Reader Profile: Elizabeth Wong

Aug. 20, 2014

North Port, FL, bills itself as a city where one can “achieve anything.” Ever since Elizabeth Wong came on board in 2006 as its stormwater manger, she has personified “achievement,” building upon 28 years of public and private sector experience. Wong secured $3.17 million in state funding to supplement the city’s stormwater program. She is part of a team that manages a system of 69 water control structures, 132 miles of retention ditches, and 79 miles of waterways interconnected with Myakkahatchee Creek, which serve as the city’s stormwater conveyance system and primary drinking water supply. Wong coordinates with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) to revise FEMA flood maps and hydraulic modeling to reduce the city’s extensive historic flooding.

Among the programs she’s developed: evaluating and rehabilitating or replacing the city’s failing water control structures, developing a methodical approach to remove the canal system’s extensive sediment accumulation, and conducting water-quality sampling in the waterways. She manages the city’s NPDES program and trains staff in erosion and sediment control methods and illicit discharge inspections. Wong inspects surface management systems during construction and performs SWFWMD-required recertification on them. She designs engineering solutions to improve the stormwater system and reduce localized flooding. She also coordinates FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System (CRS) and has moved the needle on the city’s CRS rating from Class 7 to Class 6, giving Special Flood Hazard Area residents a 20% insurance premium discount. She spearheads a multimedia public education effort on water conservation, resource protection, and the use of low-impact and green developments. Her in-house site designs of stormwater systems and parking lots saves the city money. She also performs wetland and wildlife protection functions. Wong conducts stormwater and environmental site development reviews and coordinates new development construction inspections. She strives to bring to the city an “honest, positive attitude” and a strong work ethic promoting a results-oriented focus and team-player approach, calling North Port a “visionary city that recognizes the value of workers dedicated to excellence in customer service.”

What She Does Day to Day
Wong manages the design, permitting, and construction of stormwater improvement and drainage projects, coordinates flood map updates, and works on water-quality issues and protection of the area’s surface waters. She responds to customer concerns on drainage and flood information, wildlife, and environmental issues. Wong reviews proposed new developments and oversees horizontal construction of development projects and land acquisitions. She is also busy with the NPDES program, CRS coordinating, and serving on the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program’s management committee, representing the city on the Local Mitigation Strategy Committee and Myakka River Management Coordinating Council, and serving as the city’s floodplain administrator.

What Led Her Into This Field
Wong’s path to her present job was born of a childhood vision “to do something good for our planet,” she says. After earning a B.S. in chemistry and an M.S. in environmental engineering, Wong became a licensed professional engineer in environmental engineering in Florida in 1995. She’s worked as a supervisor of the Petroleum Testing Laboratory for the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute; a Montgomery Watson senior engineer; a professional engineer II for Lee County Utilities; assistant public works director and utilities director for Punta Gorda, FL; a SWFWMD senior engineer; and she has also had her own company.

What She Likes About Her Job
“Helping residents on stormwater and environmental issues and educating the public on the dual purpose of our stormwater system” gives Wong immense satisfaction, she says, as well as “the ability to complete an effective stormwater project from start to finish, the variety of work–which does not make this job boring–and the fact that the City of North Port cares.”

Her Biggest Challenge
Wong says her recent challenge is that “as development picks up, we are trying to cope with doing more with less.” To meet that challenge, she seeks greater time efficiencies while working longer hours as needed.

About the Author

Carol Brzozowski

Carol Brzozowski specializes in topics related to resource management and technology.

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