News & Events
Fox Metro District Manager Named Waubonsee Distinguished Alumnus
As a former civil engineer for the City of Aurora and the current district manager of the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District, Tom Muth, of Aurora, has served the community for his entire career, ensuring the infrastructure is in place for the region to grow. It was Waubonsee Community College that provided Muth the infrastructure for his academic and career success, and the college is proud to name him its 2013 Distinguished Alumnus.
After graduating from East Aurora High School, Muth spent a year at Southern Illinois University but felt like he wasn’t on the right path. Instead, he joined the Navy before returning to the Aurora area in 1973. It was then that he landed a full-time job as an engineering technician with the City of Aurora while also taking classes at Waubonsee.
“I had teachers that really wanted me to be successful,” Muth said. “That’s the key to Waubonsee’s culture.”
Muth was learning from some of the college’s premier faculty, including Professor Emeritus of Mathematics John Gaudio and Assistant Professor of Physics Fred Lemmerhirt, who both went on to teaching careers spanning four decades, as well as Assistant Professor of Chemistry Barb Gore, who is now entering her 45th year at Waubonsee.
When Muth graduated from Waubonsee in 1978, he took more than his associate degree with him.
“Waubonsee gave me the confidence that I could move toward further education,” Muth said.
Further education would be necessary if Muth wanted to move up the ranks at Aurora and become a full-fledged engineer, a career path in which he was increasingly interested.
“From designing a project to building it to being able to drive on it or see it work, that really fascinated me,” Muth said.
In 1984 Muth earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Midwest College of Engineering, which is now the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 1986, after 13 years with the city, Muth decided to take advantage of a new job opportunity, as the engineering supervisor at the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District. Just a year later, after a few key staff members moved on, Muth assumed the role of district manager.
“I was fortunate that the board was willing to put its trust and faith in me and give me the opportunity,” Muth said.
Over the past 27 years, Muth and his team of 80 employees have worked to make sure the faith was well-placed. The district now treats an average of 42 million gallons of wastewater a day, which is generated by the area’s nearly 250,000 residents, a population that has nearly doubled since Muth began the job almost three decades ago.
Even with the increased volume, quality has been maintained. According to Muth, Fox Metro had no excursions for 2011 and 2012, meaning that all of the year’s samples from the plant, as many as 10,000, tested within permissible limits. The organization also received a Gold Excellence in Management Recognition Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies in 2012.
“I rely on the team so much,” Muth said. “They’re the ones actually doing the digging, operating the pumping stations, fixing the manhole covers, cleaning the sewers and doing the lab sampling, so they really get the credit for the day-to-day operations.”
While Fox Metro serves a majority of Waubonsee’s district communities, it didn’t serve the college’s main Sugar Grove Campus until 2006.
“Tom was instrumental in establishing intergovernmental agreements that allowed Waubonsee to decommission our obsolete wastewater treatment plan and tie in to the Fox Metro system,” said David Quillen, Waubonsee’s Executive Vice President of Finance and Operations. “The ‘big dig,’ as it was affectionately called, paved the way for the future expansion of the college.”
In addition to helping improve the operations side of the college, Fox Metro has recently helped on the academics side as well. Fox Metro Lab Supervisor Randy Hummer joined a team of other local professionals and Waubonsee staff and faculty to build a new laboratory technology curriculum. Muth hopes that the program, which debuts this fall, can eventually take advantage of Fox Metro’s modern lab, which opened just over a year ago.
“We’re hoping these students can use our facility, and we can teach them what we do and what it’s like to be part of a high-quality lab,” Muth said.
Muth is proud not only of the high-quality team he has at work, but also the one he has at home. He and wife, Jill, have four children and three grandchildren.