Profile of David Austin, Board Member, LSP Board of Registration 

By: Katherine Robertson, Robertson Associates, and LSPA communications consultant

This is the sixth in a series of articles profiling current members of the LSP Board of Registration.

When the call went out in 2012 for new LSP Board members, David Austin immediately raised his hand. He knew the Board; he knew the mission; and he knew what would be expected of him.

Austin, who has more than 25 years of experience under his belt, was named to the seat reserved for an LSP with petroleum experience. It has been a perfect fit.

“Over the course of my career, the majority of my work has been MCP and LSP work,” he said. “I’ve worked on a large variety of projects for the public and private sector, homeowners, and Fortune 500 companies. It’s provided me with experience and exposure to different situations which dovetails into being on the Board and holding that seat.”

 David Austin, LSP Board member, hits the slopes 

Photo by Ryan Guinto

That experience, coupled with exposure to the Board through attending meetings as co-chair of the LSPA’s Technical Practice Committee, familiarized him with the dynamics of the Board and the issues he would face. He did not go in blind.

It was, he said, the right opportunity at the right time. “I was interested because I had a lot of LSP experience with different types of clients and projects and could bring the perspective of a seasoned professional to the Board, and because I had time in my life and career to do so. It excited me.”

Austin, a Senior Project Manager operating out of AECOM’s Chelmsford office since 2000, works primarily on projects in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but has also been involved with sites throughout New England and elsewhere in the United States. An LSP since 1994, he also became a Licensed Environmental Professional (LEP) in Connecticut in 1998 and has been registered as a Professional Geologist in New Hampshire since 2002.

Austin moved to Massachusetts from New York after graduating from the State University of New York at Oneonta in 1985, and worked briefly for an engineering firm. “In the late 80s, with MGL c. 21E in effect and the first version of the MCP promulgated, geologists were in demand and I wanted to get into the environmental consulting field,” he said. After a short time with the BSC Group, he linked up with Clean Harbors Environmental Services in 1989, where he spent nearly a decade doing environmental assessment and remediation, including work on spill sites. “Early in my career, I just happened to have these opportunities thrown into my lap where I managed some big projects and gained a good deal of experience.”

Austin’s projects included a MassDEP priority site suspected of impacting downgradient private wells. For a short period, the neighborhood was represented by Jan Schlichtmann. He was also involved with a project where a site’s former use and operation was suspected as the cause of an autism cluster, and with a number of Public Involvement Plan (PIP) sites involving attorneys, public relations specialists, and community organizations. “It just happened that I had sites like that,” he said. “I really enjoyed the project management aspects of the work, pulling in all the expertise you needed. I realized that the profession and the work was something I was interested in.”

Early on in his career, Austin recognized that he needed his license if he wanted to continue the type of work he was doing, and he took and passed the first LSP exam. “Based upon my experiences with other state regulations, the Massachusetts program is great to work with if you want to get things done,” he said.

Austin did not come to the Board with an agenda. “There wasn’t anything I was looking to fulfill,” he said. “I just wanted to be part of the process.” And, he adds, the timing couldn’t have been better. “It was exciting to be there with new people, especially people I already knew,” he said. “And it was great that there were a number of long-term members who had the knowledge of history to keep things moving and bring the new people up to speed.” 2013 was a year of transition for the Board. Austin was appointed in June 2013 along with Bob Rein (filling the seat reserved for an LSP employed by a manufacturing firm involved with the use of hazardous materials); James Smith came aboard in September (filling the seat reserved for a labor organization member who is knowledgeable about responding to releases of oil and hazardous materials), followed in October by Kathy Campbell (filling an at-large LSP seat). All totaled, over one-third of the 11-member Board was new. That said, everything went off without a hitch. “The transition was pretty smooth,” Austin notes. “Everyone was pretty confident that they could get up to speed.”

Austin’s experiences as a Board member have been pretty much what he expected. “I’ve been involved with all the normal month-to-month stuff - the exam committee, application review panels, and looking at new complaints that have come in.” There have only been two new complaints during the time he has been on the Board, he noted, crediting it to the fact that, maybe after 20-plus years, LSPs have been through enough audits and training to understand what it expected of them. He is currently on one Complaint Review Team (CRT).

The only thing he wasn’t expecting from his work on the Board was his heavy involvement in drafting the new LSP exam which is expected to be given in May and June 2015. “It’s been a great deal of work but totally worthwhile,” he said. Putting together questions from a cross section of his project experience and drawing from the 2014 MCP Amendments, and working with LSPs and others on the LSP Board exam committee has been rewarding.

As of late February 2015, he estimates that approximately 15 applicants had been approved to sit for the upcoming new exam and, like most of his experiences on the Board, Austin finds his work on the Application Review Panels fulfilling. “There’s an excitement there,” he said. “It’s an enjoyable conversation where the panels talk about how we view the industry and where we see it going, and what kind of work experiences are applicable. It is nice getting new LSPs into the field,” he said.

That said, Austin is looking forward to getting the new exam done. He would also like to see the Board rounded out and have the one remaining empty seat filled. And, like other members of the Board, he would prefer to see the CRT process move more quickly.

Revisions to the regulations are long overdue, he said, and he would like to see that process – which is already well underway – wrapped up by next year.

Austin has remained an active member of the LSPA’s Technical Practices Committee (TPC). “I go to TPC and LSPA membership meetings,” he said. “There is much camaraderie.” Austin also maintains his involvement in the MassDEP Greener Cleanups Workgroup.

While the LSPA and the Board are distinct organizations with completely different mandates and missions, Austin is pleased to see that a good working relationship has developed between the two. Representatives of the LSPA are present at Board meetings, which has led to greater understanding of the Board’s business and priorities. The Board, on the other hand, has benefitted from the LSPA’s insights. “The LSPA knows what the LSP community wants and has been able to keep its fingers on the pulse of what the Board is doing. “

With nearly two years in, Austin enjoys “the ability to keep tabs on the LSP profession, seeing new LSPs coming into the fold and knowing, from my LSP experience, that I can provide feedback and input on matters from that perspective. Having been in the trenches for a long time, I see myself well-positioned to provide insight.”

And his time on the Board has not soured him from serving. “There are challenges and frustrations that come up occasionally: I can deal with these and they were expected.”

“It is worthwhile to be an experienced LSP and bring that viewpoint to the Board.”