It was a natural for William Fruhwirth to get into the water business. He was practically born into the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) back in 1954. His dad, Eugene Fruhwirth, was chief of operations at what was then called Tarrant Water Control Improvement District Number 1. It was a much smaller enterprise in the 1950s, with probably only 15-20 employees. What would become today’s TRWD, providing water to more than 2.1 million people across 11 North Texas counties, started with humble beginnings, just like William’s career in the organization.
This September, William celebrates his 50th anniversary with TRWD. He has many great memories from over the years and many great friends that make his job enjoyable and worthwhile.
Ask a person why they have stayed with an organization for so long, and you’re likely to hear good words about the way people are treated, the opportunities for growth, the feeling that you’re doing something that really matters, and the people who make things work day-by-day together. It’s rare in today’s world to find employees who still enjoy their jobs and remain committed after 50 years – for William and several other longtime TRWD staffers with anniversaries coming up, this milestone is a true celebration.
William started with the water district not long after graduating high school. He worked some odd jobs at first, including being part of the asphalt crew when the first runway was built for the new Dallas/Fort Worth airport. That was a pretty significant time for North Texas.
From that job, he joined TRWD.
“The year was 1973,” he said. “I started with TRWD’s Eagle Mountain operations, doing everything from mowing to fence building and concrete work, and from carpenter’s helper to general maintenance. I learned as I went along.”
He moved from Eagle Mountain to TRWD’s Fort Worth operations in 1974, where he did everything from mechanic and carpentry work to pouring concrete.
“The floodway levee system was just built, so a lot was involved with those operations, like construction of flume channels and drop inlets that funnel water through pipes into the river,” he said.
Starting around 1976, William worked on the mechanic truck crew. He became vehicle maintenance supervisor in the mid 80s and then switched to floodway supervisor. By 1998, he had returned to Eagle Mountain to do permitting work on both new construction and modifications to the district’s public water supply facilities, and this is the job he remains in today. His current title is Permitting Supervisor.
A typical day in his world involves permitting docks, surveying retaining walls, keeping up with raw water usage on golf courses, reading meters for the city of Azle and surrounding municipalities, monitoring oil and gas lease properties from Lake Bridgeport to Eagle Mountain, and overseeing everything in between that runs along the river. His job is mostly out in the field, so on most days, you’ll find William in his TRWD truck, driving from location to location on inspections.
Things have come a long way since William was born. The water district was just 30 years old when he was a toddler, and the Eagle Mountain and Bridgeport lakes were about that young as well.
If you’d like to learn about Tarrant County history over the last 50 years, William is the man to ask. He saw the old Leonard’s Department Store parking lot go up on the Trinity River’s West Fork and Clear Fork confluence as a kid in the 50s, along with construction of the subway from Leonard’s to the former Fort Worth Tandy Center. The water district’s office was also located downtown back then. All that has changed now, yet it remains in his mind very clearly as part of the community’s old days that helped shape Tarrant County and North Texas in significant ways.
He remembers a boat called the Trinity Belle, sometimes used for delivering payroll to TRWD Cedar Creek employees in the 50s. He witnessed construction of the Marine Creek and Cement Creek dams before Interstate 820 was even on local community planners’ radar. He was just a kid at the time, before the highways and other transportation conveniences we take for granted today were around.
“It was a whole different time – I remember when the water district vehicles came with only a heater. There was no radio, no air conditioning or power steering. The heater was a real luxury,” William said.
William remembers bits and pieces of the 1957 Texas drought and flood from his childhood.
“The water lines were so low, they were dynamiting tree stumps in the Eagle Mountain Lake basin to clear the lake bottom of potential hazards,” he said.
He witnessed construction of the Trinity levee system on 27 miles of flood plain from the mid 1950s up to its completion around 1975. His grandfather, Ashby Turner, was also a water district employee, starting in 1958 with the Cedar Creek Lake project until its completion in the 1970s.
Ashby retired in his late 60s, and William’s dad worked for the water district until his passing at age 66.
It’s easy to see that the rolling waters run deep in this family’s roots.
Looking back over his 50 years with TRWD, William says he especially values all the friends he’s made and the support his colleagues have given him.
Of all the TRWD jobs he’s taken on, William says he considers tractor mowing to be the most satisfying, “because you can look back behind you at the end of the day and see what you’ve accomplished.”
Looking back with pride – and looking forward with more still to do – is how William sees his life and his TRWD work history.
“There are days that challenge you, there are days that really give you a whipping, and there are just plain good days – it’s all part of the job,” he said.
And it seems that William wouldn’t trade a single day for anything in the world.