It doesn’t take long to conclude that Karen Pallansch is passionate about water. What she’s even more passionate about is working alongside operators, engineers, plant managers and countless others who she considers the unsung heroes of public service.
“I don’t think people understand how anchored water professionals and water utilities are in their communities and how much they keep those communities healthy and thriving,” she says. “Water people are problem solvers.”
At Alexandria Renew Enterprises in Alexandria, Va., Pallansch leads a team of nearly 100 problem solvers. Together, they operate and manage one of the most advanced wastewater treatment facilities in the United States. Commonly known as AlexRenew, the publicly-owned utility treats wastewater, produces reclaimed water to run plant equipment, generate biosolids and produces renewable energy from the treatment process. For the past 13 years, Pallansch has served as chief executive officer and oversees all departments across the utility including plant operations and maintenance, regulatory compliance, IT, engineering and construction, communications, human resources and finance.