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Rob Schab

Coos Bay-North Bend Water Board general manager Rob Schab is retiring after a nearly 40-year career. Schab started out as a water treatment operator in Illinois, working his way up the ladder before moving to Coos Bay 22 years ago to work with the water board here.

COOS BAY — Rob Schab, general manager of the Coos Bay-North Bend Water Board for 22 years, is retiring at the end of this month.

The 61-year-old Schab joined the water board as general manager in 1994, coming from Moline, Ill.

He said he's proud of the groundwork laid on his watch for the utility's future.

In 2001, the water board expanded its Upper Pony Creek reservoir system, tripling its storage capacity — a move that served the community well this summer, when low rainfall was stressing water supplies elsewhere in the region. 

In 2013, it completed an upgrade to the treatment system.

The next step is upgrading the water mains and distribution system, a 20-year project that the water board is well positioned to undertake, Schab said.

"The board has done a good job on anticipating and planning for these type of expenditures," he said. "Over 22 years, with the improvements made in supply, treatment and distribution, we've invested over 50 million in capital improvements, and that has been accomplished by adjusting rates less than 4 percent a year for the last 22 years."

About 38 people work for the water board.

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"In a leadership role I have an opportunity to bring things forward, but it takes all the employees of the water board to make it happen, and it takes the board members to make the decisions and move these projects forward," he said.

Schab's wife, Diana, recently retired as dean of career technical education at Southwestern Oregon Community College, and Schab said the couple plan to remain in the community.

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"When Diana and I moved here 22 years ago, a big part of the decision was because we wanted to live here," he said.

Schab got his bachelor's degree in environmental studies and started his career at an engineering firm. "Shortly after I got to the city of Moline, I knew the water industry was where I wanted to be," he said. "I've often told people there's no other job I wished I had."

Over the course of his career, he's obtained an MBA and an AS degree in civil engineering technology.

In addition to helping keep the water flowing, Schab has served the community as a judo instructor and the coach of SWOCC's judo program. The college has a children's judo program through the Community Education department, and the adult program is a credit class in the physical education department. Schab has been practicing judo for 40 years.  

The water board's new general manager, Ivan Thomas, is coming from Asheville, N.C., and will start work Dec. 28. 

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News editor Gail Elber can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 243, or via email at gail.elber@theworldlink.com.

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