Texas is a unique place where leadership, politics, and longterm planning are part of the culture. There is a natural independence of thinking and a fearlessness—likely rooted in the state’s history—that allows Texans to take on major challenges and be successful. This is especially apparent in the water sector. Other states in our country have built tremendous water projects and have great leaders; however, if the United States were Europe, Texas would be our modern-day Germany.
This second issue of Municipal Water Leader magazine provides our readers with a sampling of the most visionary and accomplished leaders Texas has to offer. Mr. Jim Oliver is the general manager of the Tarrant Regional Water District, which provides water to over 2 million people. Jim worked to broker a historic partnership with the City of Dallas to build a 150-mile-long, 108-diameter pipeline that is big enough to drive a car through. This project will provide a secure water supply for the region for the next 50 years. Jim has been described as the ideal manager, and one can see why in reading his interview. “I hire great people, and I get out of their way.”
Mr. Bech Bruun is chairman of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). In the 1950s, the western United States experienced a severe drought. In response, Texas formed TWDB to address water supply needs. TWDB has invested over $15 billion in water projects since then and recently approved another $4 billion for future projects. In speaking with Bech, it is clear that he has the vision and ability to lead his board in the development of the Texas State Water Plan.
When you meet Mr. Kevin Ward, general manager of Trinity River Authority, there are two things that immediately impress you: his exceptional knowledge and his high energy. His resume reads like the accomplishments of more than one person. This is understandable, as he seems to squeeze two minutes out of every one. A planner by nature with an eye to the future, Kevin manages Trinity’s $2.3 billion in assets and its $267 million annual budget.
Mr. Leroy Goodson is a bit of a folk hero in the western water community. He is one of those larger-than-life figures, with a gregarious personality and an infectious laugh. As the executive director of the Texas Water Conservation Association for the last 34 years, Leroy has been at the very center of western and Texas water issues and policy. “What does Leroy say?” or “Have you talked to Leroy?” are common questions in nearly every conversation about water in Texas or working with Texas on western and national water issues. However, the most common question now is, “Is Leroy really going to retire?” It is difficult for people to imagine working on water issues in Texas without him.
Mr. Mike Nichols, chief marketing officer of Freese and Nichols Inc., is part of a renowned engineering firm whose storied history has been intertwined with water development in Texas since the 1890s. Known for its exceptional abilities, attention to detail, and creativity, Freese and Nichols prides itself on a culture of service to its customers and to the professional development of its employees. It is the rule, rather than the exception, for individuals to work their entire career at Freese and Nichols. In Mike’s interview, it is clear that the firm’s tremendous multigenerational experience in water resources has provided it with a unique vision and ability to tackle future water supply needs. Freese and Nichols didn’t just read the history books on Texas water, it wrote them.
Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader and Irrigation Leader magazines. He is also president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations, marketing, and publishing company he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@wateretrategies.com