Bailey formally named director of Sarasota County Public Utilities Department

County administrator makes announcement on Feb. 5

Brooke Bailey. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

Late in the afternoon of Feb. 5, Sarasota County staff announced that Brooke Bailey, interim director of the county’s Public Utilities Department, formally had been named the department director.

She succeeds Mike Mylett, who retired from county employment in November 2023.

County Administrator Jonathan Lewis moved Bailey into the department’s temporary leadership position just three days after Mylett made his final presentations to the County Commission.

“We are in the midst of major projects in Public Utilities,” Lewis pointed out in a news release reporting Bailey’s new title, “and Brooke is without a doubt the best person to lead the team into the future. Her passion for improvement, her dedication to service and her professional knowledge will serve our community well,” Lewis added.

“I’m enthusiastic about this opportunity and challenge,” Bailey said in the release. “With a great team by my side, I’m honored that the administration has entrusted me to support them in this role.”

The Public Utilities Department provides drinking water to more than 128,000 county customers, the announcement pointed out. “Public Utilities employees provide a safe water supply, flood protection,” and water quality and maintain Sarasota County’s natural resources and systems, it continued.

The Public Utilities staff maintains and services more than 1,400 miles of drinking water pipes and approximately 100,000 water connections throughout Sarasota County, the release noted, and the staff “works to balance customer needs with the needs of the environment to manage Sarasota County’s water in the best way possible.”

As an example of what Lewis was referencing in regard to the major projects underway, Assistant County Administrator Mark Cunningham forwarded to Lewis a Jan. 31 email from Bailey with good news about a major step at the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility (WRF), which is being upgraded to Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) status.

“Big day for the Public Utilities Team!” Bailey wrote Cunningham. “We received authorization to use our injection well at Bee Ridge

WRF. Receiving this letter has taken nearly a year with back and forth between the county and [the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)]. This authorization will give us much relief during rainy times of the year.”

Bailey was forwarding to Cunningham email notification from Annette Solveigh, an engineering specialist with the Underground Injection Control division within FDEP’s Aquifer Protection Program.

Solveigh wrote, “Attached is the authorization to begin the operational testing of the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility, RW-2 injection well system.”

A graphic shows county staff’s timeline for complying with the 2019 FDEP Consent Order. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As Bailey indicated in her email to Cunningham, the well will be a means to prevent overflow of the pond at the Bee Ridge WRF site where treated wastewater is stored. FDEP staff had called for the construction of the injection well as a measure to help prevent spills.

In late August 2019, the County Commission unanimously approved a Consent Order with FDEP over the spills of millions of gallons of treated and raw effluent from that pond into the adjoining watershed during a period of approximately 14 months. In one incident cited on the FDEP list, 205,197,000 gallons had overflowed from the pond between Aug. 16, 2018 through Oct. 30, 2018.

The injection well will be used to recharge the aquifer, as then-interim Public Utilities Director Mylett explained to the commissioners during Aug. 27, 2019 meeting.

The Consent Order also called for the Bee Ridge facility’s conversion to AWT status.

When the Bee Ridge AWT project is complete, the facility will achieve a significant reduction in the amount of nutrients that its treated wastewater will contain — especially nitrogen, which has been identified as the primary “food” for the red tide algae, Karenia brevis. A May 2019 slide shown to the commissioners said that the project should reduce the total nitrogen load in the treated wastewater from 238,000 pounds a year to 38,000 pounds a year, based on 2018 data.

The Bee Ridge facility’s capacity also is being expanded, from 12 million gallons per day (mgd) to 18 mgd.

This page of an exhibit with the FDEP Consent Order lists part of the illegal discharges associated with the 2019 agreement. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Lewis forwarded Cunningham’s email to the county commissioners on Feb. 1, noting, “This is a huge next step for the County. This has been several years in the making based on the board’s direction on the future of our facility and water quality.”

Commission Chair Michael Moran responded, “Fantastic!!!!!!

Bailey’s education and certifications

As The Sarasota News Leader reported in early December 2023, Bailey joined Sarasota County Government in 2021, having moved from Wichita, Kansas, where she had served as the operations manager and lab director of a 160-million-gallon-per-day water treatment facility that served more than half-a-million residents.

She was Sarasota County’s Water Division manager for nearly three years before she was named to the interim director’s position for Public Utilities.

Bailey holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Florida and a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Miami (Ohio) University, the email continued. “She has experience using Six Sigma Principles, developing cost savings measures, and starting up and commissioning multimillion-dollar projects worldwide,” the email added.

The Corporate Finance Institute (CFI) explains, “Six Sigma is a term used to define various techniques and management tools designed to make business processes more efficient and effective. It provides statistical tools to eliminate defects, identify the cause of the error, and reduce the possibilities of error. Thus, Six Sigma creates an environment of continuous process improvement, enabling businesses to provide better products and services to customers. It was developed by Motorola, Inc. in 1986.”

CFI adds that the term “Six Sigma” is “derived from the bell curve in statistics, in which sigma represents the standard deviation from the center. Hence, a process with six sigmas will achieve an extremely low defect rate. The failure of a business process or product is regarded as a defect. When a process produces less than 3.4 defects for one million chances, it is considered efficient.”

The information that county staff provided also said that Bailey holds a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. A February 2020 article by Trisha Radulovich, provided through the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering, quoted Corey Krueger, then-president of the student chapter of Industrial & Systems Engineers: “ ‘Six Sigma and Lean training are two different certifications that employers want. … Six Sigma improves the quality in a process to make sure there is less randomness and Lean Certification is about reducing the waste in a process.’ ”

Perdue University points out, “The Black Belt marks a professional’s capability to implement improvement processes in the workplace. Black Belts know the ‘nuts and bolts’ of their organization, recognize and analyze obstacles and ask the right questions. Often known as casual thinkers, they constantly ponder cause-and-effect relationships. Whether it is an issue with low-quality products, late deliveries or medical errors, Black Belts perceive what is faulty with the current approaches utilized in their organization.”

Bailey also holds Certified Project Manager (CPM) certification through Florida State University, county staff has pointed out.