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Quirky, headstrong and full of humorous anecdotes, Kent Williams is not really someone to argue with. “I have been accused of being in the aquatics industry and being an aquatics professional and, really, I’m neither,” says the president/founder of the Professional Pool Operators of America, a not-for-profit organization that unites aquatics professionals across the country.

He actually prefers operators who aren’t focused strictly on aquatics. “The swimming pool is a mechanical facility — mechanical, electrical and chemical,” Williams says. “A pool guy who speaks English as a second language, didn’t finish high school and can’t swim a lap, but he’s one hell of a pool guy — that’s the guy I love training.”

Since starting PPOA in 1993, Williams has been doing exactly that. In fact, to be part of his 1,500-member organization, you must be a graduate of a recognized pool-operator curriculum, an instructor or a pool-assigned environmental health specialist. Williams teaches the National Recreation & Park Association’s Aquatic Facility Operator course once a month to approximately 40 students per class.

“They’re truly professional because they are fully certified,” he says. His PPOA membership stretches to Canada, Europe, Australia, Central America, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. The group aims to recognize, acknowledge, train and refine the operators of institutional and public aqua-tics facilities throughout the Americas (and now the developed world).

The 67-year-old Williams is still not sure how he got involved in aquatics. “I never thought I’d get into the business of the pool system and design and water treatment itself,” he says.

Though he runs a consulting business, he puts most of his time into PPOA, headquartered in Newcastle, Calif., where he also lives. PPOA also publishes the Pumproom Press, a quarterly newsletter. Through it, Williams writes on a number of topics and crusades against things such as the irresponsible marketing of pool chemicals.

The often controversial publication remains popular among members. And it allows Williams another way to do what he loves best: teach.

“It’s fun to see people come around and say, ‘That’s why it works,’ ” he says. “Often they know what to do, but they’re not sure why, and it reinforces their desire to do it right.” — Rin-rin Yu