WaterNow Alliance is excited to announce the winners of our third annual Emerging Leader Awards! The Emerging Leader Award is dedicated to celebrating and advancing mid-level professionals from backgrounds under-represented in the water utility space, who are poised to take on leadership positions in the coming years.
We select award recipients who have demonstrated promise and creativity in advancing meaningful cultural change in the areas of sustainability, equity, or community engagement. By recognizing the Emerging Leaders of today, we aim to support their growth while celebrating their achievements, creating a strong foundation from which water utilities can address the sustainability challenges of tomorrow.
We are excited to announce this year’s winners:
Timothy Alston, Gary Sanitary District, Indiana
Timothy Alston is the Process Controls Engineer at the Gary Sanitary District in Gary, Indiana, and a leader in creating spaces for and supporting the Black community within the water sector. He is the Director of Programs for the Chicago chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and recently helped organize their Engineers Week in the city. He is a Co-Founder of a newly formed non-profit organization, the Black Water Professionals Alliance (BWPA), which has grown to over 100 members across the country. Tim has ambitions of developing this group into a nationally recognized organization of 500 + members. He has also been engaged in promoting and teaching STEM to underrepresented students, and has personally mentored over 100 students in developing their academic and professional skills over the past several years.
Chelsea Boozer, Central Arkansas Water, Arkansas
Chelsea is the Government Affairs Manager for Central Arkansas Water (CAW), managing regionalism, stakeholder engagement, and government relations for the utility. In her role, Chelsea considers public policy through an equity lens and facilitates collaboration between multiple stakeholder groups around economically sustainable pathways to providing drinking water to communities in the state. Her advocacy for small utilities outside of CAW’s service territory has resulted in millions of dollars of state grants for those systems as well as significant public health improvements. She has also pushed for better support for Spanish-speaking customers at CAW, going “undercover” to spot-test a policy allowing undocumented residents to have a water bill in their name, and supporting the implementation of the state’s LIHWAP program. Chelsea also co-founded the statewide Arkansas Water YP Network in 2021, which has grown to hundreds of members with a goal of helping fill professional development gaps for early career professionals as the industry addresses a wave of retirements.
Stephanie Chiorean, Philadelphia Water Department, Pennslyvania
Stephanie is an Environmental Staff Scientist and Planner for the Philadelphia Water Department in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She works on green stormwater infrastructure program development and strategic planning. Stephanie builds diverse partnerships through cross-sector collaboration with community stakeholders to promote GSI and nature-based solutions that advance equity and climate resilience goals. She leads a program to transform and integrate green stormwater infrastructure into schoolyard amenities by working with the School District of Philadelphia and other project partners. As a result, more than 40 Philadelphia schoolyards have formally engaged with the Philadelphia Water Department to implement green stormwater infrastructure. Stephanie has also worked closely to support education and stewardship partnerships efforts between the Philadelphia Water Department, Fairmount Water Works, and School District of Philadelphia for students to learn and engage with stormwater management in their schoolyards, neighborhoods, and watersheds.
Jenyffer Vasquez, West Basin Municipal Water District, California
Jenyffer is a Water Policy and Resource Analyst at West Basin Municipal Water District in Los Angeles County, California, who seeks to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the water sector. Jenyffer oversees West Basin’s Grass Replacement+, a pilot program that provides landscape design resources, free drought-resistant trees, direct assistance with rebate applications, and translated program materials, in order to support an existing turf replacement program through West Basin. The implementation of this program prioritizes environmental justice communities through the use of Census data and CalEnviroScreen. Additionally, Jenyffer is a participant in the Transformative Water Leadership Academy and through her capstone project hopes to explore language access in the water sector to find ways to enhance program development to the diverse communities her water utility serves.
Chris Wolff, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Colorado
Chris Wolff is the Water Demand Management Coordinator at Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (ERWSD) in Colorado. In this role, Chris developed an outdoor efficiency rebate program that has removed over 10,000 square feet of high-water-use turfgrass since 2019 and is projected to replace and convert another 190,000 square feet of turf with waterwise landscaping in 2023. Chris has also worked on water budgets for individual properties and community planning areas that should decrease customer water use, thus reducing diversions from area waterways that are tributary to the Upper Colorado River. Chris has participated in community events that promote sustainability and environmental awareness, including organizing the District’s Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) training and providing irrigation audits to customers.
Thank you to all of the nominators and applicants who participated in this award process. This year’s selection process was exceptionally challenging, since WaterNow received many strong applications from truly impressive leaders, making a difference in their utilities and communities all across the country.
Supporting the Next Generation of Water Leaders
WaterNow is developing strategies to support emerging leaders in ongoing ways, connecting them with educational resources, developing a peer network, and more. Your input can help us support the next generation of water leaders and this new Emerging Leader Cohort. Whether you work with up-and-coming water leaders on municipal and utility staff, or you are yourself poised to take on utility leadership in the coming years, we’d be very grateful if you could take just a couple of minutes to fill out our short survey to share your thoughts.