You can give Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, CEO of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), and the 750
Sewer District employees a lot of credit for the region’s cleaner water and its vastly improved sewer and stormwater management. CEO since 2017, Dreyfuss-Wells has also supported billions of dollars in infrastructure that protects public health and the environment.
She oversees a $270 million capital budget, a $170 million operating budget and a $43 million stormwater budget. An important focus of her work is the multi-billion-dollar Project Clean Lake, a 25-year program that became official in 2011 as an agreement with NEORSD, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice and the state of Ohio. The goal is to reduce the total volume of raw sewage discharges from 4.5 billion gallons annually to less than 500 million gallons annually.
As of April 2023, 72 of the program’s 82 planned projects have been completed or are active. Almost 1.7 billion gallons in annual combined sewer overflow reduction occurred last year, and an additional 300 million gallons should be counted by the end of this year.
Another important focus Dreyfuss-Wells points out is the Regional Stormwater Management Program, which addresses inner community drainage issues. It takes collaboration to come up with solutions that will work best for the communities in the region.
It is a standout effort to get everyone covered by Sewer District on board with the same goals. Dreyfuss-Wells continues to be known for her leadership, insightful decisions and her ability to inspire NEORSD employees. She works with a whole range of partners, including local, regional, state and federal government officials and nonprofit and environmental groups. This past January, her contract with the Sewer District was extended through 2028.
Dreyfuss-Wells attributes her impact to “focusing on running an effective and efficient utility” and “questioning every expenditure” that ultimately affects every customer. Her goal is to do things “better, cheaper and smarter.”
“We passed new sewer and stormwater rates for 2022-2026. It is a 4.2% annual rate increase. I know that is significant. But it is the lowest rate in decades. We also successfully re-negotiated part of our Project Clean Lake plans, and that resulted in both construction savings and long-term operation savings,” says Dreyfuss-Wells.
The CEO’s leadership style is to “bring a lot of people into a decision-making conversation.” That strategy also allows a “diverse range of opinions,” which strengthens any group action, she says.
“I ask a lot of questions, and that can be a little off-putting sometimes. But I have so many questions on many topics because I want to deeply understand what is going on,” says Dreyfus-Wells. “And to me, follow-up questions are a sign of respect. It shows I am really interested in what your colleagues are doing. Then I will call it. I do not suffer from analysis paralysis.”
Making tough but confident decisions also demands that Dreyfuss-Wells takes some downtime for her mental and physical health. Her passion is competitive show jumping.
“I’m a one-trick pony. It’s basically what I make time for and what I like to do,” says Dreyfuss-Wells. “I put it on hold for a long time. But I got back into it with the urgency of someone who knows her time (in the sport) is limited. At least if I fall off my horse now, I know I can get back up.”