Newsmaker

July 02, 2006|By MELISSA HARRIS

Karen Wright

Occupation

Karen Wright's official title is "systems control group leader" for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. She controls three dams in Maryland: the T. Howard Duckett and Brighton dams on the Patuxent River and the Little Seneca Creek Dam on the Potomac River. She also oversees 16 water pumping stations and 59 water storage facilities, which provide drinking water to hundreds of thousands of customers.

In the news

Wright ordered the T. Howard Duckett and Brighton dams' gates open early last week, sending water from their reservoirs rushing downstream, flooding the parking lot of the Laurel Park race course, a roadway and a few low-lying businesses near Laurel's MARC train station.

Career highlights

Wright started her career with the commission in 1979 as an assistant manager of the Seneca Wastewater Treatment Plant and worked her way up to her current position.

Personal

Wright, 52, was born and raised in Berwyn Heights and now lives in Burtonsville. She attended Parkdale High School and the University of Maryland, earning a bachelor's degree in biochemistry in 1977 and a master's degree in environmental engineering in 1979. She had originally planned to attend medical school. Wright is single and has no children. Her mother still lives in the house where she was raised.

Philosophy

"There are many pre-meds who ended up in environmental engineering. I met one at a conference and he told me, `You know that safe drinking water has done more to save people's lives than any other single thing in history.' When you think about it, it's a lifesaving profession. Safe water improves public health."

[ Melissa Harris]

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