications and in negotiating collective bargaining agreements, and he will bring his commitment to elevating the customer and employee experience as Director."
Public Works Director Roy Coley Leaving to Direct Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department:
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