Verna Takes Over as WEDA Executive Director
Tom Verna, second from left, at the Eastern Chapter meeting with, from left, Jim Walker, Ram Mohan and Michael Gerhardt, all WEDA officers.
Photo by Judith Powers
In October, Tom Verna took over as executive director of the Western Dredging Association (WEDA), replacing Eileen Maher, who resigned effective September 30.
WEDA President Ram Mohan made the announcement at the Eastern Chapter meeting in Atlanta on October 16, following a busy two weeks by the board of directors to decide on a new director.
Maher had been director since June, but resigned in order to focus on her duties with the Port of San Diego. Verna was present at the meeting in Atlanta, and the following week attended the Pacific Chapter meeting in Seattle. He plans to attend the Gulf Chapter meeting in New Orleans in November, and plans to attend all chapter meetings during his tenure as director.
“Eileen jumped in ‘full speed ahead’ to start the transition of the executive director from Larry Patella to herself (in June),” Verna said. “She began the process of moving WEDA into electronic communications, integrated financial transactions electronically through the website, and had great success organizing WEDA historical documents and information electronically,” he said.
Verna was treasurer of the organization, and was able to step in and continue the transition with the continuing help of Larry Patella, WEDA Executive Director Emeritus, who now serves as a consultant through June 2015.
Corps of Engineers employees are held to high ethical standards, including avoiding conflicts of interest, and Verna underwent a successful evaluation by the Corps to ensure that there would be no conflict of interest between his Corps job and the executive director position.
“There are a lot of day to day details involved, and we are continuing with that,” he said.
His immediate goals are to establish a more active use of the website – www.westerndredging.org – for handling dues and registration for the Dredging Summit and Expo planned for Houston in June 2015. The WEDA office is now in Virginia, and the website contains Verna’s contact information. He is advocating its wide use for communication, information and financial transactions by WEDA members.
The organization is reaching out to Latin American countries, and is re-establishing the Mexico Chapter, with its first meeting tentatively scheduled for November 2015 in Mexico City, Verna said. He is hoping to add new individual members and sustaining members – companies who support the organization with an annual contribution.
Verna began his career with the Corps of Engineers in 1974 at the Memphis District, rising to the position of Chief of Dredging in the Navigation Section from 1978 to 1985. In this position, he managed dredging and marine construction on 355 miles of the Lower Mississippi River and tributaries. Verna joined the staff of the Dredging Division at the Water Resources Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Virginia in 1985, providing staff management and direction for all Civil Works dredging activities. He was a senior policy advisor at Corps headquarters, and had staff responsibility for the Corps navigation mission, dredging program, marine construction and floating plant activities, providing policy guidance and management within Civil Works.
In January 2004, as a result of USACE 2012, he was also assigned to the Lakes and Rivers Regional Integration Team (RIT) and the Operations and Regulatory Community of Practice (COP). He has written various technical and regulatory publications on such topics as dredge instrumentation, hydrographic surveying, dredging program management and operations, cost engineering, AIS data integration, and dredging safety.
Since 1985, he has been the dredging course proponent and instructor.
Verna Present at WEDA Beginning
In the mid-1970s, the Corps’ mission changed from maintaining the waterways with a government-owned fleet to contracting the work out to private industry. Dredging Chief William R. Murden realized that this would require cooperation between the two entities, and began the establishment of an organization that included both government and private industry members. Verna was present at the organizational meetings Murden held in 1978, which transformed the World Dredging Conference begun by Mort Richardson, owner of World Dredging and Marine Construction, to a non-profit organization with participation by dredging industry representatives throughout the world, divided into Western, Central and Eastern divisions – WEDA, CEDA and EADA. Murden met with European and Far Eastern dredging representatives, who decided that the Western Dredging Association (WEDA) would include the Western Hemisphere – North, Central and South America; the Central Dredging Association (CEDA) would include Europe and Africa; and the Eastern Dredging Association (EADA) would include Australia, New Zealand and the Asian countries.
Verna attended the first annual meeting of the Western Dredging Association – WEDA I -- in Kansas City, Kansas in 1979, and he has been active in the organization ever since.
He chartered the WEDA Safety Commission and served as the first chair. He was the co-chair of the Corps/Industry Dredging Safety Management Program Joint Committee, which changed the industry’s safety culture. Verna was the 2002/2003 Dredger of the Year, awarded for his safety work with WEDA and the industry.
He retired from the Corps in 2006, but returned as a re-hired annuitant in September 2007 to work at the Corps Navigation Data Center. He was a member of the WEDA board of directors and treasurer of the organization at the time he was offered the executive director position. Verna will remain as treasurer until June 2015, when the board of directors determines the new officers and directors during the Dredging Summit & Expo in Houston.
WEDA was formed to bring together government and industry dredging interests, which have been driven apart in recent years by the change in Corps travel policy, eliminating participation by Corps employees. One of Verna’s jobs is to help WEDA restore its original mission of bringing together government and private industry. The Gulf Chapter began with back-to-back Corps/WEDA meetings in 2013; the Eastern Chapter officers created a model for Corps participation with their 2014 meeting in Atlanta; and the Pacific Chapter also accomplished this in their meeting the following week.Edit Module