Women of Influence: Leah Ash

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As general manager of distribution, collection and treatment of both water and wastewater at Colorado Springs Utilities, Leah Ash is one of only three women in the entire department.

But that doesn’t bother her.

“It’s actually pretty great,” she said. “I’ve worked in a number of different areas at Utilities. I enjoy this group. What I’ve found is that people who are attracted to the utilities business have a strong sense of pride about taking care of their customers and the public. They have a real concern about their work and pride in it — regardless of gender.”

Ash is a 28-year veteran of CSU, starting out in administration and then moving through various other departments. In her first years, there were no computers, she said.

“We got computers in the 1980s, and that made everything more efficient,” she said. “But that’s not the only big change. My job has changed every three to five years; it’s one of the things that keeps me here. I always say that if you have more good days than bad days, you should keep working.”

After working in water system maintenance and overseeing construction crews, she’s now responsible for construction maintenance, budgeting and strategic planning for water and wastewater systems. She oversees about 200 people in the department.

As water resources become more scarce, people are starting to pay more attention to where water comes from, she said.

“We used to say that if no one noticed us, then we were doing our job,” she said. “That’s not true anymore. People are more and more interested in water and where it’s going to come from. We’re getting more and more attention.”

Ash is gaining attention as well. She was nominated by Dan Fields, a manager in the construction and maintenance department, and Richard Gertsberger, president of TAP Resource Development Group.

“As a leader and a manager, Leah has played a significant role in making Colorado Springs Utilities one of the nation’s leading utilities,” Gertsberger wrote in his nomination letter. “She is a visionary constantly looking for ways to improve both the services provided to their customers and the care of the organization’s employees. … I believe her biggest contribution has been in her commitment to the development of front-line supervisors throughout the region by her involvement in development programs and serving as a mentor for up-and-coming supervisors from other utilities.”

— Amy Gillentine