- Name: Brett Roberts
- Organization: Indiana Finance Authority – State Revolving Fund
- Position: Drinking Water & Clean Water Program Manager
- Location: Indianapolis, IN
- Degrees/Alma Mater: Undergraduate: Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs from IU Bloomington; Accelerated Master’s Program, IU Bloomington; MPA in Community & Economic Development
- Communication information:
Can you tell our students a little bit about the work you do?
Brett says that he works with communities to connect them to the State of Indiana’s State Revolving Fund (SRF Program) in order to help finance water projects. For example, when a small town in Indiana has contaminants in their wellfield or needs to expand their wastewater treatment plant, they come to the SRF and Brett helps them make sure their new projects are compliant with the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.
How did you get to this point in your professional career?
Brett never imagined himself doing this type of work. After his accelerated master’s program finished at O’Neill, Brett started working in community and economic development in South Bend. There, he was working with small towns making comprehensive and economic developments plans to make their communities more vibrant. However, the communities would always talk about needing millions of dollars to update their drinking water and wastewater utilities. When the SRF job came up, Brett saw it as a way to get back to the state government and help communities with this most basic need.
Why did you want to get back to state government? What about this level of government drew you in?
Brett explained that he grew up in Indiana as a sixth generation Hoosier. He has a strong connection to the people and place where he grew up. State government allows him to better the state that he loves. In his own words, Brett says that the state government is “a nice middle ground between boots on the ground, local government, and pie in the sky, federal government.”
How do you incorporate environmental justice in your work with drinking water programs?
With the Biden administration’s push for environmental justice and funding stipulations from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, Brett explained that the State Revolving Fund has to think about how to serve communities that are facing environmental injustices. How Brett does this is that when applications for SRF funds come in, he looks at census data indicators that tell him how each community ranks against all other environmental justice indices. He is actually the one who found the data and formulated the framework that the SRF program uses to prioritize environmental justice!
What’s something that you wish you would have known about the professional sphere?
Brett wishes he would have known how much training he would get on the job. He was always one who hesitated to apply to specific jobs because he thought he did not know enough about the industry or policy. He wants to tell people to trust that your O’Neill degree has taught you how to learn and how to learn quickly on the job!
What advice do you have for our students as they head out on their professional journeys?
Brett’s high school basketball coach gave this piece of advice: “Don’t go where you’re wanted. Go where you’re needed.” This has stuck with him since then. Brett said that there are a ton of consulting jobs and exciting, high-paying careers in consulting that are attractive. He believes that these places want you, but they do not necessarily need you and your specific expertise. When he thinks of government, the government is a place that needs people to help make critical decisions and changes that will impact communities. The government and people you serve will value you and your work will be meaningful, in his opinion.
Is there anything that you did not get to mention that you want our students to know?
Brett said that he is continually learning – even outside of his degree program. He encouraged students to not be afraid to check out a library book to learn more about what you get to do in your job. He thinks that has set him apart from his peers and he wants to make that known to O’Neill students.