Echo Svoboda’s career in the trades started as an innocent teenage romance with someone she didn’t expect to hear from again. Living in the small city of Riverton, Wyoming, the couple dated for a while before breaking up and he ultimately moved to Las Vegas and pursued a career as a plumber.
About a decade later, in 2007, Dave Svoboda found her on MySpace and the two reconnected. She was divorced with two children and working in finance, and because she was reluctant to move to Las Vegas, Dave moved back to Wyoming to be with her. He eventually convinced Echo to move to Las Vegas, and in 2014 his soon-to-be employer, Focus Plumbing, told her of an office manager opening at an association it had just joined — the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors of Nevada.
“They took a chance on me,” she said. “Maybe because my husband’s a plumber and all of that, but that’s how I got into it — I needed a job.”
Echo went to Las Vegas by herself to interview for the PHCC position while Dave tied up some loose ends in Wyoming.
“I got the job, thank goodness,” she said, “because otherwise I would’ve been looking for a job while I was here by myself. Then my husband came down a couple weeks later and started working for Focus Plumbing.”
The chance that PHCC of Nevada took on her paid off, as she is now in her ninth year as office manager. She said the job goes beyond the administrative tasks that typically go along with such a position.
“I’m like the mom around here to all of the apprentices,” she said. “I help them out as much as I can with employment and personal issues and things like that. I also support the contractors.
I work a lot with our executive director, Jordan Krahenbuhl, on legislative issues that affect our contractors.”
Svoboda says in addition to watching the apprentices grow and mature into journeymen, being able to help contractors is her favorite part of the job.
“They only call us when they’re desperate — and we have a lot of good connections here,”
she said. “It’s a really good feeling when we can help the contractors out of a bind because they’re busy and they don’t have time for that kind of stuff; it’s nice they can rely on us.”
Legislative issues are the most challenging part of her job, as she said there is seemingly a new fight every day.
“Right now, we’re kind of in the midst of the natural gas ban and things like that,” she said. “So that’s the most challenging is just trying to keep up with regulations and legislation.”
Echo isn’t the only Svoboda who works for the PHCC of Nevada — Dave is the apprentice coordinator.
In comparing her two careers as she nears a decade since leaving the banking industry, Svoboda can easily sum up why she prefers this one.
“This one is much more fulfilling,” she said. “Trying to get people money and then trying to collect the payments on that money is just terrible. I never found a whole lot of fulfillment in it other than the benefits that the company would give, so I would say that I’m very happy I switched. I don’t think I could ever go back now.”
In fact, when Citigroup opened a branch after she had moved, someone from the lending giant emailed her former boss to inquire about her availability.
“She said, ‘Don’t even bother; she’s not coming back. She loves her job,’” Svoboda said with a chuckle.
Svoboda is now with an organization that helps promote public health and safety by ensuring the public has access to clean, potable water, and the people responsible for providing such access — their members — are knowledgeable and reputable.
“We provide them with all kinds of continuing education classes, industry-specific classes to keep them up to date with new technology, issues with old technology, things like that,” she said.
Svoboda shared a memory that illustrated why she is so happy there. An apprentice who was nearly 50 — considerably older than the rest of what she called the “young bucks” who were his classmates — completed the program and was a “shining star” throughout. About a year after he graduated, he came by the office and told her to come outside because he wanted to show her something: a service van with his name on it.
“He had gone and opened his own business,” Svoboda recalled. “He just had the one van, and he was so proud of himself and so excited. And now he’s got a storefront; he’s got like 10 vans. His son is now in the school. I was just screaming all over the place about it.”
Her involvement with IAPMO began a few months into her time with the PHCC, when Southern Nevada Chapter Secretary Bill Laub retired, and they needed a replacement. She said she was “voluntold” by the PHCC board that they would like her to take over the role, so she started going to meetings and ultimately was nominated for it.
“I’ve learned so much and made so many connections and relationships,” she said. “It took a couple years to learn what was going on but that’s how I was thrust into it and now every year I get renominated to be on the board and I’m glad I am; I really enjoy it.”
Svoboda said in addition to monthly meetings, the chapter — of which Dave serves as chair — has an annual golf tournament and recently held a bowling night.
The connections have benefited her both personally and professionally.
“The relationships I’ve formed with the inspectors and jurisdictions are invaluable and it goes hand in hand because my relationships correlate with the PHCC now,” she said. “I’ve also learned a lot more about how water systems work and the regulations to them all, because it’s one thing being involved with the contractors, but then being with the entities is a whole different experience and a whole different knowledge set that I’m getting from them.”
Svoboda said she regularly fields code questions from members and either directs them to IAPMO’s website or helps them get in touch with someone at IAPMO who can help them work through the issue.
She also serves as recording secretary during meetings that local jurisdictions hold when new codes come out and amendments are discussed and adopted. She said IAPMO provides resources including training manuals.
“IAPMO’s woven into everything I do, because we’re so code heavy here and we only use the Uniform Codes,” she said.
Despite being busy with work and IAPMO, Echo and Dave still carve out time for their favorite hobby — golf.
“My husband and I share that together,” she said. “We golf every Sunday; there’s always time for golf.”
Svoboda has two daughters from her previous marriage. Hevvyn, 23, is a chef in Laramie, Wyoming, and Marylyn, 22, lives in Las Vegas and works in customer service and marketing for a PHCC member company.
Svoboda again encouraged people in the industry to get involved with their local chapters, and said IAPMO representatives who come to their meetings say they’re one of the most fun groups. “It really does make a difference, especially with contractors,” she said. “Building that relationship with the jurisdictions, you have to have that in order to get your business to run smoothly. So, I encourage all chapters to stay active. Stay on it.”
Mike Flenniken is a staff writer, Marketing and Communications, for t IAPMO. Prior to joining IAPMO in 2010, Flenniken worked in public relations for a group of Southern California hospitals and as a journalist in writing and editing capacities for various Southern California daily newspapers.
Last modified: April 24, 2023