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Women of Water at CWH

Continuing to celebrate Women's History Month, we recognize the CWH female Executive Board Members who have championed excellence in environmental issues. Whether helping to establish a National Park Monument or influencing progressive watershed management plans for Southern California and fighting for our natural resources, these women have changed our lives, and the lives of future generations, for good.

With a focus on work inspired by activism and strong women, both at home and in the work place, our three female Board members reflect on their careers and the women who inspired them to advocate for the health of our water.

Belinda Faustinos

Belinda served for 17 years as the Chief Deputy Director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority where she worked closely with the National Park Service. She also served as the Executive Director of the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC), a California State Agency, from 2002 through until 2011. In addition to serving as the Executive Officer of the RMC, she was also the Executive Officer of three joint powers entities, the Watershed Conservation Authority, the San Gabriel River Discovery Center Authority and the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority.

More recently, Belinda has served as an appointee of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and was appointed by former US Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Sally Jewell to the National Park System Advisory Board. She also serves as an alternate California Coastal Commissioner. She serves on two local advisory committees as a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor’s appointee and on the Board of Directors of several non-profit organizations, including CWH. In May of 2012 she established BVF Consulting, Inc. where she worked with San Gabriel Mountains Forever (SGMF) to successfully advocate for designation of portions of the San Gabriel Mountains as a National Monument, dedicated by President Obama in 2014. Her work with this coalition was instrumental in the formation of two new coalitions, one around transportation policy – EnviroMetro and the other for parks and open space – #OurParks LA

Belinda reflects on the women who inspire and motivate her work in policy and advocacy.

"So many women inspired me starting with my mom and grandmother who raised me to be independent, respectful and committed, to people like Mary Nichols who nudged me beyond my comfort zone, and professionally are my constant benchmarks for making sure that I stay true to the values they helped shape in my life. I work on water issues because they are central to healthy, vital communities. Water resilience is central to parks, healthy food, transportation and housing that can meet the challenges of our environment. That's why I have spent many years in integrated resource issues as they are applied in communities. People power is at the core of why I continue to work on these issues. We must harness that people power and work in true collaboration to achieve mutual objectives; it's all about sharing, respecting and integrating our shared values for our water, land and air."

Elsa Lopez

Elsa currently serves as a Public Participation Specialist for the Department of Toxic Substance Control and is the former Manager of Public Affairs for the Water Replenishment District of Southern California. She is one of the leaders of Mothers of East Los Angeles and served as the first Director of the Audubon Center located in Highland Park. Elsa also serves on the Board of Directors of Mujeres de la Tierra and CWH.

Elsa shares who are the most influential women in her career.

“My mother, Juana Beatriz Gutierrez, who co-founded the Mothers of East Los Angeles (MELA) and then went on to form and be president of MELA-SI (Santa Isabel) has been an inspiration to me my whole life. She received awards for her work within the community and today MELA is a well-known grassroots organization.

She is the pioneer of Water Conservation in Los Angeles. In 1992 she challenged LADWP and MWD to focus on grassroots level conservation and to put their money in a win/win program. That's when the Ultra Low Flush Toilet program was born. They bought toilets in bulk and gave them out of her house to LADWP customers that resulted in permanent and immediate water savings. She later advocated for outdoor water conservation. She inspired me to become who I am today - an advocate and fighter for conservation and our environment.

Martha Davis has been another inspiration. She was the Executive director of the Mono Lake Committee from 1984-1996. Under her leadership and activism, the Mono Lake Committee made tremendous strides in both the courtroom and in the legislature to save Mono Lake. She influenced me to educate Angelenos about the history of Mono Lake and how its health depended on the residents of LA. I partnered with Martha and started the "Outdoors Learning Experience Program" where Mother's of East LA -Santa Isabel took hundreds of LA Urban youth to Mono Lake to make the connection of how we could all save Mono Lake. Many of these youth returned to LA to become advocates for conservation. I have great stories and fond memories during this time, and today I continue to fight and be the voice of our natural resources."

Rebecca Drayse

Rebecca is a Principal at EW Consulting, Inc. She has extensive experience working with diverse interests to find consensus-based solutions to urban environmental problems, including the development of multi-agency watershed management plans and projects. She has developed strategy documents for overcoming regulatory barriers in regional projects and has participated in the development of state legislation and local and state regulations, including the Stormwater Resources Planning Act (SB 790), City of Los Angeles Low Impact Development Ordinance, and County of Los Angeles Rainwater Harvesting Guidelines. Rebecca has managed several high-profile, multi-benefit demonstration projects in the Los Angeles region and enjoys translating complex issues into language that can be understood by the community at large. In 2012, she led the planning and execution of an in-depth research trip to Australia’s five major cities to learn more about the conservation programs they developed in response to their decade-long historic drought. Rebecca is involved in several water-related organizations and serves on the Board of Directors at CWH.

Rebecca has been inspired by many female leaders, and shares some of her greatest inspirations.

“Like so many water professionals, my biggest inspiration was Dorothy Green. She had tremendous vision and the resolve to accomplish great things combined with a deeply engaging and loving personality. Dorothy was a world-class recruiter who encouraged me to take a leadership role in the Council and I remain on the Board today helping carry out her wish to improve the health of our region’s watersheds.

I also greatly admire Fran Spivy-Weber. I had the pleasure of serving with her on the Board of the California Urban Water Conservation Council (CUWCC), and have witnessed her wealth of water knowledge and great negotiating skills both at the CUWCC and in her role at the State Water Resources Control Board. If you need advice on how to handle a difficult situation, or thoughts on a new idea, Fran is always there with her wise counsel.

Most recently, I have been inspired by Lenise Marrero, an Assistant Division Manager for the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation and the Project Manager for the City of Los Angeles’ One Water LA 2040 Plan. Lenise is managing this complex planning effort involving many City departments, regional agencies and interest groups, all with different perspectives and needs, with a winning combination of efficiency, patience and good humor. Lenise has many years ahead of her in a bright career and it gives me hope for our region to see up-and-coming female leaders like her making great contributions. I’m excited about working with Lenise and other rising stars in both government and the non-profit world to help transform our region."

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