SMC’s January LEADER IN STORMWATER is the founder of the Center for Watershed Protection (CWP); wrote a number of stormwater design manuals and watershed guidance references; and worked on island watershed management in the Pacific and Gulf ocean coasts – Tom Schueler, Former Executive Director for the Chesapeake Stormwater Network (CSN).
Tom has had an abundant career in the stormwater industry that began in 1982, somewhat by accident, during his first job at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) in the DMV tasked with watershed hydrology models and managing parts of a major stormwater research project. He spent more than a decade at MWCOG working on the Anacostia River restoration and stormwater BMP research, paving his way in the industry and leading him to become the founder of the CWP – one of the first national organizations to work on practical stormwater and urban watershed issues, and the origin of a dozen state stormwater design manuals and urban watershed research reports – where he provided oversight for 15 years. Then, for the last 15 years of his career, Tom has led the CSN providing technical support and training to practitioners in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Tom prefers working with natural systems, but says he has always kept in mind, to “be careful when it comes to ‘playing God with nature’. We have really improved our restoration game in the last four decades, but can still screw [it] up if we don’t keep urban watershed realities in mind during planning and design. We can use lessons learned…to figure out how to shift our stormwater infrastructure from gray to green.”
Tom explains that uncontrolled stormwater runoff is what defines urban watersheds – powerful floods destroying communities, shaping stream channels and floodplains, or carrying urban landscape accumulated poisons downstream, degrading aquatic resources. By making better land use, engineering and land conservation choices, urban waters can be protected and restored.
These days, Tom has turned over leadership of the CSN to the capable hands of colleague, David Wood, and works remotely as a technical advisor. Tom takes advantage of his part-time work sprinkling hiking, biking and walks at a number of Chesapeake Bay natural area destinations into his routine. Nearing retirement, he hopes to remain involved with watershed groups and stormwater organizations (Patapsco Heritage Greenway, James River Association, Anacostia Watershed Society) to keep up the momentum on Bay stormwater and watershed restoration.
In his free time, Tom stays busy maintaining five rain gardens and three conservation areas in his yard in Catonsville, MD. Tom also recently became a new grandpa and looks forward to enjoying time with his grandbaby in his retirement. As he looks back, he says there are many people who have inspired him – his New Year’s resolution is to write thank you notes to the colleagues he has had the privilege to work with.