Leroy Goodson’s first day on the job as Texas Ground Water Association’s (TGWA) executive secretary was Jan. 1, 1982. From then on, over the past 33 years, he has worked under a total of 35 presidents and helped TGWA membership grow from about 300 to more than 1,500.
One of the many highlights of Goodson’s service to groundwater professionals includes the development of TGWA continuing education classes for licensees in the water well business. He still travels across the state of Texas, leading about 25 of them annually.
In 2012, he was honored with the National Ground Water Association’s (NGWA) Life Member Award for special service in the furtherance of the groundwater industry and NGWA. He also received a lifetime membership award from TGWA in 2010 and the Texas Water Conservation Association’s (TWCA) President’s Award in 1995, just to name a few.
Goodson has dedicated so much time and effort to TGWA and the broader world of water well drilling that it’s hard to imagine it all without his presence. That will soon become a reality, effective Dec. 31, 2015, when he’ll retire from his longstanding role as executive secretary.
In a recent interview, Goodson took National Driller down memory lane, highlighting three decades worth of groundwater industry changes, stand-out moments as executive secretary and challenges faced.
Q. What’s different about the groundwater industry now compared to 33 years ago?
A. In Texas, the issue that’s most affected is the fact that more areas of the state are now regulated by groundwater districts on the withdrawal, the pumping and the spacing of wells than early on. There’s more regulations on usage of groundwater withdrawal than there was when I started.
Q. How has TGWA evolved during your time as executive secretary?
A. Well, it’s changed significantly. When I came aboard we had approximately 300 members. They were active and their role was to promote the development of groundwater usage in Texas and protect the integrity of the water wells and pump installation profession. Now we’ve broadened out so that we’ve gotten more members, we’ve gotten more members involved in becoming active in leadership in local groundwater districts, other roles and even have several of them that serve on planning areas for the state water plan.
Q. Regarding the current state of the industry, what excites you?
A. What I’ve enjoyed most about being a part of the association is the relationship that’s been developed between the membership and our office. I think that the rapport is excellent. We try to provide a service to our members, try to help them on every issue that they have and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been involved with a lot of organizations that don’t have the leadership that the Texas Ground Water Association members provide. Most of those people that are on the board of directors are successful. They’re concerned about the industry and, more than that, they’re concerned about protecting and developing the groundwater supplies in Texas for the future and our next generation.
Q. Anything about the world of groundwater that concerns you?
A. Several years ago the Texas legislature adopted legislation which prohibited the interbasin transfers of surface waters and it put a tremendous demand on groundwater because groundwater, at the time, was not being regulated. So a lot of the needs for water supplies became groundwater supplies. There was movement of groundwater across the state and it caused proliferation of groundwater districts in order to have local control, which is the desired method of the Texas legislature. So I think those type of things have benefited the water well drillers and pump installers to some extent, and probably prolonged the longevity of the industry for years to come. In Texas we have desired future conditions, which groundwater districts adopt, whereby they have to plan 50 years out and project how much water supply they want to have available for usage at that time. So it’s been a real challenge to get those facts and figures out to the industry.
Q. What made you settle on now as the right time to part ways with the industry?
A. I have mixed emotions about it. You know, I’ve grown to love every individual that’s a member of this association, whether they’re a large company or whether they’re a mom and pop operation. I’ve made many, many friends throughout the years. I trust the water well contractors, the pump installers, the manufacturers and suppliers, and our groundwater science people to the fullest extent. I think they have the industry community and their customers’ concern to the upmost and try to do the best job they can, and I think I’ll miss that most. There’s a time in one’s life that you feel that it’s probably time for you to move on and I just felt like this was an opportune time. I gave the board indication that I’d be retiring at the end of the following year, in December, at our October 2014 meeting. But I wanted to go through the 140-day legislative session of the Texas legislature and also allow ample time for those that follow me to learn the ropes within the industry and get to know all the people out there.
Q. When you look back on your many years serving groundwater professionals, what moments, events or aspects most stand out?
A. I think whenever I reached the 25 year milestone. The board of directors and the membership recognized me at a meeting in Lubbock, Texas. It was a total surprise to me. They were very generous. The manufacturer/suppliers division were actually participants in it, which meant a lot to me. I’ve grown to cherish those people and they’ve done much for the groundwater industry in Texas. The groundwater science division has grown tremendously over the years. It was one that was developed during my tenure as executive secretary. I guess the thing that stands out the most to me is the relationship that I’ve developed with the Ladies Auxiliary in the association. They’ve been just super ladies. They’ve chosen some outstanding projects that they do every year and I’ve learned to love all of them. It’s been a great run, it’s been a lot of fun and I will cherish all of the times that I’ve had. I guess the funniest thing that ever happened, we were having a convention in Texas and we had so many activities in the evening and we had to cancel our usual award banquet and had an awards breakfast, which began about eight o’clock in the morning. Several of the ladies in the Ladies Auxiliary and some of the guests that were there showed up in their housecoats and their hair in rollers and I guess it was somewhat of a protest for my suggestion that we have an awards breakfast. I enjoyed that and they’ve been great since. But we now have an awards luncheon, which makes it very nice. I guess it was just too early in the day.
Q. What about what you do will you miss the most?
A. What I expect to miss the most is those phone calls that I get everyday when somebody has an ox in the ditch and calls me to help get them out of trouble. (Laughter) They’re pretty common. Mostly, I will miss the friendships that have been developed over the years. Our members are the salt of the earth.
Q. How do you plan to spend retirement?
A. My wife and I have a small place in New Braunfels. We run a few cattle. We’ve got lots of fences to repair and clean. Brush has grown up over them over the last 52 years and, well I’ve owned the place since ’68 so I guess it’s grown up since ’68. But we got that to do and I’ve got grandchildren that I want to do things with, so I’m looking forward to it.
Q. What challenges lie ahead for groundwater professionals and associations like TGWA that serve them?
A. I think the challenges that lay ahead are the continued relationship of the water well industry professionals staying involved in their local groundwater districts. We have several of them that are on city councils and so forth, but they do need to stay abreast of all the changing regulations. Part of the other thing is they need to stay abreast of what all is coming about with the federal government and our state relative to commercial driver’s license, CDL medical certifications, etc, all of these issues are there, and of course compliance with all the labor laws. It’s going to be a challenge for them. Regulations have — just as they’ve affected everybody else, they’ve affected the groundwater industry, in particular the water well industry.
Valerie King is associate editor of National Driller.