Joshua Dean: Securing the People, Securing San Antonio's Water Future
A Security 500 Thought Leader Profile
San Antonio Water System (SAWS) services the city of San Antonio, Texas, metro area and consists of more than 1,300 square miles and almost 13,000 miles of pipe. For perspective, it could take an hour or more to drive from the most northern site to the most southern. SAWS employs 1,700 people, plus approximately 1,700 contractors.
A system that large requires significant work and planning to protect. Joshua Dean, Director of Security for SAWS, is in charge of keeping all of those assets – people, property, equipment – safe and secure, so that the 1.8 million people in the region don’t have an interruption to their water and sewer services. San Antonio is one of the fastest growing communities in the U.S., so Dean anticipates that system will continue to grow at a fast rate.
Dean went to San Antonio Water System 10 years ago as a Security Specialist, without any official plans to stay. “I was looking for a challenge and a way to diversify my resume, which consisted only of law enforcement experience,” he says. “After being at SAWS three months, the Security Director retired and I was asked to serve as the Interim Director of Security.
“Being in that position was like having a six-month job interview,” he continues. “It really allowed me to show the executive management team that I was the right person for the job. I have been the Director of Security at SAWS for nine years. A position that was supposed to be about building my resume went from being a planned short stop to becoming my home.”
Ten years ago, he says his role was mainly focused on crime, such as people tampering with the utility and stealing water. “Today, my work has grown to include workplace violence, protecting our assets, protecting our people who work in the field. We have employees all over the city, in a huge service area and with that comes potential safety concerns. I’m basically the chief of police for a small town.”
“Most people take for granted that there will be clean, safe and affordable water when they open their tap or that wastewater will disappear when they flush, wash, etc.,” he adds. “They take for granted the bulk of the work, including security needed to provide that service. And we want them to continue to take that for granted. Our customers’ confidence in the services we provide is critical to our success.”
SAWS operates as a standalone entity with its own Board of Directors appointed by the San Antonio City Council Dean reports to the Chief Operating Officer’s office of SAWS.
“The Board of Directors takes the system’s security very seriously and has funded security needs when presented with the option.
He credits much of his success at SAWS to his team. “We’re a small group, and I know everyone takes the job very seriously, and we work like a family. Everyone realizes how important our jobs are, and we all have extreme dedication. I am not overstating it, when I say that without the openness and team approach we have at SAWS, we would not be able to do our jobs. We all enjoy helping employees do their job in a safe and secure environment, and ensuring that our customers have confidence in our services.”
Dean also networks with colleagues at the Southwest Texas Security Working Group, InfraGard and state/local fusion centers to share ideas on new security technologies, “We employ a lot of video analytics, and we pilot new technologies. Right now we are focusing our efforts on ensuring that the 1,000-plus security cameras are doing what we need them to do. Camera technology is getting so much better than what it was just a few years ago that we are able to do so much with a lot of our existing technology.”
In his free time, Dean enjoys spending time with his family in the Davis Mountains and Western Kansas. He also enjoys watching San Antonio Spurs basketball, San Antonio FC soccer and volunteering with Young Life.
Annual Revenue: $622 million
Security Budget: $3.3 million
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