Shared from the 11/2/2020 Mon Valley Independent eEdition

Carroll Twp. man’s long health struggle leads to award

Chris Sekora was able to return to work after having a brain tumor removed.


Submitted Wendy Malehorn of the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association presents Authority of the Borough of Charleroi plant foreman Chris Sekora with the Water Operator of the Year Award.

Chris Sekora’s hard work in the face of adversity paid off Friday when he was named Water Operator of the Year by the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association.

Sekora, a Charleroi native, now lives in Carroll Township and works full time as a Class A operator for the Authority of the Borough of Charleroi.

The award is presented each year by the PRWA to an operator who has shown the dedication and perseverance to go above and beyond job expectations.

Sekora’s colleagues say there’s no one more deserving.

Sekora took a temporary position with the Authority while he was in college in 2000. After he graduated in 2004 with a degree in mechanical engineering, a full-time position presented itself and he jumped at the opportunity.

“I liked the guys and people I worked with and for, and I enjoyed the work,” Sekora said. “When I got out of school and started looking for a full-time career, they gave me an opportunity and I knew I would be happy here, so I took it.”

He started in the Authority’s Distribution Department as a serviceman who made repairs to faulty pipes, flushed and repaired hydrants and read meters.

Chad Warfield, director of operations, said Sekora has been an asset from the beginning.

“Chris’ attention to detail proved to be a vital asset to the Authority, so he was given additional responsibilities of inspecting water-line installations,” Warfield said. “Chris could always be counted on to go above and beyond typical job duties and was a problem solver and leader.”

In 2007, he obtained his Distribution (E) license and continued to work as a distribution serviceman until he was promoted in 2017.

“Chris was moved to the water treatment plant and promoted to the position of plant foreman because of his dedication to his job, his attention to detail and his commitment to bettering himself and the Authority,” Warfield said. “The Authority Water Treatment Plant is a Suez Zeeweed 500D Membrane plant controlled by PLC and SCADA. Chris was an easy choice to fill the position, with a degree in mechanical engineering and prior experience as an employee for an electrical contractor.”

It didn’t take long for him to learn the ropes of his new position.

“Chris adapted well to the position and quickly became knowledgeable of the plant’s operations,” Warfield said. Sekora became acquainted with the inner workings of the Authority’s SCADA System and implemented new maintenance procedures to improve the daily, weekly and monthly maintenance schedules.

Sekora decided to further enhance his skills and began to study in preparation for testing to obtain his Class A operator’s certification.

He intended to take his test in early 2019, but received tragic news in 2018 when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that doctors said contributed to severe headaches he had been experiencing.

After being rushed to an area hospital, he was scheduled for surgery to remove the benign tumor the following day. Doctors at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh removed a tumor the size of an orange from his brain.

He spent weeks in recovery, working to regain his balance, walk on his own, refine his motor skills and regain his strength.

While his eyesight suffered from the surgery and he struggled to regain sight in one eye, he continued on his path to recovery. When he was able, he started studying where he left off in preparation to take the test for his Class A certification .

However, doctors found a small portion of the tumor that they were unable to remove, which had begun to grow again.

Sekora had to go through a series of radiation treatments, and while undergoing radiation suffered a series of seizures that caused him to lose his driving privileges.

Struggling to see and recover from major surgery, while still in radiation treatments, Sekora never lost sight of his goal.

On April 9, 2019, he returned to the Authority as the water plant foreman, with the only restriction being that he could not operate a vehicle.

The Authority made accommodations for Sekora, and the plant superintendent and management covered his on-call services as he settled back in to work.

Family and friends helped him through his recovery and made sure he had transportation to work each day. In May, only a few weeks after returning to his job, Sekora passed his test for Class A Operator certification In October 2019, his driving privileges were restored by PennDOT and he now works without restrictions.

Warfield said Sekora deserves the honor he received this week.

“Seeing Chris’ recovery was a testament to the person that he is,” Warfield said. “He is a loyal, dedicated person who is goal oriented. Watching Chris recover parallels his work ethic on the job.

“He worked hard to regain his strength and ability to be independent again and on the job he puts the same effort into bettering himself and the Authority as well.”

Sekora is honored and proud of how far he has come.

“I was totally shocked when they told me I would be receiving this award,” he said. “It really is an honor and it makes me feel good because I am so proud of what I do and I know there are a lot of other people who are deserving of this.

“It has been a rough two years for me, but I am getting through it. I might not be 100%, but I am trying my best.” Sekora is thankful for the family members, friends and co-workers who helped him get through a tough experience.

“Everyone has done so much for me, from the board, management to the guys I work with,” Sekora said. “Everyone has stepped up in a big way to make my job easy. I appreciate it more than they know.”

Warfield said the Authority knows how lucky it is to have Sekora on board.

“Chris is the type of worker that every employer should be so lucky to have,” Warfield said. “The Authority of the Borough of Charleroi is fortunate enough to have Chris as an employee and we are proud to see that he has recovered and succeeded in his career goals.”

Sekora has modest plans for the future.

“I just want to stay healthy,” he said. “I’ve learned that anything can change at any moment. I want to keep moving forward and just keep doing the best I can.

“More importantly, I want to thank everyone, from the bottom of my heart, for helping me get to where I am.”

Sekora is the first Authority employee to be awarded Operator of The Year honors, but he is not the only employee who has won.

Fred Roberts, who was hired as a Distribution Foreman at the Authority in November 2019, won the award while employed at Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority in Frederick-town.

“It has been a rough two years for me, but I am getting through it. I might not be 100%, but I am trying my best.”

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