Even today it is unusual to find a woman working in municipal wastewater treatment.
It was even more unusual 37 years ago when she started, said Paula Westrem, who began her career in Hampton and recently retired after 21 years as the Osage wastewater superintendent.
"It just kind of fell into my lap," she said. "It just worked."
Westrem started out as a wastewater lab tech for the city of Hampton, where she worked her way up the ladder to wastewater superintendent.
She said her favorite part of the job has always been "making sure that all of our water quality was good."
Osage Mayor Steve Cooper and Public Works Director Jerry Dunlay presented Westrem with a plaque before a recent council meeting honoring her for her many years of service to the city.
"She did an excellent job," Dunlay said.
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Dunlay, who hired Westrem in 1998, said he remembers her putting up wallpaper.
"Can you imagine a treatment plant with wallpaper?" he said.
Westrem also was great when it came to a different kind of paper, according to Dunlay.
Running a wastewater plant requires a lot of paperwork, and Westrem's was always "to a T every month," he said.
When staff from the Department of Natural Resources came to the plant, they would comment, "this is what you want to see when you come into an office," Dunlay said.
"Paula, for that I thank you very much," he said.