Leadership Team Delivers with Decades of Experience
The Water Authority is led by a team of professionals who are experts in their fields and share a wealth of knowledge and experience in water issues. These leaders collaborate to coordinate the operations of each department to advance the Water Authority’s mission of providing a clean and reliable water supply to the region.
Dan Denham is general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, an agency established by the State of California to provide wholesale water supplies for 24 member agencies, 3.3 million people and a $268 billion regional economy.
Denham joined the Water Authority in 2006 to manage the multi-party Quantification Settlement Agreement. He later served as deputy general manager for five years before being appointed to his current post by the agency’s 36-member Board of Directors. As deputy general manager, he oversaw the MWD and Colorado River programs, along with the Engineering, Water Resources, and Operations & Maintenance departments.
As general manager, Denham’s priorities include continuing to enhance relations with the Water Authority’s member agencies, minimizing rate increases, concluding the long-running litigation with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and ensuring long-term water supplies for the semi-arid San Diego region.
The General Manager’s Office manages and directs the activities of approximately 250 Water Authority staff. The office implements the Board’s Strategic Plan and policies through programs in the Business Plan; oversees the Water Authority’s extensive infrastructure system; communicates and advocates policy positions and programs of the Water Authority to local, state, and federal officials and agencies; and supports the Board of Directors.
Before joining the Water Authority in 2006, Denham served in various capacities at the City of San Diego’s Metropolitan Wastewater Department, Financial Management Department and Mayor’s Office. Denham holds undergraduate degrees in public administration and economics, and a graduate degree in public administration — all from San Diego State University. Denham sits on several regional boards, including the North San Diego Business Chamber, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the San Diego State University Alumni Board, and the Citizens Forum of the U.S. Section of the International Boundary & Water Commission.
Deputy General Manager
Tish Berge is deputy general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, an agency responsible for providing wholesale water supplies to serve 24 member agencies, 3.3 million people and a $268 billion regional economy. Berge joined the Water Authority as assistant general manager in February 2021, bringing more than 17 years of executive-level experience across every aspect of water utility management.
As deputy general manager, Berge oversees the Finance, Administrative Services, Government Relations, and Public Affairs departments at the Water Authority.
From 2017 to 2021 Berge served as general manager of the Sweetwater Authority, leading the agency to earn a “District of Distinction” award from the Special District Leadership Foundation for demonstrating sound fiscal management policies and practices – an award given to only 2% of special districts.
Prior to her service with the Sweetwater Authority, Berge served as Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District’s director of administration and finance where she implemented a 10-year financial model to drive policy decisions related to debt issuance, Capital Improvement Projects, and water rates. Berge also served as assistant general manager for San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, where she helped the organization earn the 2006 California Water Environment Association Plant of the Year award.
Berge holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College, and a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance from the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine. She is a Certified Special District Manager and Registered Professional Engineer.
Assistant General Manager
Kelley Gage has been with the Water Authority for more than 19 years, working in the fields of water supply planning, environmental planning, and water and regulatory policy. She started with the agency in 2001, then rejoined the Water Authority as Water Resources Director in 2018 before being promoted to her current position in 2023. As assistant general manager, Gage oversees the Water Authority’s Water Resources, Engineering, and Operations & Maintenance departments.
Gage also has worked for Eastern Municipal Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, and the State of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. She has a bachelor’s degree in geology and environmental science from Michigan State University.
David J. Edwards
David J. Edwards was appointed to his post by the Board of Directors in August 2022. Edwards has served as deputy city attorney and lead counsel for the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power since 2011, defending the city’s water rights in the Eastern Sierra and the Los Angeles Aqueduct. He has nearly 17 years of public service at LADWP, the past 12 of which directly relate to water, natural resources, power, and public utility/agency issues. Edwards received his juris doctorate degree from Arizona State University, and he is bar-certified in California, Arizona, and Colorado.
The General Counsel’s Office manages all legal affairs for the agency’s Board and staff. Specifically, the General Counsel ensures that Water Authority business is conducted according to all applicable state, federal, and local laws and regulations; provides legal support to meet the Water Authority’s policy goals; and represents the Water Authority, its officers and employees in litigation and administrative proceedings.
Director of Administrative Services
Jason Foster took on his current role in November 2017 after serving as the Water Authority’s Director of Public Outreach and Conservation starting in 2011 and Director of Public Affairs from 2007-2011. Prior to joining the Water Authority, Foster served as the media relations manager for San Diego State University and also worked in the San Diego region as a public affairs consultant. Foster has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
The Administrative Services Department supports the efficient operations of the Water Authority. Responsibilities include risk management, procurement and administration of the Water Authority’s business insurance (including claims management), development of policies and procedures, purchasing and regulatory compliance, procurement support for solicitation and contracts, cybersecurity, computer software management, maintenance and development of websites, acquisition and maintenance of computer hardware and cloud services, maintenance and development of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) datasets, audio and visual support for conference rooms and the Board room, administration of the records management program, management of the front desk, and facility management for the Kearny Mesa building and grounds.
Director of Engineering
Neena Kuzmich joined the Water Authority in 2013 and has 26 years of experience in design, construction, and project management. Prior to her appointment as director, she served as deputy director of engineering. Kuzmich is responsible for overseeing and managing the design and construction of Capital Improvement Program projects, and the implementation of the Water Authority’s energy management policy. Kuzmich has a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Syracuse University and a master’s in business administration from University of Phoenix. She is a registered professional engineer in the State of California.
The Water Authority’s Engineering Department is responsible for the design and construction of regional water facilities in the capital improvement and asset management programs; overseeing energy related projects; managing real-estate interests; patrolling and managing 168 miles of right-of-way property; and providing survey services.
Lisa Marie Harris
Director of Finance
Lisa Marie Harris joined the Water Authority in May 2014 and has more than 23 years of financial experience in both the public and private sector, including working at the County of San Diego as chief deputy treasurer; the State Treasurer’s Office as executive director of the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission; the City and County of San Francisco; San Francisco International Airport as the Assistant Deputy Airport Director for Budget and Finance; and most recently for Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., LLC, an investment banking firm, as senior vice president. Harris received her bachelor’s degree in economics from University at California, Berkeley, and her master’s degree in public policy from the University of Michigan.
The Finance Department has a broad range of responsibilities for accounting, financial reporting, payroll, deferred compensation, and accounts payable and receivable (including reporting, billing and collection of water charges, budget oversight, and internal controls). The department is also responsible for investing and borrowing funds; protecting credit ratings in the investment market; developing long-range financing plans in support of the Capital Improvement Program; advising the Board on proposed policy decisions; and providing oversight of imported water activities.
Director of the MWD Program
Amy Chen is a registered civil engineer in California with more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering and planning. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from University of Southern California. Chen joined the Water Authority in 1996 to lead the Water Authority’s Los Angeles office managing the relationship with MWD’s board and member agencies, and she was named MWD Program chief in February 2008.
The Water Authority’s MWD Program supports the agency’s Board officers and MWD delegates in developing and implementing strategies to achieve the Water Authority’s supply reliability goals. Program staff works closely with other Water Authority departments, linking MWD programs and policies to the Water Authority’s management strategies and operations. The program also works closely with MWD board members and member agency managers to advocate for the Water Authority’s positions relative to MWD programs and activities.
Director of Operations & Maintenance
Eva Plajzer, a 30-year civil engineering and management professional, joined the Water Authority in 2022. Before joining the Water Authority, Plajzer served as assistant general manager at the Rancho California Water District in Riverside County, where she led the Engineering and Operations Departments. Before that, Plajzer was assistant director of engineering at Moulton Niguel Water District in Laguna Hills for nearly six years. Plajzer holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of California at Irvine, a Master of Science in Engineering from the University of California at Davis, and a Master of Public Administration from San Diego State University. She is a registered professional engineer in California and Virginia and possesses a Water Distribution Operator D2 and Treatment Operator T2. She is active with many professional associations including the WaterReuse Association where she served as Treasurer in 2004/2005; American Water Works Association; Association of California Water Agencies; and California Association of Sanitation Agencies.
The Water Authority’s O&M Department is responsible for operating the aqueduct system; ensuring facility security and emergency preparedness; and maintaining and managing the fleet and various other assets. The department controls water deliveries to meet member agency demands; manages dam and reservoir operations; ensures water quality; oversees water treatment plant and power generation operations; maintains all vehicles and heavy equipment; and implements the Aqueduct Protection Program, among other functions.
Director of Water Resources
Jeff Stephenson joined the Water Authority in 1996, and has more than 27 years experience working in the Water Resources Department. He has managed the Water Authority’s water-use efficiency group, supply planning group, and water policy group. Stephenson also represented the agency in many high-profile technical advisory groups with the California Public Utilities Commission, Bureau of Reclamation, and Department of Water Resources, and he is a trusted leader and source in the water industry. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University, San Bernardino and a Master of Public Administration degree from San Diego State University.
In addition to water supply planning and long-term facilities planning, the Water Resources Department also administers the water shortage and drought response program; provides member agency assistance in local supply development; engages in regulatory advocacy and regulation development; manages Water Authority involvement in the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Plan and grants administration; and ensures environmental regulatory compliance of Water Authority programs and projects.