Years working in irrigation: 28
Years as manager: 1
Number of employees: around 100
Size of service area in acres: 107,849
Amount of water diverted for irrigation per year in acre-feet: 150,000
Main crops irrigated: Corn, soybeans
Predominant irrigation methods: Center pivot, gravity
Irrigation Leader: What is the top issue facing your irrigation district today?
Devin Brundage: The rapidly changing business model of our irrigation delivery and hydroelectric generation systems presents challenges to our vision of using our invaluable water resources in a responsible manner for the benefit of our stakeholders, our region, and our state. The term sustainability surfaces often. Continuing to operate and maintain our facilities to accomplish our mission long into the future is the challenge. Identifying opportunities and partnerships and executing on the right ones is essential to meeting that challenge.
Irrigation Leader: What future issues are you preparing for?
Devin Brundage: Our aging infrastructure is always at the forefront. As we work to ensure that the infrastructure that allows us to store and deliver water and produce power is maintained and ready for the challenges of next year, we must look at those plans and decisions with a 10-, 50-, and 100-year lens as well.
Irrigation Leader: What are your top issues regarding personnel?
Devin Brundage: In rural Nebraska, it is often a challenge to find and retain qualified professional and technical staff. We have a great company and we are always looking for ways—new and proven—to retain our superb staff and attract new talent to continue our mission. Providing opportunities to continue to learn and excel at Central is a part of that.
Irrigation Leader: What training do you currently provide to your employees?
Devin Brundage: The district uses many approaches to add to our employees’ toolboxes. Technical training from various organizations is an important part of that. That may be vendor training from a supervisory control and data acquisition system provider, civil engineering training from the dam safety association, an employee providing internal safety training, or customer service training for our front-line irrigation service specialists. Participating in regional organizations is also valuable. Central is an active member of groups that provide educational and networking opportunities such as the Water Leaders Academy, the Nebraska State Irrigation Association, the Four States Irrigation Council, and the Family Farm Alliance.
Irrigation Leader: How much do you spend on training for your employees each year?
Devin Brundage: Though there is a budgeted amount of around $50,000–$100,000, depending on whether an employee’s time is included. That really only covers the classroom training component. As we have discussed, learning and training come in many forms.
Irrigation Leader: What is the most important thing you have learned as manager?
Devin Brundage: To tell our story. When everyone understands what we do and what it can mean to our area and our state, we will do incredible things. We can never stop trying to improve. We must keep asking ourselves, “What we can do better?” and “What other value can we bring?”
Irrigation Leader: What are the top skills needed to be a successful manager?
Devin Brundage: Listening. Listen to those invested in the success and future of your project. Surround yourself with talented people who surround themselves with other talented people. Then make sure they are supported and can develop their future within our vision. Build and rebuild that vision for the future and equip that team to work together to make that vision a reality.
Devin Brundage is general manager of the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District in Holdrege, Nebraska. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.