Global Conversation: Randy Hayman, Commissioner at the Philadelphia Water Department.

By Leeannah McNew


Randy Hayman, Esq. Commissioner and CEO of the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), will be the recipient of Global Philadelphia’s 2021 Globy Award for sustainability leadership on December 13. Hayman, who started as commissioner for the PWD in 2019, served as the general counsel for 15 years at the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority and the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, before arriving in Philadelphia. He was also a partner at the environmental law firm, Beveridge and Diamond, in D.C.


Global Philadelphia had the opportunity to speak to Hayman about his nomination, sustainability, and his role at the PWD. 


Leeannah McNew: Congratulations on being nominated in the category of sustainability leadership. How do you feel about it?


Randy Hayman: Thank you! I’m very excited about receiving this award on behalf of the Philadelphia Water Department. It’s definitely an honor and I appreciate that the work the department is doing is being recognized. 


LM: Absolutely! What interested you in getting involved at the Philadelphia Water Department?

RH: The Philadelphia Water Department has a great reputation across the country and some of the best water professionals. I was a general counsel for 15 years, so it was an excellent opportunity to grow and expand from what I was doing. Now, I am the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department. 

LM: You worked at both the D.C. and St. Louis water departments, what was your time like there and how did it prepare you for your current role?

RH: I was really lucky in St. Louis and D.C. that I had great mentors who were commissioners and executive directors, so I was able to develop an understanding and appreciation for how water utilities work beyond the legal arena. I had a lot of responsibility, respect, and was able to take on different challenges. 

LM: Were there any lessons that you may have learned while at the D.C. or St. Louis water departments that you are applying to your role here in Philadelphia?

RH: I have found that water utilities are comprised of many smart, dedicated, and creative employees—that’s a quality which gives you room to think outside the box and develop new solutions to old problems. You must be transparent when dealing with the organization and the public. When I worked in St. Louis, we always looked at Philly as a leader for infrastructure. Philadelphia’s widespread use of green stormwater infrastructure as a solution to combined sewer overflows was truly innovative, and in St. Louis, we were able to bring that approach forward but had to fight for it since it was considered weird science at the time. 

In D.C., they looked to St. Louis and Philly and wanted to change their approach to match the productive green innovations being implemented in those communities. When you are introducing or changing infrastructure within the water department, it’s always difficult because you need to interact with so many agencies, such as the EPA at the national level, as well as state and local government. 

LM: How important is sustainability when working at the Philadelphia Water Department?

RH: Sustainability and protecting the environment is what we’re about every day at the Philadelphia Water Department. A prime example is the Green City, Clean Waters plan

Over the past decade, this plan has accomplished more than 800 green infrastructure sites in dozens of neighborhoods that feature more than 3,000 individual green tools, like rain gardens. This has created nearly 2,000 greened acres, with each soaking up a SEPTA bus-sized (+27,000-gallon) load of polluted runoff during a one-inch storm. All of this adds up to an estimated 2.7-billion-gallon reduction in annual combined sewer overflows, representing an approximately 21% improvement from 2011. 

LM: That’s amazing! What are some sustainable practices the city is putting in place for a more sustainable future?

RH: Our approach to reducing stormwater pollution is very much focused on a more sustainable future; it’s in our DNA now. Our Climate Change Adaptation Program is allowing us to look at the best science available and plan for a changing world — critical work that is needed to ensure we will have reliable, safe drinking water and other core services well into the future. In addition to our own infrastructure investments, we are working with businesses and developers, and others to encourage green infrastructure on existing properties, as well as require stormwater management through development regulations for new construction.  These activities not only reduce water pollution but can also help make Philadelphia a greener, healthier, and more resilient city. 

Sustainability is a complex issue that requires us to collaborate with the entire city of Philadelphia. The City’s Office of Sustainability is a very important partner of ours and we work with them to improve the quality of life in all Philadelphia neighborhoods, reduce the City’s carbon emissions, and prepare Philadelphia for a hotter, wetter future.

LM: Could you tell me about your decision to attend law school and how it has shaped your career?

RH: I come from a family that is very dedicated to pursuing education. My grandparents graduated from Philander Smith College in 1907 and 1908. My father went to the University of Kansas where he graduated with a Bachelors and Masters in 1930. My parents were dedicated to allowing their children to go as far as they wanted academically. My drive to attend law school has made me the leader I am today. By pursuing a law degree, I was able to sharpen my skills to analyze situations, so I could become a proactive problem-solver. All of these are skills that I needed to be a leader in the Water Department. It also put me in a good position to be a leader in the organizations and boards I serve on. 

LM: How do you see Philadelphia as a global city?

RH: Philadelphia is naturally a global city. It has a lot of drive, and the people want to make a difference. They are dedicated and fearless. The work we do at Philadelphia Water affects not only Philadelphia but is a guiding light for other communities in the U.S. as well as across the world. Our commitment to green infrastructure and clean water is important in making a difference and I’m so proud it’s being noticed around the world.