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Fitzgerald new general manager of West River/Lyman-Jones Rural Water Systems

Jake Fitzgerald took over as the general manager of West River/Lyman-Jones Rural Water Systems Inc. on July 1.

The previous general manager, Mike Kurle, retired from the position after 16 years of service.

"I think it was a pretty smooth transition," said Fitzgerald. "I've worked for Mike for the last 10 year. Now I have some very big shoes to fill."

Fitzgerald was promoted from working as the Operations and Maintenance Foreman out of the Philip O&M field office. WR/L-J's business office is in Murdo and there is a construction field office in Midland. Fitzgerald's new position oversees a total of 14 other employees.

"I was going to college in Brookings," remembered Fitzgerald, "and wanted to move back for the summer to Philip where many of my friends were. Working for WR/L-J began as a summer job." Fitzgerald stayed with it and was promoted in 2000 to O&M foreman. Now, "I'd like to be here until retirement. It's very rewarding," said Fitzgerald.

Mike Vetter has been promoted to O&M foreman and new operator, Nick Konst, has come on board.

Fitzgerald still lives in Philip, though for now will perform most of his duties based out of Murdo. "My family and I enjoy living in rural communities," said Fitzgerald whose family includes wife of seven-years, Aaron, and sons, four-year-old Keldon and two-year-old Kade.

Though Fitzgerald kept complimenting the board of directors and the staff in all the offices, he also admitted that in his job "you have to have the ability to deal with stress." He oversees the O&M of the entire system and the construction projects.

The company's mission statement is "to design, construct and operate a rural water system that provides affordable, high quality water in our service area."

That area serves 2,700 individual rural customers and the six towns of Philip, Wall, Murdo, White River, Presho and Kennebec, which are considered bulk customers. Roughly, the area is from west of Wall eastward to Oacoma, and from the Cheyenne River southward past White River. Approximately 3,300 miles of water pipe are already in the ground. Several ongoing projects include one that began in 1993. "Depending on government appropriations, our construction sunset expectations are for 2012-13," said Fitzgerald, "but we would like to be done a little before that. We'll see."

"It's a large district that we cover, with many different areas in that coverage, and each construction project is different," said Fitzgerald. "As this multi-year drought continues, there are areas in our system that have very high demands."

The new general manager feels that working with this system is rewarding. "I have the chance to get outside, meet new people, and with a system this size you learn something new every day. The best part is that I've always enjoyed what I was doing before. Now I can also play a more integral part in the success of this system."

"In the next 10 years, though we will have completed all of our current construction projects, I see us continually serving quality water to our customers. I don't see our customer area expanding because of the other water systems surrounding us. But, in our area, we will continue to serve the constantly expanding needs of our members."