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Lee County PSA Staff Receives Awards

at 35th Annual VRWA Conference

From Powell Valley News

Pictured, from left to right: HR Manager Donna Sanders, Assistant Director Mike Brindle, Chief Operator Wes Sutphin, and Office Manager Kayla Townsend.

     Staff members of the Lee County Public Service Authority (PSA) received state-wide awards during the 35th annual Virginia Rural Water Association (VRWA) Conference on Wednesday, April 17 at the historic Hotel Roanoke.

     Donna Sanders, who started work at the PSA in 2007, was named the Office Worker of the Year, and Wes Sutphin, who began his career with the PSA in 2006, was named the Wastewater Specialist of the Year. They received their accolades during the awards celebration held at the conclusion of VRWA’s annual conference, which set numerous records this year, including the most participants and vendors in the event’s history.

     Sanders currently serves as the Authority’s Human Resource Officer and Assistant Office Manager. According to her nomination letter, during her tenure with the PSA, she has “done it all” as far as office work is concerned, including answering phones, processing payments, establishing and executing bank drafts, processing payroll, working with retirement, insurance and more.

     “Donna brings a wealth of knowledge and experience into our office and many of our current staff members quickly point out just how much of an asset she is for them,” explained PSA Assistant Director Mike Brindle, who added that her work ethic is her biggest strength. “She is tenacious when assigned a task and you can rest assured it has been completed thoroughly and correctly because she simply will not stop until she is confident in the results.”

     Sanders’ true passion in life is her family. She has been married for 42 years to Arthur Sanders. Together they have two children, Brandi (Mullins) and Chad. They also have several grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. One of her favorite hobbies is photography, especially taking pictures of bears while driving around Cade’s Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

     “Receiving this award is such an honor,” stated Sanders. “I appreciate all the opportunities the PSA has afforded me, it has been a very rewarding place to work.”

     This is the second year in a row that a staff member of Lee County PSA has won the Office Worker of the Year award. At last year’s VRWA Conference, Kayla Townsend, who now serves as the Authority’s Office Manager, was also bestowed the honor.

     Townsend began her career in the water/wastewater field in October 2012 with the Scott County Public Service Authority. After spending the early parts of her days with Scott County PSA serving as a drive-thru clerk, she began to take more interest in other aspects of the utility’s operation, such as billing and working with meters, seeing those areas as an opportunity to turn a job into a career.

    Townsend joined the staff of Lee County PSA in September 2022, accepting a new challenge and bringing with her the knowledge and experience she had gained at Scott County PSA, turning the opportunity into an award winning one. “Being named Office Worker of the Year was such an honor,” she stated. “I am so thankful for the opportunities Lee County PSA has provided me, allowing me to advance my career with such a wonderful organization.”

     Away from the PSA, Townsend enjoys attending church, traveling, photography and spending time with her niece and nephews. She also loves to adventuring with her dogs, Bexley and Izzy.

     Sutphin began working in the wastewater field at the age of 17, while still attending school at Lee High School. According to his nomination letter, he became a full-time employee at Hickory Flats WWTP on February 1, 2004, working for a contractor service. Just a few short years later, in the fall of 2006, he came to Lee County PSA full-time, fulfilling a goal he had set for himself, becoming a licensed operator.

     Sutphin currently serves as the Chief Operator at the Hickory Flats plant as a Class II licensed operator, overseeing the staff and daily operations at the treatment facility.

     “Lee County PSA’s goal of utilizing technology in our operations has quickly been adopted by the entire staff, with Wes recently overseeing a major upgrade to the SCADA system at Hickory Flats that provides his staff with more control than ever before,” stated Brindle. “From better monitoring to remote operation and even Wi-Fi cameras overseeing the plant, Hickory Flats is being thrust into the future of wastewater and Wes is helping to guide the ship.”

    When not at the plant, Sutphin can often be found hanging out with his friends and family partaking in some of his favorite hobbies, grilling and cooking. He has two children, Dakota and Abigail. “This award means so much,” he explained. “I just thank the Lord for giving me this opportunity, and my family for pushing me to be the best I can be.”

     Also at the annual conference, Brindle was re-elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Rural Water Association, where he will serve another term as the Region I At-Large Director, one of nine members of the board that governs the association. Virginia Rural Water Association was founded in 1987 and is a private, non-profit association whose voting members are small municipal and rural water and wastewater systems across the state, and offers on-site technical and managerial assistance in a wide range of areas.

Blackwater Project Celebration

Lee County PSA Competes in NRWA's
Great American Water Taste Test


The Lee County Public Service Authority won "Best Tasting Water in Virginia" last April at the Virginia Rural Water Association's annual conference, beating out utility water samples from all across the Commonwealth. The win earned the PSA the right to compete in the National contest at this year's NRWA Rally, held February 7-9, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

The official water sample was collected from the PSA's Blue Springs Water Treatment Plant in Rose Hill, VA. This marks the third time Lee County PSA has competed in the nationwide contest, finishing in 5th place two years ago, and just outside the top 5 this year.

The Blue Springs source provides water to approximately 1,950 customers in Lee County. Blue Springs has been a reliable water source for years, even dating back to the late 1700’s when frontier travelers like Daniel Boone made note of it during their many journeys through Southwest Virginia and the Cumberland Gap.


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Projects Nearing Completion

July 24, 2023

The PSA's maintenance crew put up project signs for the Giles Hollow and Field Replacement Projects. These projects, along with the Blackwater Community Water Extension Project Phase II are either completed or nearing completion. Crew members Doug Blakley, Dewayne Chappell, Curt Poore, Gary Pridemore and Noah Harber worked to get the signs posted.

Maple Hill Community Project Contracts Awarded

   The Board of Directors of the Lee County Public Service Authority (PSA), at their July meeting, voted to award the contracts for the Maple Hill Community Water Project, pending the approval of the funding agencies. 
   The Board voted to award Phase I of the Maple Hill Community Water Project to apparent low-bidder Estes Bros Construction in the amount of $828,632.42. Phase II of the project, which consists of a pump station, was awarded to apparent low bidder McFall Excavating in the amount of $249,500.00. 
   Construction is anticipated to begin later this year.

May 4, 2022

Blue Springs Again Named Best Tasting Water In Virginia

From Powell Valley News

Blue Springs Award.jpg

   For the third time in six years, the Lee County Public Service Authority’s Blue Springs Water Treatment Plant was awarded the 22nd annual “Water Taste Contest” award during the annual contest held at Virginia Rural Water Association’s 2022 Annual Conference last week in Roanoke. “The staff at Lee County PSA could not be more proud of this award,” stated Lee County PSA Assistant Director Mike Brindle. “To win this award is such an amazing accomplishment, being named the best tasting water in all of Virginia. We won the award two years in a row, then finished second three years in a row, before winning again this year.”
   The sample was collected from the Blue Springs Water Treatment Plant which draws its waters from the historic Blue Springs, located along the mountain in Rose Hill. “This spring has been referenced by many historical figures, such as Captain Joseph Martin and Captain Daniel Boone,” explained Brindle. “In fact, Boone has been referenced as watering his horses at the spring during his travels along the Wilderness Road Trail in the 18th century, which was then known as Boone’s Trace. And John Redd mentioned the spring when describing the location of Joseph Martin’s fort, which was built in 1775 in Rose Hill, between Blue Springs and
Martin’s Creek.”

   The Lee County PSA will now compete in the National Rural
Water Association’s Water Taste Contest, competing with
utilities all across the country. “The last time we competed at
the national level, we finished in the Top 10, which is another
great accomplishment for our utility and our area.”

   The National Rural Water Association’s conference will be
held September 26-29, 2022 in National Harbor, MD. The Blue
Springs Water Treatment Plant serves approximately 790
households and 1,960 customers.

Pictured, left to right: Martin Taylor, Jacob Harris, Grant Bledsoe, Mike Thomas & Mike Brindle

Elydale Middle School Visits KVS Plant

Students from Elydale Middle School took a field trip to tour the KVS Water Treatment Plant on Tuesday, April 12, 2022. Pictures provided by Elydale Middle School staff.

(To scroll through the photos, click the arrows on each side of the photos)

May 5, 2021

PSA Welcomes New Member, Learns Of Project Funding

The Lee County Public Service Authority board of directors on Tuesday, April 27 welcomed a new board member and also received word of funding for advancement of a water project during their regular monthly meeting. Harold Jerrell was in attendance as the new District 1 board member for the PSA with the county Board of Supervisors approving his appointment earlier in the month. Executive Director Tracy Puckett announced the PSA was successful in receiving $315,000 for the Blackwater Phase II water project from the Appalachian Regional
Commission. “We were not expecting an announcement until August, so this will allow us to speed up the process
and hopefully get public water service to the citizens of Blackwater sooner than anticipated,” said Puckett. “We
are thrilled that this announcement came so soon. This is the final piece of funding needed for the Blackwater
project, which will be 100 percent grant dollars, which is also a great accomplishment. An announcement from
Governor Ralph Northam about several ARC funding projects included the Blackwater project which continues the
previously ARC-funded Lee County Blackwater Phase I water system, which will provide new potable public water
to 21 households and 46 customers. The project will install approximately 21,590 linear feet of water distribution
lines and related appurtenances to provide water service with no public water system existing within the project
area. Puckett spoke abut the recently held Virginia Rural Water Association (VRWA) annual conference which was
conducted virtually. He said that Mike Brindle was elected to serve on the VRWA board of directors with Brindle
promoted to Assistant Director for the PSA back in 2020. “This is a major accomplishment for the PSA and Lee
County,” said Puckett who also serves on the VRWA board. “To have two seats on the nine-member board is quite an accomplishment.” 

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Mike Brindle

August 20, 2020

Lee PSA Director Announces State Award For Blakley

Tracy and Doug award.jpg

     (Jonesville, VA)…. Lee County Public Service Authority (PSA) Executive Director Tracy Puckett recently presented Doug Blakley with the Virginia Rural Water Association (VRWA) award naming him the 2020 Maintenance Technician of the Year for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Doug serves as the Maintenance Superintendent for the Lee County PSA.

     Doug has accumulated more than 37 years of experience with multiple water and wastewater systems, beginning his career at the early age of 18 working for the St. Charles Water Authority to his current position where he serves as Maintenance Superintendent for the Lee County Public Service Authority.

     Doug holds a Class V Water Operator License and is one of the best kept secrets in the state. While Doug holds a wealth of knowledge in various aspects of the water & wastewater field, he is best known for his ability to perform water leak detection, which has served the PSA well, as we have consistently improved

our water accountability each year, even after undertaking the huge task of accepting ownership and responsibility of the aged and fractured infrastructure of the St. Charles Water and Sewer Authority’s water and wastewater system. Doug has also drastically reduced I & I in our wastewater collection systems as well.

     Doug not only serves within the confines of the PSA, but he assists neighboring and local utilities in meeting their regulatory criteria as well. He also is called upon from time to time to assist different contractors with new installation projects, saving them a considerable amount of time and money.

     Doug is an honorable man who believes in ethics, hard work and dedication, giving 100% each day, serving tirelessly and selflessly in any capacity and expects the same from his staff. Doug will never ask any of his men to do something that he wouldn’t do himself, and more often than not, he is the technician right in the middle of any repair or technical issue. He and his crew often brave the harshest elements as they identify and make pertinent repairs in the different facets of water and wastewater maintenance.  

Tracy Puckett and Doug Blakley

May 15, 2018

Lee PSA Director Provides Updates, Announces Awards

     (Jonesville, VA)…. Lee County Public Service Authority (PSA) Executive Director Tracy Puckett recently provided updates concerning the authority’s mission while also announcing several awards the PSA received during Virginia Rural Water Association’s 2018 Conference held last month (April) at the historic Hotel Roanoke.

     Puckett recently celebrated his four-year anniversary heading the Lee County PSA, during which time the PSA has completed several projects, added many new customers, doubled the size of the staff, significantly improved water accountability, upgraded the water plants and more.

     The director says it’s been a great four years but quickly noted that the fourth year may have been the most challenging yet the most rewarding. “We’ve enjoyed a lot of success in these four years, but I’m most proud of this past year,” Puckett explained. “In November 2016 we lost just about everything in the fire that totally destroyed our building. For some, a devastating fire like that takes years to overcome. But, the tireless and selfless effort of our staff and Board of Directors; Aaron Stacy, Bill Carter, Robert Horton, Richard Shuler and Roger Gates, along with former board members Mark Carter, Carl Bailey and Mike Brindle, allowed us to surpass where we were before the fire in less than a year. I’m very proud of that.”               

     Puckett says he also owes a lot to Lee County Administrator Dane Poe and the entire Lee County Board of Supervisors. “We had no place to go,” he stated. “Dane and the Board of

Lee County PSA Director Tracy Puckett

Supervisors; Robert Smith, Nathan Cope, Larry Mosley, Charles Slemp and D.D. Leonard, went above and beyond and allowed us to use the airport so we could begin to get back to business as soon as possible.”

     Some of the accomplishments Puckett noted include a $3.8 million upgrade to Hickory Flats Waste Water Treatment Plant and adding many customers through projects such as: Frog Level, Baileytown, Thompson Settlement, Elydale Replacement, Caylor Replacement, McClin Hollow extension, Norray Road extension, and Thomas Hollow extension.

     “We are also on the threshold of the Giles Hollow project and replacing the entire Fields area,” added Puckett. “We have applied for funding for both of those projects and Frog Level Phase II has been approved and layout for that project is 80% complete. Isopod Road is getting ready to go out for bid.”

     During the past four years, the PSA has become more efficient, doubling its maintenance staff and office staff. “When I came to the PSA, we only had one licensed water plant operator on staff,” explained Puckett. “We now have five licensed operators and three operators-in-training. On the sewer side, we went from nine part-time staff to four licensed operators and two operators-in-training.”

Puckett also noted other upgrades including new vehicles to the PSA fleet, master meters in the Western portion of the county, with work soon on master meters for the Eastern portion of the county. The KVS Quarry that serves customers from Rose Hill west has been upgraded with state-of-the-art equipment and technology. A similar upgrade is due on the Blue Springs Water Treatment Plant very soon. Both water plants, Hickory Flats and all pump stations now have backup generators to help prevent customers from incurring interruption during power outages. And to keep customers safe, the PSA now has constant monitoring of water and sewer, via samples, while also monitoring accountability.     

     The PSA has earned respect and credibility throughout the State of Virginia, with Puckett last year elected to serve on the VRWA Board of Directors. “That respect was earned with hard work and extraordinary effort by our staff and board, which are second to none,” he explained.

Puckett and Scott Short

     The efforts of the PSA have not gone unnoticed. At the VRWA Conference a few weeks ago, the authority was awarded first place in the VRWA Annual Drinking Water Taste Test for best tasting drinking water in Virginia for the second year in a row. The sample that was judged came from the PSA’s Blue Springs Water Treatment Plant in Rose Hill.

     “It was truly an honor to win that award for the second year in a row,” stated Puckett. “It’s been a long time since that award has been won two years in a row. In fact, it’s very rare.”

     The PSA will now represent the State of Virginia and compete in the Great American Water Taste Test which takes place in Washington, D.C. next February (2019).     

     Office Manager Scottie Short was honored with the VRWA Office Worker of the Year award. Short has been employed by the Lee County PSA for more than 13 years, but has only been in the Office Manager’s position for just one year. “He was thrust into this position in one of 

the most difficult times one can imagine,” explained Puckett. “The PSA office and nearly all of our records, files and computers perished in a fire that completely destroyed the building.”

     Soon after the fire, Short, who had some experience with the PSA’s office software, volunteered to assist with getting the PSA office back in working order, no small task considering QuickBooks, billing and payments (among others) had to be rebuilt from scratch. In a short amount of time, he showcased his skills and was promptly promoted to the office manager’s position. And in just one year’s time, under Scott’s enthusiastic leadership, selfless commitment and unmatched work ethic, the PSA office has fully recovered and has now exceeded where they were before the fire.

     “I was working in the field at the time of the fire, but because I had done some computer troubleshooting for the office in the past, Tracy asked me to come into the office and help get the PSA back on it’s feet,” explained Short. “One of the biggest challenges was getting all the customer information back into the system.”

     To overcome that challenge, Short oftentimes arrived early to work and stayed well beyond normal closing time. “The extra time was worth it to make sure the recovery from the fire had as little impact on our customers as possible,” Short stated. “The support from Tracy (Puckett), the staff and our board made a difficult situation so much more manageable.”     

Wasterwater Treatment Plant operator Jacob Harris was awarded the VRWA Wastewater Rookie of the Year. He was hired at the Lee

County PSA in 2016 and currently has a Class 4 Wastewater Treatment license, preparing to acquire a Class 3 license. He is also currently an Operator-in-Training, on track to get his Class 4 Water Treatment license very soon and is very active in the community, serving on the Jonesville Volunteer Fire Department.

     “Jacob has shown an unwavering willingness to learn and the ability to pick things up quickly,” explained Puckett. “He currently helps to maintain our Rose Hill Wastewater Treatment Plant while also assisting at both of our water treatment facilities at KVS and Blue Springs and at our Hickory Flats Wastewater Treatment Plant.”

     “Winning this award was such a pleasant surprise,” Harris explained. “I love working at the PSA and I appreciate everyone that had a hand in showing me the ropes and teaching me how to work in the plants. I also appreciate Tracy (Puckett) for having the confidence in me to nominate me for this award.”


Puckett with Jacob Harris

Tracy Puckett and Jacob Harris

Tracy Puckett and Scott Short

Tracy Puckett



In keeping with our commitment to maintain minimal rates for sewer service, the Lee Co PSA is asking all of its sewer customers to refrain from flushing anything down the toilet except human waste and toilet paper. This includes any and all items that may be labeled "flushable". Any items flushed down the toilet except for human waste and toilet paper creates numerous issues for your service lines, the PSA's lines, our pump stations, and ultimately, our treatment facility, which increases operating costs, and thus increases customer costs.

Help us keep the rates you pay at a minimum. We certainly appreciate your cooperation and understanding on this matter. 


                                                                                                 ~ PSA Management

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Be sure to sign up for Text Alerts and for an Online Account!

Next Board of Directors Meeting is Tuesday, May 28 at 3 p.m.

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