The North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT) has announced that Mike Willmets, former project manager for the City of Ottawa, Canada, will assume the role of executive director. Willmets replaces John Hemphill, who has guided the Society since 2000 and is retiring.


“As I end a very fulfilling municipal career, I could not be more honored to begin this challenge [with NASTT],” Willmets said. “I’m proud of my own achievements in the trenchless industry and this new position is certainly the pinnacle of my career. When you are passionate about your work and you are permitted to continue your career in this ideal fashion, it is indeed a rare and happy occasion.”


Willmets said he hopes to build on the past success of Hemphill. “I’ve always viewed John Hemphill as a role model and I certainly hope that I can continue the role with a similar sense of his style and professionalism.”


Willmets has been active in the Society, serving as a member of the NASTT Board of Directors and as a past chairman of the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence and Atlantic regional chapter.


Willmets started his working life in communications with the Canadian Army and then moved to a position with the Canadian Transport Commission. In 1973, he was approached by the Water Works Department in Ottawa. This was the beginning of a 35-year career in infrastructure management.


“Having managed large engineering groups and one of the City of Ottawa’s largest ever infrastructure programs will allow me to adapt those learned business skills to the world of NASTT,” Willmets said.
Willmets specialized in watermain replacement and rehabilitation, as well as water pumping facilities. He conceived and managed numerous low-dig projects including the Gloucester Street Sliplining Contract, which won a Schier Award of Merit in 2000 for Canadian engineering excellence. Ottawa’s aggressive trenchless program for watermain lining was developed and championed by Willmets and held the distinction of several Ontario firsts.


“From firsthand experience, I know the value of NASTT,” Willmets said. “Ottawa’s rehabilitation toolbox is full of applications and ideas that came directly from No-Dig and the NASTT experience. Trenchless knowledge and expertise can quickly translate to reduced capital cost and reduced public impact. Any municipality that is serious about employing trenchless or low-dig technologies need look no further than the services and mandate of NASTT to get pointed in the right direction.”


Willmets can reflect with satisfaction on his substantial contribution to much of Ottawa’s infrastructure. His $100 million legacy project has been Ottawa’s largest ever transmission main program. His talent for tackling the difficult but challenging jobs has only been exceeded by his team building skills and ability to deliver on schedule and on budget. From politicians to contractors and engineers to suppliers, Willmets has earned the respect of his peers and the admiration of his colleagues.


With the coming of 2008, a new path begins for Willmets that will undoubtedly draw on his earned experience, his dedication and his work ethic. His passion for the trenchless industry and all the benefits it provides for our communities will be instrumental in sustaining the momentum of NASTT.


“I envision the future to be bright for NASTT as the need for continuing education and information grows,” Willmets said. “As North America’s infrastructure expands and ages, so does the pressure to renew existing services within limited resources. To succeed, every municipality must proactively tackle these issues in an informed manner. The fact that NASTT’s integrity is strong and certainly well respected throughout the industry, will ensure our success in playing a key role in aiding our current and future members.”


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