Anthony LaMell’s Secret Formula in Turning His Work into a Career

Anthony LaMell, a Stationary Engineer and Wastewater Operator in the SFPUC’s Wastewater Enterprise, never thought about working in utilities but he always liked fixing things. In his case, he started out fixing appearances.

“Before coming to the SFPUC, I used to be a licensed cosmetologist, doing fashion shows, hair shows, and similar things. That profession requires for you to enjoy working with people. Since I am a people person, it was easy for me to be in that profession, but I wanted a career change and took a chance when I heard that there were opportunities at the SFPUC,” said LaMell.

23 years ago, LaMell started his career with the SFPUC by joining a pre-apprenticeship program that existed at the time. The two-year pre-apprenticeship program prepared participants to pass an apprenticeship exam to become a stationary engineer.

“While in the program, we rotated to a lot of different departments to learn various aspects of the trade: mechanics, operations, laboratory, and special projects. We also took City College classes and had tutors to help us prepare for the exam. I worked hard at being the best and studied hard because I needed to score high,” said LaMell.

Anthony LaMell, a Stationary Engineer and Wastewater Operator in the SFPUC’s Wastewater Enterprise.

After completing the pre-apprenticeship program, LaMell ranked number one on the apprenticeship exam and transitioned into a four-year apprenticeship through the International Union of Operating Engineers Stationary Engineers Local 39. During the four years of the apprenticeship, LaMell learned all about the industry, later becoming a journey-level wastewater operator. “I transitioned into the maintenance department and I really enjoyed it. I liked working with things, building and fixing them. I was in the maintenance department for many years until the opportunity for a new challenge arose,” he said.

Wanting to take on more responsibility to help run a wastewater facility, Lamell was encouraged by his mentors who saw the great work he was doing and applied to be part of the Watch 6 crew, where he could do a special project that would allow for that type of growth.

“I didn’t know if I was going to get it or not, but I went for it, applied and I got it! I was part of the Watch 6 team for several years until one day I became interested in working with pump stations. I applied and transitioned into that role, which I am currently doing,” shares LaMell.

According to Alfredo Ramirez, a fellow Stationary Engineer, LaMell is knowledgeable and a great role model. “He is always willing to help and cross trains colleagues to make sure everybody in his crew knows the system and can succeed,” said Ramirez.

Anthony LaMell (left) and his colleagues checking a bar screen at the Channel Pump Station.

As a pump station operator, LaMell protects public health and the environment by making daily rounds at the SFPUC’s various pump stations and ensuring the equipment is working properly.

“Besides making sure that the pumps receive all the flow of combined sewage and stormwater and pump that wastewater to the Southeast Treatment Plant for treatment, I have to check on a variety of things such as the bar screens, flow levels, generators, condition of drainages…basically the status of everything. A lot of negative things could happen if I didn’t do my job,” he said. Being a liaison with engineers and contractors for new pump stations and when upgrades are needed is also part of LaMell’s responsibilities.

LaMell is dedicated to the SFPUC’s mission and is committed to our values of excellence and stewardship. He is a proud recipient of the agency’s employee recognition program for his work on the relocation of a 66-inch force main, a multi-million dollar project that made room for the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital cancer research building on 3rd Street across the Chase Center.

Anthony LaMell at the Channel Pump Station control room coordinating the process of receiving and pumping wastewater.