June 2023 Vol. 78 No. 6

Rehab Technology

NASSCO Standard Bearers: Kathy Romans


NASSCO continues to set standards for the assessment and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure. A vast array of individuals has contributed to the success of the association, both in the past and present, that has driven NASSCO’s industry mission. This series of articles recognizes those who have not only been critical to the success of NASSCO, but the industry as well. 

This month, we profile Kathy Romans who not only has been a tremendous force within the rehabilitation industry, but an effective leader for NASSCO. In additional to her committee work and service on the board of directors, Kathy was the first woman president of NASSCO. 

While I was born in Frankfort, Germany, when my dad was stationed in the military, I have, and always will, consider myself a native Texan. We returned to Texas when I was three-years old and spent the rest of my childhood and adult life in Houston until just recently, when my husband Tim and I moved to our retirement ranch in West Central Texas. I also raised my son and daughter in Texas, and they are both still in the Houston area. I consider myself blessed to have grown up, raised a family and enjoyed a successful career in Texas. 

I entered the underground infrastructure industry by accident. With an educational background in chemistry and psychology, I started out as a recruiter for chemists and lab technicians. I decided to place myself in one of my client’s job openings and spent 15 years working for companies that did environmental remediation and laboratory studies. I had the opportunity to work on superfund sites, which are locations polluted with hazardous materials. 

That all changed in 1998 when David Magill from Avanti saw my resume. As the manufacturer of chemical grout used in the rehabilitation of underground infrastructure, David liked the background I had in chemistry and environmental issues and hired me to be the North Central/Upper Midwest Area Regional Manager for Avanti. 

Just prior to my employment with Avanti, there were questions by the EPA regarding acrylamide grout. NASSCO hired a legal team to address EPA concerns and advocated for Avanti and other suppliers. Because of my background in environmental issues, I worked closely with Avanti’s legal counsel, helped David update the Grouting Unified Safe Operating Practices Program and developed a training course on the subject. I did a run-through of the training program with my customer Harold Kosova from National Power Rodding. Harold started working there in 1960 and we often joked that he was with National Power Rodding longer than I was alive! 

It is wonderful that NASSCO continues to recognize and honor contributors to our industry like Harold and David. In 2022, NASSCO’s Infiltration Control Grouting Committee (ICGC) introduced the Harold Kosova Lifetime Achievement Award, designed to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to chemical grouting in underground infrastructure rehabilitation. Pete Fleetwood was the inaugural recipient in 2022, and Marc Anctil deservedly received the Award this year. The ICGC also recently completed an update to the USOPP and has developed an eLearning course on NASSCO.org to encourage individuals who handle chemical grout to follow best safety practices. 

Career path 

In 2019, Matt Wierzchowski and Kathy Romans hold a ShowStopper Award for VersaFlex/Raven exhibit earned at the UCT show. 
In 2019, Matt Wierzchowski and Kathy Romans hold a ShowStopper Award for VersaFlex/Raven exhibit earned at the UCT show. 

I worked for Avanti for three years until a colleague from the environmental industry encouraged me to consider a job with ADS Environmental. The travel involved with my position at Avanti was extensive, and my children were in their teenage years, so I accepted the position which had a smaller sales territory than I was covering at Avanti. Serving as ADS’ Regional Business Development Manager, I worked there just under two years until I moved on to NPC (now Trelleborg) where I started out as their Gulf Coast Representative specializing in I/I reduction with mechanical chimney seals and mechanical joint seals. After a year I was promoted to National Sales Manager for NPC and continued there for 10 ten years. 

My next move was Raven. Starting out as Regional Sales Manager for Texas and Louisiana, I took the role of Wastewater Segment Manager when Raven merged with Versaflex Companies. I enjoyed this role and started influencing the direction of the business and the products we were recommending. In 2021, PPG acquired the Versaflex Companies (including Raven), and I became the Water & Wastewater Segment Manager for PPG Protective and Marine Coatings, where I remain today. 

While I knew of NASSCO from my time at Avanti, I really jumped in when I started my career with NPC. I wanted to get more involved for the benefit of networking, but also to learn more about how the products I represented could really make a positive impact on eliminating I/I. When I got involved, Grant Whittle was serving as chair of NASSCO’s Health and Safety/Government Relations Committee, and he asked me to take over as chair. I agreed and served in that role for five years. It was my first experience in NASSCO leadership and opened the door for my nomination and election to become a member of NASSCO’s Board of Directors in 2006. After two years of service on the board, I moved on to NASSCO’s Executive Committee where I served as an officer of the board. I was the second female to ever serve on that committee and eventually became NASSCO’s first female president in 2011. 

I considered it a real honor to hold that position and was grateful that I had managed to gain the trust and respect from a great group of peers, people I considered pillars in the industry who encouraged me to get involved, then encouraged my participation as a NASSCO Officer. Thinking back to that time, the only females that were highly involved in NASSCO were Marilyn Shepard, Joan Stone and me. 

Today, it is great to see so many women involved in NASSCO and our industry. The organization has grown at a very impressive rate, and this is thanks in part to increased involvement by its members. The first annual conference I attended had about 50 members. It was such a small group that we could go around the room and talk about who we were, where we worked and what we did. Now, the rooms are so crowded that it would take us the entire event to get around the room and that, to me, is very exciting. 

The participation by NASSCO members both in-person and on virtual committee calls is greater than ever. I can remember back in the early 2000s when I was chair of the Health and Safety Committee and an issue with confined space and construction came up. We brought it to members and had a meeting where only six people showed up. If that were to happen today, I estimate we would have at least 50 people sign up to help. 

Growing participation 

It is also encouraging to see the number of new NASSCO members getting involved. I believe it’s because NASSCO now represents the entire industry. While contractors are still the majority, public agencies and consulting engineers now represent 40 percent of NASSCO’s membership base, combined. When I was on the board, the only system owner I can recall being part of the organization was Jim Harris. The association has also grown from focusing primarily on televising and cleaning to building awareness of all trenchless assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation technologies. 

My hope for the future of NASSCO is that it continues to develop standards to support our entire industry. In a recent poll, a question was asked regarding what resources are used in the development of specifications. One choice was industry organizations such as NASSCO, ASCE and ASTM; consulting engineer was another option; and manufacturer was the third. Forty percent of the respondents said they use NASSCO and other associations for the development of specs. This is a great responsibility for NASSCO and one that I hope we continue to take very seriously. 

I also hope to see NASSCO leverage the tremendous strides it has made with Pipeline Assessment Certification Program (PACP) by tying in the importance of how condition assessment supports asset management, overall. I know that one of NASSCO’s key recommendations to Washington D.C. is to encourage asset management programs so that infrastructure funds are spent wisely. This is a strong strategic path that will ensure our limited funding is spent on the most critical needs. 

NASSCO also encourages elected officials to support underserved communities with funding programs. I am pleased to see NASSCO supporting its members and our communities through this outreach. I am also encouraged to see NASSCO take on the tough subjects such as styrene emissions in the cured-in-place pipe (CIPP process), just as it did in advocating for acrylamide grout many years ago. 

In closing, Mike Hogan was one of the first people I met when I attended my first NASSCO meeting in 2004. He was the outgoing president at the time and gave me one very important piece of advice: get involved. I followed that advice and quickly learned that the non-competitive nature of NASSCO brings together people who truly care about doing what’s right. The more you get involved with NASSCO the more you will find that the industry gives back to you, even more than you are giving to the industry.

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