Beth Eby has been named the director of the Frank M. Tejeda Center for Excellence in Environmental Operations. The Tejeda Center assists communities along the U.S.-Mexico border in efforts to improve the quality of life for their residents.
The center focuses on strengthening the technical, managerial and financial capacity of public agencies that provide environmental services, such as water and wastewater treatment and solid waste disposal.
The Tejeda Center received $1 million from Congress to help fund its efforts to improve the water quality of border communities. The center is under the direction of the Texas Engineering Extension Service and is headquartered in San Antonio, with plans for additional offices in border communities. Other partners in the center are the Southwest Technology Development Institute at New Mexico State University, and the Arizona State Environmental Technology Training Center, part of the Pima County Community College District.
“The development of human capital is every bit as vital, if not more so, than the development of infrastructure,” Eby says. “A new plant is only as good as the people running it. After years of neglect, there is money now for the construction of wastewater treatment plants in the border region, but there are not enough people who are experienced in building and managing them.
“Everyone in the funding business encounters the same barriers to successful projects: the lack of local resources to manage complex projects involving large commitments of funds from multiple sources. The exciting thing about the Tejeda Center—the thing that makes it different—is that the development of the people is its only mission,” Eby says. “Every day on the border I meet people who are dedicated to helping their communities. The Tejeda Center will give them the tools to be successful.”
By targeting managerial, technical and financial assistance to the particular needs of a community, the Center will provide a service that is unlike any other, Eby adds. Often, the problem is not a shortage of help, but rather a lack of internal capacity that keeps smaller and less affluent communities from accessing the assistance that is available to them.
The Center will build local capacity to a level that allows the community to succeed on its own. Among the goals of the center are to promote training for personnel to manage, operate and maintain facilities, to create opportunities for the exchange of information between utilities, to provide a clearinghouse for technical information, and to assist communities in obtaining funds to help pay for identified needs.
Technology transfer efforts will include facilitating the demonstration of new and emerging water and wastewater technologies and working with communities to select methods and processes that balance their technical needs with local preferences and capacity. By selecting methods that are most likely to be sustained long-term, communities will be able to reduce pollution and improve quality of life along the border.
“Under the leadership of Beth Eby, the Tejeda Center will provide solutions to problems that have long plagued the border communities,” said Dr. Kem Bennett. “The Center is tackling issues that will have a positive impact on the lives of many residents in these economically distressed areas.”
Eby’s experience in local government in the border community of Del Rio and, more recently, as an officer for the NAFTA-chartered North American Development Bank will serve her well in her new position. During six years in Del Rio, she worked in many facets of local government operations, including solid waste and recycling coordinator, director of facilities, public work director, assistant city manager and culminating in her appointment as city manager in 1997. As city manager of Del Rio during the devastating flood of 1998 that resulted in the deaths of nine people, she led the city’s disaster response effort and began the city’s long process of recovery.
Most recently, as senior project development officer for the North American Development Bank, she managed all Texas operations, including the development of technical assistance mechanisms and financing packages for water and wastewater improvement projects valued at $190 million.
Eby holds a degree in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania and speaks both Spanish and French.