Bill Beattie of Seminole volunteers in the lab for the Pinellas County Watershed Management in the mornings and enters data in the afternoon.
Seventy-one-year-old Bill Beattie spends his Fridays at the Pinellas County Watershed Management building just like any other Pinellas County employee. He moves with ease throughout the building and shifts from one task to the next. If it weren’t for his volunteer badge, he could be mistaken for a permanent county employee.
He spends a few hours a week “doing dishes at the lab,” said Beattie. It involves cleaning and preparing sample and transport containers to eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination in the field. He has been certified to perform water sample collection field equipment preparation.
“His doing dishes as he says is an important step in water quality analysis,” said Natasha Dickrell, Pinellas County Watershed Management section volunteer coordinator.
To Beattie, volunteering is about assisting in any way he can. He lets the trained professionals do their job and he is there to help, he said.
After lunch, he shifts from the lab to the computer area.
Beattie, a retired computer system analyst, enters historical data from field sheets allowing the county to meet the requirements for data documentation. The data he enters is used to support mandatory monitoring and regulatory programs in relation to the Federal Clean Water Act.
“He commented about sweeping floors or fixing things and when we found out about his computer skills, we knew he would be a great fit,” recalled Dickrell.
Shortly after his retirement, the St. Petersburg resident began browsing the Internet to volunteer. “You can only play so much,” he said of his short-lived break. Beattie, a Tampa Bay area resident since 1947, said that his love for water led him to Watershed Management at Pinellas County.
“Bill has great stories about his memories of structures, beaches and fishing. He believes in what we do and shares many of our passions for protecting and managing surface waters,” said Dickrell. “He inspires us because he supports what we do and gets excited with us.”
“I feel that I get more out of volunteering at the county than I give them,” Beattie said.
Spending his Fridays at the county broadens his knowledge. “The county is a great place to learn because it’s so diversified and you can go into any direction. You are never too old to learn and grow.”
This same philosophy followed Beattie through his entire career. His first job was at the city of St. Petersburg in 1959 as a truck serviceman in the Fleet Maintenance Department. In the mid ’60s, he was one of the few employees who took two computer classes that were offered at the local college and opportunities grew from there.
He was transferred to the Computer Services Department in 1968 as an operator and eventually worked his way up to operations manager. He continued his career at Progress Energy as a computer programmer and analyst, where he still does part time contracting work.
“I have been fortunate enough to have a great career and this is my way of paying back.”
It hasn’t gone unnoticed. “When volunteers are described as assets, Bill would be considered indispensible. He is a pleasure to work with and truly aims to help with whatever we need him to do,” said Dickrell.
In the past two years, Beattie has been nominated for the Partners in Public Service award. Each year, volunteers are nominated by their departments for PIPS awards in four categories: individual, group, youth and retiring. And although he didn’t win, Beattie feels like a winner.
“I am just happy to keep working and learning.”
Pinellas County volunteers can expect to make a difference in the life of their community, while exploring interests, sharing knowledge, assisting others and making friends.