Lock's Leading Legacy
There are those who aim to place themselves and their work on center stage. And then there are others who work hard to avoid the limelight, creating a small footprint -- like Randy Lock.
Lock is the chief operator of two wastewater treatment facilities operated by the Brazos River Authority: the Temple-Belton Wastewater Treatment System and the City of Temple’s Doshier Farm plant. He runs plants aimed at, in part, being a good neighbor by staying out of sight and out of mind. He’s also on the verge of a big promotion. As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic dissipates and people are allowed to return to work, he’ll officially become the Assistant Regional Operations Superintendent for the BRA. In this management role he’ll serve as a liason with city staff and have a focus on regulatory requirements.
Lock joined the BRA in 1988 in a maintenance position. He later worked as a solids operator, belt press operator, compost operator, and ultimately was promoted to chief operator in 1998.
“I only start looking for good things to happen on even years,” Lock said jokingly.
And he credits the success of the plant on the nine employees he supervises.
While Lock has hired and helped grow the staff around him, their success is due to his leadership and mentoring, said BRA GM/CEO David Collinsworth. Lock has more than three decades of experience with the BRA and carries the highest license one can attain for that position.
“Randy is a key reason that BRA’s business line of operating wastewater treatment plants has been successful for so long,” Collinsworth said.
Talk to Lock for only a few minutes about the business, and anyone will walk away fully grasping his passion for the organization and his high-level of expertise, Collinsworth said.
Lock oversees both plant’s operations in taking wastewater from the cities of Belton and Temple, and processing it through the treatment systems, resulting in a clean product that doesn’t adversely impact the environment.
Wastewater is comprised of used water and wastes disposed of through plumbing fixtures from homes, industries and commercial establishments. Characteristics of wastewater change regularly – like the ammonia concentration - and so while part of the process is automated, it takes constant monitoring to ensure the correct levels are maintained to properly clean the product. Biologically, plant operators use microorganisms to create an environment conducive for organisms to clean the wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants are typically located near creeks and rivers. The treated effluent - the water that leaves a sewage treatment plant after it has been cleaned - is normally returned to the water cycle by being released into these waterways in accordance with strict permit requirements.
“By maintaining a specific air level in a unit, for instance, we can create an environment that one organism likes to thrive in,” Lock said. “We create it so we can then foster that microorganism so it will do the work that we need. What we do here is a biological process. We’re working with living organisms, and some are temperature sensitive while others are PH sensitive. Environmental impacts can change the dynamics of how they work.”
Most wastewater treatment plants utilize aerobic forms of cleaning water and removing waste so that water may be returned to the water cycle. At the treatment plant, the waste is separated into liquids that are purified and solid sludge that may be used in a number of recycling systems or taken to landfills.
A substantial amount of training is required to perform the job, and training must be maintained throughout one’s career. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality awards varying levels of licensing and that licensing determines, among other things, at what size facility someone can work. Lock obtained his A license – the highest available - in 1996, and continues training yearly to have it renewed. Lock and his crew also take continuing education classes from the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, which is a state extension agency that offers training programs and technical assistance to public safety workers around the world.
The challenge behind the position, behind the career, is what attracts Lock so much to the job. That and the people, he said.
“You turn around twice, and you’ve been somewhere 30 years,” he said. “But it’s not been a hard decision to stay and do what I do.”
Growing up in Buckholts, Texas, the only local industry in the town of 350 people was farming. So, one either became a farmer or rancher, or moved away, Lock said.
“I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I did graduate fourth in our class,” Lock said. “There were eight of us.”
Lock, now 55, said his family still lives in Buckholts, which is roughly 20 miles east of Temple. His two boys are now grown – ages 30 and 22 – and he’s been married to his wife Sharon for what will be 34 years in May.