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Gettin’ wet with a water district vet

If it leaks, drips, sprays, sprinkles ... well, Silverdale Water District Maintenance Manager Tim Knapp has probably worked on it.

The 22-year vet to the district oversees the district’s miles upon miles of pipeline and any and all new projects that may come along (Purple pipe just might add a whole new handful of duties to his job.).

Apparently, he’s in a family business, too. Knapp’s grandparents, he recently found out, signed the original 1928 document that officially formed the district.

We discussed all that with him and a little more — including crazy times on water main repair tasks — in this most recent edition of Community Spotlight.

Question: What does your job entail?

Answer: My crew and I take care of all the fire hydrants, reservoirs and pipes and the flushing and — there’s just a lot of facilities we maintain and then we take care of the new installations. It’s an amazingly diverse job — I love it, it’s a great job – and it’s just all over the board on the things we take care of.

Q: What do your day-to-day duties consist of?

A: Where I’m at with my job is, I’m making sure that we’re focusing on the next maintenance task to work on and that we’re also completing the one that we’re on now. On top of that, I’m making sure that anybody who needs a water service, that’s getting laid out and ready to go. I’m evaluating people’s work and what they’ve got done and also pay attention to any problems coming down — the emergency response stuff. We have 1,100 hydrants out there ... and 2,800 valves. Our yearly goal is to get to every facility we have and do its maintenance. We never achieve that, but I’m an unrealistically optimistic person and so every year I think we’re gonna get to it all.

Q: How long have you been with the district?

A: I believe I’m at 22 years.

Q: As the maintenance manager for the district, how much maintenance and management would you say the district’s network of pipes needs?

A: I am in the office now more than I’m out of the office. In the last 10 years it’s been a transition for me actually doing a lot of the work myself, where now I do virtually none of the physical work myself. It’s all about managing our resources we have including the labor and equipment and that’s where a lot of my time lies.

Q: What’s your favorite aspect of your job?

A: My favorite aspect of the job is being involved with things that are gonna impact people for generations to come. When we do something, we know what we do is gonna be used for 50 to 100 years. I really like working with an organization that is focused on that and that — we’re trying to make it good for the people in the future and not just make it good for ourselves now.

Q: Speaking of long-term projects, we’ve heard a lot about water reclamation and “purple pipe” from the district lately; what’s your take on that idea?

A: This is totally my spin on it, not anything to do with the organization. I think it’s gonna be really important for the next generation and particularly in two generations that we do this now. It’s really a gift we’re giving (to) future generations. It’ll be usable now for us, but it is definitely gonna be a huge factor in the way this community can grow and be served in the future.

Q: What’s the funniest or weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you on the job?

A: We were up working on a water main that – the water wouldn’t come out of the pipe. We couldn’t figure it out, we took the pipe apart, I reached in the pipe – and there’s the whole neighborhood standing around watching because they don’t have any water. I scream. I feel something hairy in the main. I jump back — screaming like a little girl – I finally get the courage to reach back in there and a root had grown through the gasket and this little fine hairy root grew in there and sealed the pipe off. I just had to slide it out and we chlorinated the main and turned it back on. It was so embarrassing, but I just couldn’t help it.

Q: What’s your least favorite aspect of your job?

A: Late night call-outs. I hate heading out at three in the morning.

Q: What kinds of things do you get called out for at three in the morning?

A: It’s often car accidents and people hitting hydrants or creaming into a meter box and breaking a line. A lot of what we get called out for is, after a car accident, where someone’s ruined a power pole, we get called out to do the locates for our water mains. It used to not bug me as much, but I really hate those late night calls, because when the phone rings, you don’t know if you have a family member that’s sick, you don’t know why you’re getting a phone call in the middle of the night. It’s really the stress of that phone ring.

Q: What do you think of the job Commissioner John Poppe has done since taking over for long-time, now former, Commissioner Seley Moore earlier this year?

A: I think his career experience is a really great asset to have on board. It’s nice to have someone who’s knowledgeable on the ins and outs of utility work. He is intense with knowledge. It’s nice to have that on the board. We’ve been really blessed with our board members over the years to have engineers, business leaders ... we don’t have, in any of the time that I’ve been here, people who just want to be involved. We have people involved who are actually engaged and understanding and have some history. I think that’s a big part of how well this organization’s done.

Q: What do you think is the biggest improvement the district has made in terms of serving the community?

A: A lot of our success is driven off decisions that were made 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago and a lot of what we’re doing now is projecting. I’m just part of that chain. Fully embracing long-range planning (is a big improvement). We really try to get out of the box ... and that’s the biggest improvement is being cognizant of that.

Q: What do you think of Silverdale incorporation?

A: I think it’s a shame the way the state has structured the ... Growth Management Act. They’ve structured it so a community can be having all its needs met and they kind of force your hand to making another layer of government. Right or wrong, they’re kind of forcing ... areas that have a lot of growth to becoming cities, there’s no other options to have them grow correctly. I really think they should take a look at the Growth Management Act and how it forces (communities) to become cities.

Q: What’s your favorite part about the Silverdale/Central Kitsap area?

A: Rarely does just the beauty of it, do I ignore that. It’s always kind of on my radar screen when I’m driving or riding my bike to work. I’m kind of just sitting there in awe of the beauty in the area. I went to school in Phoenix, and worked in Alaska, and lived in Bellingham and nothing else seems to quite make it for me.

Q: What is the biggest change you’ve seen to Silverdale over the years?

A: The growth has evolved it into a different type of community. The community I grew up in, on Sundays we could go ride down Silverdale Way on our bicycles because there were no cars. There was always the women’s auxiliary bingo going on raising money for new ambulances. There was so much going on with the volunteer fire department. It’s just a different community now with the growth. At times I yearn for that smaller- town feel.

Q: Is there a particular community event that you always participate in?

A: I really like the fact that the hydroplane races are back. For whatever reason, I’m probably about the largest 13-year-old you’d ever want to meet and the 13-year-old in me loves the hydroplanes.

Q: What was it like working on the Silverdale Heritage DVD?

A: It was a “Field of Dreams” thing for me. The water district, for our 75th anniversary, put together our little piece for the community (a DVD on the history of the district). I felt like there should be more done with that to try and pick up some more of the information that’s out there. I was opening up stuff in my life that I had no idea was there. It was just a really neat process of finding out about my history, which was not my goal.

Q: Who would play you in a movie of your life and why?

A: Well, let’s see; now with John Belushi gone and Chris Farley gone, that kind of lessens down the naturals for me. I think I’ll go with Tim Allen and the people who know me best will find the humor in that.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?

A: It’s gonna be a toss-up between two movies: “The Princess Bride” and “Shawshank Redemption.”

Q: Do you have any family and/or kids?

A: I have my wife, Karen, and I have a 17-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son.

Q: Do you have a favorite meal?

A: Barbecued salmon and raclette.

Q: What’s raclette?

A: Raclette’s the most amazing thing. What it is, is a pice of raclette cheese, which is grown in the highlands of Austria and Switzerland. The cheese is grown from the milk of cows when they first go up to the mountains in spring. They take it and roast it near an open fire so it gets all melty and bubbly, and then you scrape it off and put it on baby potatoes.

Q: Do you have a favorite TV show?

A: I hate to admit it, I really hate to admit what my favorite TV show is ... Survivor. It’s interesting enough that my whole family can sit down and eat popcorn and watch it and it definitely gets us speaking points to talk with my youngest son because it’s trashy enough.

Q: Do you have any hobbies?

A: More than I can list. Being a 13-year-old in a man’s body, it lends me to a lot of hobbies. I ski a lot. I surf. I ride my bike (bicycle). I boat. My favorite hobby is I work with the CK ski school. I’m an emergency van driver for them.

Q: What’s your favorite book?

A: My books are boring. It’s an embarassment to tell you what I read. What am I reading right now? “The Ugly Truth About Small Businesses” and 50 mistakes that people have made. I love books like “The Millionaire Next Door.” I’m not a fiction sort of guy; I really like informational books.

Q: Last question — what’s the one thing you haven’t done in your life yet that you’d like to try?

A: One of the things I’d really like to do is take a boat through the inland waterway on the east coast. There’s an inland waterway that pretty much runs from Maine all the way down to Florida. Part of it was built by George Washington — he did the engineering on it. It looks to me like it could be one of the most fascinating trips. I’m hoping to do that.

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