ED Jeff Hanger Celebrates 5 Years with RDRWA!

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This January marks a significant milestone for our Executive Director, Jeff Hanger, who celebrates his five year anniversary with the RDRWA!

Jeff joined the Alliance in 2014, after working as a Project Associate with the Closer to Home (C2H) initiative of the Alberta Water and Wastewater Operators Association. This initiative aimed to build the capacity of smaller municipalities across Alberta, especially those with a population of fewer than 5,000 citizens, to deliver safe drinking water and manage their wastewater responsibly; an experience that served Jeff well as he moved to his new role with the Alliance.

Watershed management is not a job for the faint of heart, and we aren’t sure Jeff entirely knew what he was getting himself into when he accepted the position of ED! However, despite the many complex issues that the RDRWA deals with on a daily basis, Jeff has persevered and has helped to lead a number of notable projects during his time with the Alliance. Over the past 5 years, Jeff has worked with the RDRWA team and its partner organizations to broaden the Alliance’s impact, and to amplify the RDRWA’s voice in support of watershed issues. Highlights include assisting in the creation of ‘Project Blue Thumb’, the first social innovation lab in Canada to address water issues, working on our Integrated Watershed Management Plan for the Red Deer River ‘Blueprint Phase 1: Water Quality’, and helping to steer the Alliance towards a new lens for watershed management, focused on six Action Pathways. Over the years, Jeff has also played an instrumental role at RDRWA flagship events such as Splash!, Tea at the Confluence, H20pia, our forums, and most recently at our 2018 Municipal Watershed Bus Tour for elected officials, which took us across the southeastern portion of the watershed to Dinosaur Provincial Park.

We asked Jeff to reflect on some of his experiences with the RDRWA over the past five years, and what it has meant to him to be the Executive Director of a WPAC. According to Jeff, the most surprising part of being the ED of the RDRWA “ is that I am part of small organization whose nearly sole responsibility is to talk on behalf of an entire watershed. I am constantly amazed at the expertise within staff, Board and volunteers that enable such a small organization to work effectively.” He emphasized how much he appreciates the role of Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs) like the RDRWA, because we are collaborative forums and a way to build bridges while getting peoples voices heard.

“The second most surprising thing is how close we are to drought and low flow years at any time.” For Englishman-cum-newly-minted-Albertan Jeff,  “until 2013, I thought water came out of a tap! Knowing how we fit into the South Saskatchewan basin, learning about Palliser’s Triangle, and about the history of Special Areas has been a great eye-opener for me.”

Outside the world of watershed management, Jeff is also a devoted husband and father of four young children (including twins!), and he credits his family for “ listening to my frustrations, giving me space- and for supporting those nights where Daddy has to go to a boring, snoring meeting!”

Jeff’s experience with the Alliance has also made him cognizant that “watershed management is a long- term process, and recommendations today may not be implemented for years. We work diligently over the long haul with a wide range of partners. Small steps add up, and we need to continue to emphasize collaboration. Building community is at the heart of a strong watershed.”

With this in mind, a big thank-you to Jeff Hanger for the role he has played in building this community over the years. Now back to work!

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