WELL educates local Latino elected officials on California water policies to promote timely and equitable actions that strive to develop a robust economy, healthy communities, and a resilient environment for all Californians.
In 2012, founder Victor Griego approached several California water professionals to discuss the need to educate Latino leaders on California’s water crisis. After that conversation, they recruited eight others to help achieve this goal. These individuals made up the first Advisory Board of Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL).
Today’s WELL Advisory Board members are water experts and elected officials. They are a diverse set of leaders representing different constituencies and the varied perspectives that come from their experiences as leaders at national, state, and local water agencies, including work in water policy and management, environmental justice, conservation initiatives, and community, political, and labor organizing.
WELL Advisory Council Members include Carmen Ramirez, Diana Mahmud, Irais Lopez-Ortega, Miguel Luna, Tonia Reyes Uranga, Tony Estremera, and Victor Griego. Their titles and biographies can be found later in this section.
WELL’s Body of Work
- Seven statewide conferences with over 150 attendees at each event
- Eight regional legislative water workshops representing over 10 counties
- Two legislative briefings led by Speaker Anthony Rendon in Sacramento
- More than 300 of California’s 400 Latino city council members, mayors, and county supervisors, i.e., 350 elected officials total have become more educated about California water policy
- Presentation at the March 2016 White House Water Summit, “Working Together to Build a Sustainable Water Future”
- Leadership in the design, planning, and presentation of the Water Pavilion, an event affiliated with the California Global Climate Action Summit, September 2018
Past participants and speakers at WELL events include California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, California Senator Bob Archuleta, Congresswoman Nannette Barragan, California State Assembly Members Eduardo Garcia and Mike Gibson, California Senate Pro-Tem Kevin de Leon, California State Senators Ben Hueso and Robert M. Hertzberg, Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, former assembly members Luis Alejo and Mike Eng, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, retired California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, California Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird, California Public Utilities Commission members Catherine Sandoval and Martha Guzman, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
WELL’s strategic partners are the National Association of Latino Elected Officials; the California League of Cities; the Latino, Asian Pacific Island, and African American Caucuses; the California State Latino Legislative Caucus; and the California Contract Cities Association.
WELL has received funding from over 45 entities, including labor unions, national environmental nonprofit organizations, private foundations, private corporations, local governments, water agencies, private companies and associations, and California energy utility companies. Major donors include the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the Water Foundation.
WELL’s Constituency: Filling a Gap
To prepare the next generation of California’s water policy leaders, WELL involves the people who represent 40 percent of California’s population but less than 2 percent of elected water officials—the Latino community.
Latinos are woefully underrepresented in California’s water policy-making circles. WELL’s goal is to be inclusive and create a “bench” of Latino elected officials who are ready to take the helm and lead California toward a sustainable water future. As such, WELL’s programs do not require that participants be Latino themselves. If you represent a Latino community, you can be a Latino leader.
Additionally, WELL’s programs are targeted to local elected officials because they already have water responsibilities and because 41 percent of the state legislature is comprised of former local officials, meaning that many of the leaders trained today will be legislators tomorrow.
California has significant challenges on the horizon, such as ensuring the Human Right to Water and managing limited water resources in the era of climate change. However, WELL believes that California can rise to the occasion through education, engagement, and action. WELL is committed to developing the skill sets of local elected leaders because they will be the state’s
stewards in the near future. It is important to prepare them now.