WCW Member Profile – Rick Campbell

Working-in-Water-logoWCW Member Profile – Rick Campbell Director of Public Services for the Town of Inuvik, NWT.

Rick CampbellName: Rick Campbell
Company/City: Town of Inuvik, NWT
Position: Director of Public Services

Core Function:

Altogether there are 950 water and sewer connections in the Town of Inuvik, about 16 km of above-ground utilidors and less than a kilometre of buried line. The older utilidors lines, installed in the late 1950s when the federal government built Inuvik, are in better shape than the newer parts from the 1970s, because the early stuff was better quality, designed better.

The Town gets its water in the winter from the East Branch of the Mackenzie River. In the summer we pipe water from Hidden Lake which is used as reservoir. It is filled by water piped from Three Mile Lake, which is (surprise!) three miles away. The water treatment plant at Hidden Lake has been in use since the town was built, and the one at the river has been in operation since the early 1970s. Before that water was pumped from the Mackenzie to fill Hidden Lake.  As well as day-to-day maintenance of the water and sewer system we have an on-going program to replace 500 metres of water and sewer lines each year, at an annual cost of around $1.5 million.


I was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan,  the nearest town to the oil rig my father was working on at the time. But I have lived in the NWT most of my life. My family moved to Inuvik in when I was six. I’ve been working for the Town of Inuvik for 14 years, first as a community technician responsible for the Town’s  buildings and for the last seven years as Director of Public Services. I’m responsible for all of the Town’s infrastructure: the water and sewer lines, roads, parks and buildings. There are 12 employees plus the contractors.

I was one of those kids who thought I was smarter than the school system and dropped out before I graduated. I went back and got my GED when I was 46. At that point I had my Distribution II, Water Treatment II, and Community Works Foreman training through the Government of the Northwest Territories’ Department Municipal and Community Affairs, but without my Grade 12 these certificates were not transferable outside of my home community. So I went back and got my GED.

Job Satisfaction:

What I like about my job is that I get to do many different things and deal with many different kinds of people, from labourers to engineers. I like dealing with the residents. I’ve lived in Inuvik so long I know almost everyone, and they know me. I can tell how long people have known me by what they call me. Some call me Ricky because they have known me since I was a child. But I work for the SAO (Senior Administrative Officer) and it’s his job to deal with the politicians so I don’t have to do that.

History in the industry:

I specialize in water, wastewater and solid waste management, and have worked in municipal government, academia, and the consulting industry for over 30 years. I’ve had worked in locations as diverse as Kashechewan
First Nation, Ontario; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Calgary, Alberta. I joined WCW in 2001 and served as Treasurer. I also served its constituent organization, the WEA as Treasurer, Provincial Trustee, and Chair. Currently I participate on Alberta Provincial Council and will be helping organize a Water Reuse seminar for the Council in the fall.

Career highlights:

My career highlights have been obtaining my certificates and becoming Director of Community Services. My mentors are Dennis Althouse, formerly Director of Public Works here (and now Works Superintendent for the City of Yellowknife and NTWWA board member) and Richard Fielden, former Town Engineer who is now retired. I respect and admire them because they knew a lot and were willing to share what they knew.

Typical Day

On a typical day I start by meeting with the utilidor crew. These three guys work specifically on the water and sewer system, and we will discuss any problems that need solving and on-going maintenance. Then I will go back to the office and check with my assistant who puts through all the work orders, purchase orders and does the bookkeeping.

After that I usually go out and drive through town, to see the condition of the roads and to check the solid waste facility and sewage lagoon. After lunch I go back to the office to do correspondence and answer telephone calls. Then I will check with the utilidor crew again, and with the other crews working on the roads, parks and building maintenance, making sure that everything is being done properly. About 3:30 I go back to the office and spend the rest of the day on office work.


The biggest challenge in this job is the high cost of replacing the utilidors. We’ve also been in the process of trying to get a new water plant for several years now. We now finally are getting the engineering lined up and expect to have it in place in a couple of years.

Advice for a Successful Career

The advice I would give anyone is “Don’t think you can’t do it – just keep at it!”

Life away from work:

When I am away from work my four grandchildren take up a lot of my time. I also do some motorbike riding. I have a 2003 Harley Ultra Classic and have ridden a long way on it. I’ve done some long road trips in Alberta, Saskatchewan and BC. I also play some poker- in fact I’m competing in a tournament here in Vegas as soon as I finish this interview!