WaterNow Alliance is thrilled to announce the exceptional winners of our fourth annual Emerging Leader Awards! These awards are dedicated to recognizing and empowering mid-level professionals from under-represented backgrounds in the water utility sector who showcase promise and creativity in driving substantial transformation within the realms of sustainability, equity, and community engagement.

As our largest cohort yet, the 2024 Emerging Leaders are making impactful and positive changes in their communities, leading to more equitable and climate resilient water management. Through the Emerging Leader Awards, we support and celebrate today’s emerging leaders, helping to prepare water utilities to address the sustainability, affordability, and equity challenges of tomorrow.

This year’s Emerging Leader Awards Ceremony will take place following the Spring Policy Conference co-hosted by WaterNow Alliance and The Water Center on April 11 in Philadelphia.

Without further ado, we present you this year’s winners:

David Fielder II, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Michigan

David serves as the project manager for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s Lead Line Replacement Program, ensuring compliance with the Michigan Lead and Copper Rule. He oversees lead and copper sampling protocols, DWSD’s Distribution Systems Material Inventory, and reporting to Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. With extensive experience in grassroots engagement, crisis management, and communication across private and public sectors, David brings a wealth of expertise to his role. Previously, he led Detroit’s COVID-19 Water Restart Program, addressing plumbing issues and restoring water access during the pandemic. Recognized for his leadership, David was selected for the inaugural Rising Professionals Cohort by the US Water Alliance in 2020. In 2022, he was chosen as one of eighteen Fellows nationwide for Duke University’s Water Innovation Leadership Development (WILD) executive education program, highlighting his dedication to innovation and excellence in the field. In recognition of his contributions to Detroit’s Lead Line Replacement Program and his leadership on community engagement, we are pleased to announce David as a recipient of the 2024 Emerging Leader Award.

Tiffany Diaz, City of Georgetown, Texas

Tiffany is the Regulatory & Conservation Manager for the City of Georgetown, Texas, one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities for its size. In her role, she oversees a dedicated regulatory team tasked with ensuring compliance, reporting to regulatory bodies, and implementing new rules and regulations. Notably, Tiffany has spearheaded the successful rebuilding of the City’s conservation program, devising a comprehensive strategy encompassing education, outreach, community engagement, sustainability, enforcement, and year-round water conservation marketing and communications. Emphasizing the development and progression of her team members, Tiffany fosters an environment where individuals are encouraged to thrive as effective leaders. Under her guidance, staff members have flourished, showcasing their expertise through presentations at conferences and board meetings while pioneering the creation of innovative programs. Recognizing the challenges inherent in their roles, Tiffany implements activities that provide a respite from the demanding work environment. Additionally, she actively participates in the Transformative Water Leadership Academy, where her capstone project focuses on cultivating a positive workplace culture, promoting awareness of mental health and fostering the growth of current and future leaders. In recognition of her exemplary leadership in developing Georgetown's conservation program and fostering a sustainable work environment within her team, we are pleased to announce Tiffany as a recipient of the 2024 Emerging Leader Award.

Dom Bennett, Lee’s Summit Water Utilities, Missouri

Dom Bennett is an Assistant Director for Lee’s Summit Water Utilities in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. He holds a master’s degree in Organization Development Psychology and a bachelor’s in Business Administration. Dom prioritizes being people-focused, values-based, purpose-driven, and community-centered in his approach to work. Dom champions diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives within his utility and started a DEI program to promote a workplace where all feel safe, valued, seen and heard. The DEI program is integrated with new employee onboarding, has developed a year-round awareness program, and more. He has participated in multiple leadership programs such as the Transformative Water Leadership Academy, where he now serves as a mentor to current participants. In addition to his role at Lee’s Summit Water Utilities, Dom serves on multiple committees within the water sector, including The AWWA’s Standards Committee on DEI, as well as in his local community. In recognition of his passion, expertise, and dedication to bettering his community, while elevating and championing the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, we are pleased to announce Dom as a recipient of the 2024 Emerging Leader Award.

Christopher Lang, City of New Orleans, Louisiana

Chris Lang is a project manager for the City of New Orleans’ Department of Stormwater and Green Infrastructure. In this role, he facilitates the implementation of National Disaster Resilience grant planning activities such as the installation of a city-wide groundwater monitoring network, species monitoring around green infrastructure sites, financial feasibility reporting of green infrastructure projects, and more. Chris also is a PhD candidate at UC Santa Cruz, currently studying the relationship between disposable, or “throwaway” economies, plastic pollution, flood risk, and environmental racism in New Orleans. In his spare time, he advocates for policy changes that support sustainability and equity. Chris volunteers for Culture of Cleanliness, a local community group that fights for a cleaner New Orleans, and he supports any grassroots efforts that align us closer with Earth while enhancing our collective resilience to climate change and resistance to exploitation. Chris brings his passions and interests into his work and community involvement in an un-siloed way, acting as a bridge-builder across sectors and stakeholder groups in the city. In recognition of his exemplary contributions at the intersection of stormwater management, ecological well-being, and grassroots engagement, we are pleased to announce Chris as a recipient of the 2024 Emerging Leader Award.

Grace Vogel Sanders, Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, Louisiana

Grace Vogel is a Landscape Architect with the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans in the Stormwater Division of the Environmental Affairs Department, working to accomplish the Board’s green infrastructure goals and requirements. She is the project manager for the current demonstration projects under way as well as the maintenance manager for completed projects on Board property. Grace leads the Environmental Department's outreach program to teach the public about stormwater management, quality, and green infrastructure. Before moving to New Orleans in 2012, she graduated from the University of Illinois with an accredited degree in Landscape Architecture. She has held a variety of jobs throughout her career ranging from the service industry, the private landscape design sector, and the public green infrastructure sector. In recognition of her work engaging and educating her community on the value of green stormwater infrastructure, and her dedication to transformative, sustainable stormwater management practices, we are pleased to announce Grace as a recipient of the 2024 Emerging Leader Award.

Xochitl Coronado-Vargas, Tucson Water, Arizona

Xochitl Coronado-Vargas has been with the City of Tucson’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure Program for just over two years. In her role as a Public Outreach Coordinator, she utilizes various strategies to engage with the public and seek input for various stages of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) projects, she creates and delivers educational content and develops relationships with communities and stakeholders. In the last year, Xochitl has spearheaded critical initiatives to advance racial equity within Tucson Water and advocated for equitable distribution of investments of GSI as a Departmental Equity Coordinator within Tucson Water. Xochitl has a master’s degree in public health and has dedicated the last 20 years to working in non-profit and public sector organizations offering programming and opportunities that uplift underserved and marginalized communities. With the understanding that social and racial inequities are embedded in every institution, Xochitl is committed to utilizing her position within the city to influence institution-level change. In recognition of her leadership in engaging the community on sustainable stormwater management while elevating equity as a key principle at her utility, we are pleased to announce Xochitl as a recipient of the 2024 Emerging Leader Award.

Amanda Jones, Tucson Water, Arizona

Amanda Jones has twelve years of government experience, the last ten in the water industry. She is currently a Project Manager managing the continuous development program for Tucson Water’s Enterprise Asset Management system. In this role, she is supporting the advancement of Tucson Water’s Digital Transformation Program by expanding the use across multiple sections of the department. Additionally, Amanda serves as a Departmental Equity Coordinator, championing equity concerns within Tucson Water. In her previous role, Amanda worked for Marana Water, where she built their first affordability program and advocated to eliminate shut offs for non-payment during COVID. In addition, Amanda is a Trustee-at-Large on the AZWater AWWA board, co-chairs the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee at the state level, is a member of the AWWA Diversity and Membership Inclusion Committee, is the 2020 AZWater Young Professional of the Year, a Duke University WILD fellow, named one of AWWA’s 2021 5 Under 25 Outstanding Young Professionals, and created Womxn in Water a professional development organization focusing on all those who identify as a woman in the water industry. In recognition of her exemplary contributions to elevating principles of equity and diversity while supporting the sustainable management of her utility’s distributed infrastructure, we are pleased to announce Amanda as a recipient of the 2024 Emerging Leader Awards.


We extend our gratitude to all the nominators and applicants who participated in this year’s round. The decision-making process this year was once again incredibly challenging. We received many impressive applications from across the country for leaders who have had a significant impact in their utilities and communities. Thank you to all the nominees for your hard work and dedication – your contributions to the water utility sector are invaluable.

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