After more than 40 years in the water industry, Michael Ireland, president of the Washington Water Service Company, retired on Dec. 31.
Ireland began working in the water industry for Harbor Pump and Drilling Company in 1972 — right out of high school — as a member of the pump crews, installing water systems.
“I started in a ditch,” Ireland said of his four-decade career within the industry.
In 1980 he moved to Harbor Water Company, Inc. — known as Harbor Water — and took on the role of operations foreman.
Ireland worked his way to president of Harbor Water and remained in the position when the company was acquired in 1999 by Washington Water’s California-based parent company. Washington Water Service Company provides water utility services from two regional offices and three field offices to nearly 300 Washington water systems ranging in size from three to 1,600 service connections. It is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state.
Don Fechko, equipment operator and construction foreman with Washington Water Service, worked with Ireland for 30 years.
“Working with Mike has been fun,” Fechko said. “He’s a dedicated person in the water industry.”
Ireland was driven and known to be the first one into the office in the morning and the last to leave at the end of the day, Fechko said.
Ireland also served on the Board of Directors for Evergreen Rural Water of Washington Association — a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the water industry in Washington state — and was dedicated to helping other water districts.
“He was kind of famous in the industry,” Fechko said, adding that Ireland had received recognition from the Washington Health Department for his leadership in ensuring a high level of water quality.
Scott Bailey will succeed Ireland as general manager for Washington Water Service.
Ireland has seen a lot of changes in Gig Harbor and the use of utilities over his years in the industry.
“It’s been a fabulous career,” he said. “It’s a great industry to get into. People always need water.”
The Ireland family remains active in the water industry with Ireland’s son, Michael, who runs the Fox Island Mutual Water Association after the retirement of his uncle — Ireland’s brother, Harry — in March of 2014.
Ireland plans to spend his retirement traveling with his wife, Jackie, and spending time with his grandchildren.
“(This has) been a career where I’ve surrounded by great people and fun people to work with,” he said. “I’ve loved every minute.”