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Welcome to the Board: Ismahan Abdullahi, City of San Diego

Ismahan Abdullahi was seated on the Board of Directors on January 25, 2021, representing the City of San Diego. Director Abdullahi serves on the Administrative and Finance and Engineering and Operations committees for the Water Authority.

Ismahan Abdullahi-City of San Diego-Welcome to the Board

Welcome to the Board: Ismahan Abdullahi, City of San Diego

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights new members of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 36-member Board of Directors. Each of the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies appoints at least one representative to the Board, which sets policy for the Water Authority.

Welcome to the Board: Ismahan Abdullahi, City of San Diego

Who: Ismahan Abdullahi was seated on the Board of Directors on January 25, 2021, representing the City of San Diego. Director Abdullahi serves on the Administrative and Finance and Engineering and Operations committees for the Water Authority.

Background/Education: Abdullahi earned her Bachelor’s degree in Human Biology at UC San Diego and a Master’s degree in Education with a concentration in counseling at San Diego State University. She serves as the Executive Director of MAS-PACE (Muslim American Society-Public Affairs and Civic Engagement). She also serves on the board of local community based organizations and institutions, with more than a decade of nonprofit experience.

Q & A

Q: How did you get interested in water issues?

A: Water is life itself. It is one of the key elements that is often taken for gratitude when it is available in abundance and sought after when it is limited. My interest in water issues is deeply personal. As a refugee from Somalia, I know the impact inadequately sanitized or treated water can have on families, introducing diseases such as cholera. We’ve seen how water contaminants and unsafe water (such as the water crisis in Flint, Michigan) has disproportionately impacted Indigenous, low-income and communities of color, particularly our Black and Brown communities. As a community advocate and organizer, I’ve seen the impact that rate increases and high water bills continue to further inequities in refugee, immigrant, and poverty stricken communities. My interest in water lies in my lived experience and over a decade of engaging in community work and seeing that impact firsthand.

Q: What are your priorities or interests as a Board member?

A: Policies and decisions made regarding water reliability, access, quality and safety have a direct impact on the lives of everyday San Diegans who are trying to thrive. I sincerely hope to bring an equity centered lens that honors both our environment and our communities. As a board member, I want us to bring forth creative solutions that meet the needs of our ratepayers and our region for generations to come. The COVID-19 crisis has further exacerbated the very inequities we knew existed before, leaving many San Diegans left with immensely high water bills. Equitable access to water, an inclusive and community centered space that prioritizes ratepayers and our environment and reliable and safe water for our future remain top priorities for me.

Q: Besides maintaining safe and reliable water supplies, what do you see as the top three issues facing the San Diego region?

A: Our region needs to adopt a racial equity framework in how it conducts business. In our region, we are facing a worsening housing crisis, climate emergency and the lack of a guaranteed living wage for the very people that are the backbone of our economy. We must be bold in our solutions and intersectional in facing our challenges. We cannot tackle our issues as a region without an intersectional equity framework.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

A: My passion outside of working is to enjoy nature and reading. A nice walk at the beach, hike or quality time spent with loved ones in the outdoors is always a joy and a blessing.

The Water Authority’s Board of Directors typically meets on the fourth Thursday of each month. The Board invites the public to attend its monthly meetings and to comment on agenda items or other matters before the Board. For meeting times, agendas and documents, go to www.sdcwa.org/board-directors.

Welcome to the Board: Kimberly Thorner, Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Kimberly Thorner was seated on the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors on January 6, 2021, representing the Olivenhain Municipal Water District. Director Thorner serves on the Administrative and Finance, Audit and Engineering and Operations committees.

Kimberly Thorner-San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors-Olivenhain MWD

Welcome to the Board: Kimberly Thorner, Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights new members of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 36-member Board of Directors. Each of the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies appoints at least one representative to the Board, which sets policy for the Water Authority.

Welcome to the Board: Kimberly Thorner, Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Who: Kimberly Thorner was seated on the Board of Directors on January 6, 2021, representing the Olivenhain Municipal Water District. Director Thorner serves on the Administrative and Finance, Audit and Engineering and Operations committees for the Water Authority. She was formerly a member of the Fiscal Sustainability Task Force.

Background/Education: Thorner earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado (Boulder) and a juris doctor from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. She began her tenure with OMWD in October 1996 and was unanimously selected by the Board of Directors to become OMWD’s fourth general manager beginning January 1, 2007.

Water Industry Affiliations:
Chair of the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission Special Districts Advisory Committee; San Diego LAFCO Advisory Committee on Rainbow-Fallbrook Reorganization; San Diego LAFCO Subcommittee on the Update to Agricultural and Open Space Lands Policy, and the San Diego LAFCO Subcommittee on GSA’s.

San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Regional Advisory Committee

WateReuse California (WRCA) Board of Trustees (currently Secretary of the WRCA Board)

Association of California Water Agencies Federal Affairs Committee

North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition

David C. McCollom Water Treatment Plant, Prior Project Manager

Q & A

Q: How did you get interested in water issues?

A: Water is my life. I am quickly approaching my 25th year in the water industry. I started locally, working on treatment plant projects, dams, outreach and conservation. As my tenure in the industry expanded, so did my participation at an expanded level – being involved in statewide and federal water issues, committees and boards. I’ve never had a boring day in the water industry!

Q: What are your priorities or interests as a Board member?

A: My first priorities are the basics – safe, reliable, and affordable water for the San Diego region. None of the member agencies can be successful in providing safe, reliable, and affordable water if SDCWA is not successful. I am looking forward to participating in the continued success of SDCWA. My second priorities are the essentials – transparency, openness and collaboration. Working together openly and honestly in order to move forward for the advantage of the region is important.

Q: Besides maintaining safe and reliable water supplies, what do you see as the top three issues facing the San Diego region?

A: After Safe and Reliable supplies, I would say: Affordability. Dwindling Demand. Maintaining Current Infrastructure.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

A: I’m always working, unless I am off the grid summiting a mountain or spending time with my two daughters. I guide friends up Mt. Whitney and Rim2Rim of the Grand Canyon every year. Someone has to check the snowpack up there in the Sierra and the flow of the Colorado River in the canyon!

The Water Authority’s Board of Directors typically meets on the fourth Thursday of each month. The Board invites the public to attend its monthly meetings and to comment on agenda items or other matters before the Board. For meeting times, agendas and documents, go to www.sdcwa.org/board-directors.

Welcome to the Board: Craig Elitharp, Vallecitos Water District

Craig Elitharp was seated on the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors on December 1, 2020, representing the Vallecitos Water District. Director Elitharp serves on the Legislation and Public Outreach and Water Planning and Environmental committees.

Craig Elitharp-San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors-

Welcome to the Board: Craig Elitharp, Vallecitos Water District

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights new members of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 36-member Board of Directors. Each of the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies appoints at least one representative to the Board, which sets policy for the Water Authority.

Welcome to the Board: Craig Elitharp, Vallecitos Water District

Who: Craig Elitharp was seated on the Board of Directors on December 1, 2020, representing the Vallecitos Water District. Director Elitharp serves on the Legislation and Public Outreach and Water Planning and Environmental committees; the Colorado River Work Group; and is an alternate on the SANDAG Regional Planning Committee for the Water Authority.

Background/Education: Bachelor of Science, Forest Engineering, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University (1979). Retired in 2014 from the Rancho California Water District in Temecula. Elitharp and his wife Diana have been residents of San Marcos since 1988.

Water Industry Affiliations:
Vallecitos Water District Board Director, Division 3
California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA) Board Director
Encina Wastewater Authority Board Director (2015-2018)
US Navy Public Works Center Utilities Department, San Diego (1986-1990), Civil Engineer
Rancho California Water District (1990-2014), Civil Engineer, Operations Manager, and Director of Operations & Maintenance (Retired 2014)
Kennedy/Jenks Consultants (2014-2018), Senior Civil Engineer

Q & A

Q: How did you get interested in water issues?

A: I first became exposed to the world of California water in 1986 when I took a job with the US Navy Public Works Center in San Diego. As a civil engineer there, I managed water and wastewater utilities for six Navy bases in the San Diego area. From there I went to work for the Rancho California Water District in 1990, working first as a civil engineer, then Operations Manager and eventually retiring there in 2014 as the Director of Operations and Maintenance. It’s been a fascinating and extremely rewarding career. As an elected official since 2014, I’ve sought to use my water industry experience for the benefit of the Vallecitos Water District ratepayers and now as a Water Authority board member, for all of the residents of San Diego County as well.

Q: What are your priorities or interests as a Board member?

A: I’m a strong advocate for fiscal sustainability and transparency, ratepayer equity and environmental stewardship. In addition, I believe in hiring and retaining highly qualified staff and empowering and challenging them to reach their full potential.

Q: Besides maintaining safe and reliable water supplies, what do you see as the top three issues facing the San Diego region?

A: I see climate change resiliency, infrastructure investment, and housing and utilities affordability as particularly important issues facing the San Diego region.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

A: I enjoy spending time with my grandsons Nathaniel and Kieran and my granddaughter Kaia. I enjoy running on the trails and in the neighborhoods around Cal State San Marcos as well as running an occasional local half-marathon race. I also enjoy sampling the outstanding craft beers of North County.

The Water Authority’s Board of Directors typically meets on the fourth Thursday of each month. The Board invites the public to attend its monthly meetings and to comment on agenda items or other matters before the Board. For meeting times, agendas and documents, go to www.sdcwa.org/board-directors.

Welcome to the Board: Eric Heidemann, City of Poway

Eric Heidemann was seated on the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors on May 8, 2020, representing the City of Poway. Director Heidemann serves on the Imported Water and Engineering and Operations committees for the Water Authority.

Eric Heidemann-Welcome-Board-City of Poway

Welcome to the Board: Eric Heidemann, City of Poway

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights new members of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 36-member Board of Directors. Each of the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies appoints at least one representative to the Board, which sets policy for the Water Authority.

Welcome to the Board: Eric Heidemann, City of Poway

Who: Eric Heidemann was seated on the Board of Directors on May 8, 2020, representing the City of Poway. Director Heidemann serves on the Imported Water and Engineering and Operations committees for the Water Authority.

Background/Education: University of Arizona, B.S. Business and M.S. Urban Planning

Water Industry Affiliations: 

City of Poway, Public Works Director

Metro Wastewater Commission JPA

American Water Works Association (AWWA)

American Public Works Association (APWA)

League of Californian Cities

Q & A

Q: How did you get interested in water issues?

A: I was born in California, raised in Arizona, and after graduating college – worked as a planner in Colorado.  I’ve spent my entire life in the Southwest. As a kid from Tucson, I lived through decade-long droughts and watched the Central Arizona Project (CAP) be constructed and deliver Colorado River water to southern Arizona.  That was a big deal back then.  In Colorado, I worked for a small town near Vail (at the headwaters of the Colorado River) and was responsible for managing development and the Town’s very senior water rights portfolio.  Currently, I’m the Director of Public Works for the City of Poway and responsible for, among other things, its water treatment and distribution systems.  I’m a product of the Southwest, and water has had a strong influence on my personal and professional life.

Q: What are your priorities or interests as a Board member?

A: My priorities as a Board member are to work hard, listen carefully, and add value wherever I can.  The SDCWA is a premier organization with excellent staff and strong administrative and financial policies.  I want to see that continue.  I don’t take the responsibly of being a Board Member lightly – I feel honored to work with some of the brightest minds in water.

Q: Besides maintaining safe and reliable water supplies, what do you see as the top three issues facing the San Diego region?

A:  Housing, transportation, and aging infrastructure.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

A: Now that my kids are older I spend a lot of my free time running. Recently, I’ve been stretching myself by training for an ultra-marathon. It really helps me think, clear my mind, and reduce stress.

The Water Authority’s Board of Directors typically meets on the fourth Thursday of each month. The Board invites the public to attend its monthly meetings and to comment on agenda items or other matters before the Board. For meeting times, agendas and documents, go to www.sdcwa.org/board-directors.

Welcome to the Board: Consuelo Martinez, City of Escondido

Consuelo Martinez was seated on the Board of Directors on May 27, 2020, representing the City of Escondido. Director Martinez serves on the Imported Water and Legislation and Public Outreach committees for the Water Authority.

Consuelo Martinez-Meet the Board Members-City of Escondido

Welcome to the Board: Consuelo Martinez, City of Escondido

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights new members of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 36-member Board of Directors. Each of the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies appoints at least one representative to the Board, which sets policy for the Water Authority.

Welcome to the Board: Consuelo Martinez, City of Escondido

Who: Consuelo Martinez was seated on the Board of Directors on May 27, 2020, representing the City of Escondido. Director Martinez serves on the Imported Water and Legislation and Public Outreach committees for the Water Authority.

Background/Education: Dual Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Women’s Studies from CSUSM. Deputy Mayor, City of Escondido

Water Industry Affiliations:
*SDCWA Citizens Water Academy Graduate (2019)
*WELL 2019 Training Participant (Water Education for Latino Leaders)

Q & A

Q: How did you get interested in water issues?

A: I was a political science major at California State University San Marcos when I first learned of a book that was dedicated to the politics of water. I was surprised that water could be so political. A few years later, friends and colleagues from the nonprofit MANA de San Diego graduated from the San Diego County Water Authority’s Citizens Water Academy and they recommended that I also enroll. It took a few years for timing to work out, but I am so glad I graduated through the program. It was eye-opening and very helpful in my new role was policy maker.

Q: What are your priorities or interests as a Board member?

A: To learn and help our residents (rate payers) understand how precious our water is and empower them as informed stakeholders. I would like our region to be a leader in safe, reliable and affordable water.

Q: Besides maintaining safe and reliable water supplies, what do you see as the top three issues facing the San Diego region?

A: Income inequality, housing affordability, and climate change.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

A: Spending time with my partner, Patrick, trying a new restaurant or discovering a new street food vendor, and taking care of my plants.

The Water Authority’s Board of Directors typically meets on the fourth Thursday of each month. The Board invites the public to attend its monthly meetings and to comment on agenda items or other matters before the Board. For meeting times, agendas and documents, go to www.sdcwa.org/board-directors.