After last year’s virtual event, the Southern California Water Coalition was pleased to host its 2021 Annual Event and Awards Presentation in-person. The keynote speaker Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles, 27th District) and the Chair of the Committee on Water and Natural Resources whose inspirational speech urged attendees to think big to tackle California’s water challenges. The awards ceremony and dinner was held on October 21st at the Long Beach Hilton and honored two very special awardees.
“This year is a homecoming. After the resilience we saw from our water community both remotely and on the front lines in 2020, it’s a delight to be able to come together again in celebration of the accomplishments of our water leaders,” said SCWC Executive Director Charles Wilson. “It’s a great time to be able to recognize our honorees.”
The Harriett M. Wieder Award and the Kathy Cole Award are traditionally presented to two exceptional leaders whose achievements shined brightly throughout the year. For 2021, the Harriett M. Wieder Award was presented to Ronald Gastelum and the Kathy Cole Award went to Christine Compton.
Ronald Gastelum Won Harriett Wieder Award for 2021
“From his work as the General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to his service at the LA Area Chamber of Commerce and the SCWC, Ronald Gastelum’s enduring leadership has solidified a lasting legacy,” Wilson said of the Harriett Wieder Awardee.
A pillar of environmental resource management, Gastelum continues to forge initiatives and push both private and public sector organizations toward a sustainable future. He has a lengthy resume with an array of exemplary leadership work, particularly as General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California as well as his service to the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Southern California Water Coalition. Nature Conservancy and Water Education for Latino Leaders, to name a few.
Gastelum’s enduring, positive impact on regional and statewide water issues is renowned. While at MWD he worked with the Board of Directors representing its 26 member agencies to ensure a diversification of the regional water supply by overseeing the development of a brand-new large-scale water transfer. In addition, he maximized resource protection with strategic groundwater storage and the introduction of essential conservation programs. In terms of management, he led an internal restructure that introduced updates to a long-term resource plan, saw the completion of a new reservoir, and overhauled rate structure and financial plans for the years to come.
Since his service at the Metropolitan Water District, Gastelum has continued to lead regional water interests as the interim Executive Vice President of the LA Area Chamber of Commerce, the interim Executive Director of the Southern California Water Committee, and the President and Chairman of the Board of the Water Conservation Partners. Gastelum is a Whittier College graduate and holds a Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School.
Kathy Cole Award went to Christine Compton
2020 saw the introduction of the Kathy Cole Award, to be presented to industry leaders who exemplify commitment to education and advocacy in water policy. The second Kathy Cole Award was presented to the Irvine Ranch Water District Director of Strategic Communications and Advocacy and Deputy General Counsel Christine Compton.
Compton’s extensive career in public policy advisement began as a legislative aide for California State Assemblyman Bill Campbell. She moved on to serve as his Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Advisor during his term as Orange County Supervisor. In 2013, she began her work with the Irvine Ranch Water District.
“Christine Compton has been instrumental in forging public policy that protects our most precious regional resource,” Wilson said. “Her advocacy and passion for outreach align perfectly with the values of the SCWC’s newest Kathy Cole Award.”
Compton’s long list of accomplishments include degrees from USC’s Marshall School of Business and Loyola Marymount University’s Loyola Law School. She also won the Ralph Heim Exceptional Outreach and Advocacy Award from the California Special Districts Association in 2020.
The area’s largest networking event for water, business, agriculture, local public policymakers, labor groups, and environmental leaders commenced with a VIP reception followed by a dinner and program. The event also marked the premiere of SCWC’s new trailer for What Matters Water TV + Podcast which will begin on November 9, and highlighted three new regional California Water publications showcasing water successes in Northern Los Angeles County, Ventura County, South Bay, Long Beach and the San Gabriel Valley.