(Photo: Valley Ag Voice)

Press release provided by the Water Association of Kern County

BAKERSFIELD, CA – The Water Association of Kern County proudly presented its Water Leader of the Year and Water Legacy Awards last Wednesday, November 8th, at its 2023 WAKC Annual Meeting held at Stockdale Country Club.  

Board members and guests gathered for the 67th Annual Meeting and were excited to come together and surprise the award recipient. Scott Thayer, 2021-2023 WAKC President, welcomed everyone to the Annual Meeting and introduced the evenings agenda. Guest Speaker, Lois Henry spoke about the historic wet year, the flooding and “how we whistled past the graveyard”.  

WAKC elected new officers to lead the organization: President Jason Giannelli (Old River Farming), 1st Vice President Stephanie Hearn (GEI Consultants), 2nd Vice President Dolores Salgado (Ardurra) and Secretary Kristina Budak (City of Bakersfield). We also recognized retiring Board Members David Nixon (Arvin-Edison Water Storage District) and Tim Ruiz (East Niles Community Services District).  

Every year WAKC presents the Water Leader of the Year and the Water Legacy Awards at the Annual Meeting. The Water Leader of the Year award is given for significant contributions, leadership and integrity over the past year. Steven Teglia, General Manager of Kern Delta Water District, presented the 2023 Water Leader of the Year award to Mark Mulkay.  

Mulkay, who is retiring this December after a 30-year career as the General Manager of Kern Delta, was singled out for his contributions over the past year as the Kern River Watermaster. Mulkay was instrumental in the success of managing the historically wet year on the Kern River. In his introductory comments, Teglia recalled, “The timing was perfect. Mark’s responsibilities with Kern Delta were winding down, and serving as Watermaster for a short term would be a nice way to ease into retirement. Unfortunately for Mark, that was not the case.” It was a term like no other before him. Teglia continued, “During Mark’s nearly two-year tenure as Watermaster, the runoff from the Kern River switched from abnormally low in 2022 to historically high in 2023. What is normally an obscure role with little public interest suddenly became the center of attention.” Mulkay’s service and acts of leadership made him a well-deserving awardee for our Water Leader of the Year.  

Rodney Palla, President of Kern Delta Water District, next presented the Water Legacy Award to honor a recipient who spent his life working in water issues and demonstrated leadership and long-term commitment to Kern County water. Palla presented the Water Legacy Award to Mark Mulkay. Palla stated, “During these early years…Mark introduced a new fandangle idea called water banking. Mark was persistent in convincing the Board that Water Banking was the way of the future for Kern Delta and was instrumental in bringing a banking partner that changed the way the district would operate for years to come.”  

It speaks to the magnitude of Mulkay’s tenure that he was the recipient of both awards. Palla stated, “Although Mark ended his career as the Watermaster, I truly believe he will be remembered as the Master of the Kern River.” The evening was a remarkable testament to the longevity of service in the amazing individuals who represent our Kern County water community. 

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