The Osceola Water Works Board recently had a vacancy with the resignation of board member, Kevin Rivera. Rivera’s absence revealed a loss in representation for the Osceola Water Works customer base. With the Hispanic population increasing throughout the area – 2020 U.S. Census records show Osceola with a 25.9% Hispanic population, 6.8% more than the National segment – the Water Board’s decision to make sure proper representation was maintained made the search for Rivera’s replacement take a little longer than initially expected.
Sandra Ramos, the newest addition to the Water Works Board, was appointed on August 15th and will participate in her first Water Works board meeting in September.
Sandra’s initial representation will go through 2027, finishing out Mr. Rivera’s vacated term with the board. Osceola Water Works Board terms are for 6-years and are approved by the City Council.
Originally from Mexico, Sandra moved with her parents and family to Minnesota in early 2000’s. Sandra and her family made their way to Iowa and to Osceola where she entered 4th grade at Clarke Community Schools, ultimately graduating in the class of 2015. After graduation, Sandra pursued her post-secondary education in Business Administration obtaining her Associate degree at SWCC. Sandra has been with American State Bank as a Financial Representative since 2020.
“Osceola has a very large population of Hispanics and I think it will be beneficial to have someone they can depend on to reach out to with questions or concerns,” said Ramos. “Making sure my parents and native Spanish-speakers like them have clear access to information concerning their water services is going to be a big priority.”
The second exciting addition to the Osceola Water Works team is Maria Avalos Banuelos. Maria was hired in late-July as Osceola Water Works’ Utility Support Specialist.
Also from Mexico, Maria moved to the U.S. at a very young age and started school as a Freshman at Clarke, graduating in 2011. After high school, Maria attended the University of Iowa, graduating with her Bachelor’s degree in Child, Adult and Family Services.
Very involved with the community, Maria has also served on the Latino Festival Committee, currently serves on the board of Clarke Community Schools’ TeamMates Mentoring Program, and she also assists with Religious Education at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church.
“I’ve seen a lot of the same faces from past customer support positions at the hospital and clinic,” said Maria. “It’s important we make the information for our customers easily accessible, and I hope I can play a big part in making that happen.”
“Maria’s only been with us for three weeks and she’s already made an impact by joining operators in the field helping interpret water leak issues and important information for our Hispanic customers,” said Brandon Patterson, Osceola Water Works Superintendent.
With the additions of Sandra and Maria, the Water Works team looks to strengthen their ability to serve the entire community and provide the best customer experience possible. Some of the initial efforts to convert documentation for Spanish-speaking customers has already begun. Translations of internal documents like the Osceola Water Works Service Rules and Regulations and other guideline materials are in the works. The Water Work’s team is looking to have the core materials translated and finished in the next few weeks. Updates to public-facing information like the Web site content and other documents are also being made.
“It took a little time, but we wanted to make sure we have the demographics that reflect our community helping make decisions on the health and well-being of their water needs,” said Alisha Kale, Water Works Board Chair. “We spent a lot of time interviewing candidates and we’re thrilled to have added both Sandra and Maria to the team.”