Celebrating Black History Month

As we near the end of February, to continue our focus on Black History Month at Essential, we’re spotlighting Bob Davis, president and chief operating officer of Aqua Ohio.

Robert “Bob” Davis is the president and chief operating officer of Aqua Ohio and has been with the company for just over two years.  He is responsible for the operation and maintenance of 33 water and 5 wastewater plants.  Part of Bob’s duties include overseeing compliance, safety, security, engineering, and managing all resources.  Bob leads the employees of Ohio and takes pride in helping others be their best selves at work.

What or who has been your biggest inspiration?

BD: Paul Warfield, also from Warren, Ohio, has been one of the many individuals inspiring me.  Paul was a phenomenal football player – an All-American, Ohio State University standout, and NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee who played 13 seasons with the Cleveland Browns and the Miami Dolphins.  It was Paul’s professionalism, perseverance, and worth ethic that set him apart.  Paul used athletics as an avenue to pursue higher education, and I sought to mimic that.  Paul taught a motto that I live by – T.E.A.M – together everyone achieves more.

Another inspiration for me is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He encouraged, inspired, and motivated people from all walks of life.  His stance on non-violence to change the status quo helped propel a nation forward.  Dr. King, and many others, laid the path so that others may go forward.  He led by example and worked to remind everyone that all people were created equal.

What motivates you?

BD: Making a difference in the lives of people.  If you can believe, you can conceive, and you can achieve your dreams.  I’m always working to help people be the best they can be.

Who specifically has served as an inspiration in your life?  

BD: My parents – they instilled in me morals, values, and discipline that still guides me today.  Hard work, resiliency, and perseverance are values that keep me grounded. My dad got me involved in sports, which ultimately led to me playing football at West Virginia University.  There, I learned about teamwork and many other life lessons.  My mom reminded me, ‘It’s not where you start – it’s where you finish.’ 

Why is it important to take time to reflect, think back, and celebrate Black History Month? 

BD: It is critical to take time to reflect, educate, and communicate black history.  We need to celebrate black history and culture – respect the past, reflect, and educate yourself to not repeat the sins of the past.  If people do not understand the past, they cannot learn from it.  People cannot and should not forget the struggle of so many, for that is the path that has led us to where we are, and where we are going.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

BD: It is a time not to forget the past, to pay homage to forefathers who paved the way for people to pursue the American Dream. We need to remember those that gave so much for people to have the right to read, write, for those died so that their children could be treated as equal.

What can others do to help celebrate Black History Month?

BD:  Communicate, educate, promote, and advocate. We need to understand that black lives matter, we need to teach black history in our schools, to give our time to help those in need, to donate money and scholarships to help those that are disadvantaged, and to attend homecoming events.  As I like to say, “Community must have unity. Without it, there is no unity.”  History taught folks that not everyone was created equal.  We need to change that mindset and we need to change the culture.  If you can reach one, you can teach one, and if you teach one, you can make a difference.  We can advocate for health, wealth, and prosperity for all.

How can we all improve upon inclusion and equity in our own lives?

BD:  My dad reminded me to listen more than I speak.  If you’re talking, you’re not listening.  We should be open-minded, embrace diverse opinions, understand that it is okay to be different and have different values and life experiences.

What has the company done to foster a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion?

BD:  Essential has created an environment that embraces diversity – both employer and supplier. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is in our DNA as a company – in fact, we measure it on a yearly basis. We use diversity as a metric for our Environment Social Governance (ESG), and we are always looking to do more. The company understands that we are more successful when we reflect the communities we work in. Essential Utilities is making deliberate and intentional changes and we live these values every day. From top down to bottom up, we take DE&I seriously and continue to have the tough conversations internally and externally to improve.

What is the best part about working at Essential Utilities?

BD: The best part of working at Essential Utilities is working with the outstanding professionals that are employed here. The employees are focused on continuous improvement and understanding how we can be better.  Reflecting on the 36 years I’ve been in the industry, I know we can positively impact the quality of life. We provide great and essential services for a reasonable rate.  We truly make a difference in the communities we serve.

Tell us about your leadership journey.

BD:  I started at the bottom right after earning my degree at West Virginia University.  I worked as a pipe repairer, meter reader, plant manager, and director of utilities. I’m now the president and chief operating officer of Aqua Ohio.  This experience was not easy, but I was able to learn all about the business from the ground up, helping me in my role to this day.