Incoming NACWA President Adel Hagekhalil Outlines Plans for the Organization

Adel Hagekhalil

City of LA Bureau of Sanitation Assistant Director Adel Hagekhalil speaks in Rhode Island as he assumes the presidency of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

Adel Hagekhalil: Good evening, friends. Thank you!

Let me first of all thank our outgoing president, my friend, Karen Pallansch. Karen led the organization ably during tough and challenging times. Thanks to her leadership and hard work, we have a stable financial outlook and a smooth leadership transition. Thank you, Karen.

Let me also thank our retiring legendary and capable Chief Executive Officer Ken Kirk. NACWA is a strong association because of Ken, and our environment and clean water are better across our nation because of Ken’s leadership, vision, and advocacy. Thank you, Ken.

Let’s also thank and welcome our new innovative and dynamic CEO Adam Krantz. We are so excited about the future of NACWA in the capable hands of Adam. I look forward to working with you, Adam.

An organization is only as good as its staff and here at NACWA, we have the best of the best. Thank you Paula, Nathan, Amanda, Meredith, Kelly, Chris, Pat, Cynthia, Brenna, Robin, Tina, Gunnar, Kristine, Christian, Amber, Shalina and Sharon. Let’s give them all a big hand.

I am honored and humbled to have the privilege to serve as NACWA’s president for the next year. As an immigrant with a last name like Hagekhalil, serving as NACWA’s president is an honor and a pure reflection of the American Dream and America’s values of equity, opportunity, and justice.

I am honored to get the opportunity to lead an organization with a record of 45 years of unmatched environmental advocacy and unparalleled accomplishments for clean water. These accomplishments have improved our waters across the nation—from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

I am humbled to lead NACWA and to follow a tradition formed by great past presidents, amazing current and past board members, innovative member agencies and affiliates, and a professional and capable staff. I salute you all and thank you.

I wouldn’t be here today without the support, love, and mentorship of many—family, friends, and colleagues. Let me first acknowledge the love of my life, Lubna, and my children Jana, Jad, and Dareen. Also, my mom, sister and brother, and their families back in Houston.

Let me also thank my City of LA family, who gave me the opportunity to represent the great City of Los Angeles and LA Sanitation at NACWA. I want to thank our great LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Board of Public Works, represented here by Commissioner Heather Repenning. I want to especially express my appreciation and gratitude to my boss, general manager, and friend Enrique Zaldivar, who supported and trusted me to serve in this role. I want to thank my friends from LA and across the nation who are here today. Also, I want to acknowledge and thank my friend and NACWA’s past president, Chris Westhoff, who introduced me to NACWA and believed in me.

Friends: Together, we will move NACWA and our clean water industry forward and upward. We will be a big tent—embracing new collaborations and utilities of all sizes. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

I will build on what has been the hallmark of NACWA’s success—being the voice in Washington, DC on behalf of public clean water agencies. We will make sure that our legislative, regulatory, and legal advocacy frees up utilities to do the projects that make sense for their ratepayers, and that the state and federal partners see the utility as an equal partner in this work.

I plan to work closely with our able staff, board members, public agency members, future members, and affiliates to foster increased collaboration and partnerships to forward NACWA’s advocacy for clean water. I commit to you that your voices and input will be solicited and heard, and that the best of your ideas will be acted upon.

We will reenergize the Council of Presidents to provide strategic input and guidance. We will continue to enhance our collaboration with our sister water associations, public and private entities, non-profit organizations, and regulatory agencies. In addition to our Water Week collaboration with WEF, WERF, and Water Reuse, we are coordinating NACWA’s meeting with WEF and AWWA’s utility management conference in February 2016 in San Diego. We will explore partnerships between public and private entities. We will be collaborating with Global Water Intelligence at America’s Water Summit in October in Denver.

Building on our great history and the accomplishments of NACWA over the last 45 years, I will work with our staff and board members to continue and forward our advocacy to better serve our members and industry by advocating for reasonable, flexible, science-based and affordable regulations and legislations. We will work together to protect existing funding programs and bring innovative new alternatives to light. Whether it’s the SRF, WIFIA, tax-exempt municipal bonds, drought and reuse funding, or climate and resilience grants—there is much to be done.

We also look forward to partnering with the EPA and other key agencies to bring about the utility and industry of the future and put our water management on a sustainable path. In addition to its advocacy role, NACWA will continue to be a visionary organization, paving the way to a brighter future.

Together, we will move NACWA upward. We want every public utility—large, medium, and small—to be a part of our family. Whether it is advocacy support that we all benefit from, or the guidance and technical assistant that only a network like NACWA’s can offer—we want to grow our membership. This also strengthens us in representing utilities in every congressional district and in every state and EPA region that can voice national concerns from the array of points of view.

In line with these goals, we must enhance our outreach and communication, increase our investments in targeted action funds, change the conversation about the value of water, forward the “industry of the future” dialogue, and nourish existing partnerships while building new ones. I will work with our staff to be nimble and responsive to our members’ needs and priorities and to provide decisive, results-oriented advocacy and intelligent but concise analysis.

None of this can be done without your help and support. None of this can be done except when we work together, participate, and advocate.

We can’t further NACWA’s advocacy agenda without listening, communicating, and collaborating. We can’t forward clean water in our communities without sound and innovative investments, reasonable and flexible regulations, and new partnerships.

Friends, the future of clean water and NACWA is exciting and bright. This is because of you—your hard work, commitment, and environmental stewardship. “The strength of the team is each individual member; the strength of each member is the team.”

Together we will provide our communities a sustainable and resilient environment and a future with balance between the protection and use of our water resources while providing profound benefits to the economy, jobs, the environment, and the public.

It is perhaps no coincidence that we are in a city called Providence as this transition takes place. A special thank you goes to my friend and NACWA’s Vice President Ray Marshall and his team for hosting this great meeting.

I would like to leave you all with a favorite quote of mine from Jackie Robinson: “Life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives.” Friends, let’s join in making a positive impact on clean water and making our communities a better places to live for our children and grandchildren.

From my heart to your hearts—I love you all. Thank you!