Tom Birmingham has traded in his day job as the project manager for the new Treasure Island Wastewater Treatment Plant to working as the logistics deputy chief at the SFPUC’s Department Operation Center (DOC). And while he has been a project manager his entire career, he describes the experience of working at the DOC as “different.”
“It’s hard, it’s exhausting, but at the end of the day, it’s fun. You are working with a small team who all have the same end goal. We want to look out for each other’s health, the City and our rate payers. As a project manager you are always fighting for resources to push your project forward. In this case, we are all working towards getting resources for SFPUC staff to help the city.”
Birmingham says working on site at 525 Golden Gate at the DOC has been a change since sheltering in place for the last several months.
“You get used to working from home and enjoying your lunch outside with family and the dog. At the same time, I wanted a way to help during the COVID-19 pandemic, so working as a disaster service worker at the DOC was something I was able to, and wanted to do.”
Birmingham is on his second week stint at the DOC and says the people he has had the opportunity to work with have made a lasting impression on him that shows the resilience of the people and the city. And while Birmingham is hard at work supporting COVID-19 recovery, he recognizes that his role as project manager for the new Wastewater Treatment Plant at Treasure Island doesn’t stop, so every spare minute he has, he is working on the project.
“It’s a large infrastructure project of approximately $150M. The existing Wastewater Treatment Plant is well past its useful life and is a testament to the SFPUC wastewater staff who continue to operate and maintain it. In addition to the new treatment plant, all infrastructure on the island will be replaced so that reliable utility services can be provided to the existing and thousands of new residents of Treasure Island. ”
Birmingham moved to San Francisco 20 years ago from New England and has experienced the dot-com bubble, financial crisis, but nothing like the city-wide crisis we are facing now. “As a DSW worker, I always thought I would be called to assist with a large earthquake, but nothing like what we’re facing now.”
“It’s been surreal. I live by Stern Grove and later in the day I am now able to hear the ocean and frogs in Pine Lake because of the lack of traffic. It’s surreal and cool but also very sad how it’s happening.”
While his garden has never had as much attention he hopes a better San Francisco will come out of this.
“I think it will be different. The city is going to be different, but not necessarily in a bad way. Things are going to be more remote and we’ll all face different challenges, but people are resilient, and we will be stronger in the future. We are all curious to see what the stronger looks like.”