Community Leaders Ready to Lead

Community Leaders Ready to Lead

Posted on September 30, 2020

The first of two cohorts of the Rural Communities Water Managers Leadership Institute (Leadership Institute) completed the program on September 19, 2020. The focus of the Leadership Institute is to increase the capacity of rural community leaders and residents to better participate in regional and State water management efforts like the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and the Safe and Affordable Fund for Equity and Resilience (SAFER).

The 2020 Leadership Institute was originally planned to start in March, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the start date was pushed back. With the continued risk of the pandemic, the Leadership Institute was restructured into a virtual program via the Zoom platform.

SHE staff, led by Eva Dominguez, one of SHE’s Community Development Program Managers, prepared for a new start date of May 16 for this first cohort. A new curriculum outline was developed and materials were updated to accommodate the virtual platform. Participants were expected to attend two virtual meetings per month for five months.

Despite some inevitable issues with internet, some unfamiliarity with Zoom, and distractions from home, participants joined the sessions and were fully involved in the program. The virtual setting was new to participants and SHE staff, but overall, the program was successful in connecting leaders with valuable information and it allowed people to participate who may not have been able to complete the program in person.

Throughout the program, participants took part in workshops, small group discussions, and other activities that were led by SHE staff or guest presenters, including two graduate students from UC Davis, Kristin Dobbin and Darcy Bostic. Maria Herrera, former SHE Community Development Program Manager, who helped to develop the Leadership Institute last year, also helped lead some of the workshops. While a good portion of the program was based on the previous year’s materials, new topics were introduced this year to discuss updates to Groundwater Sustainability Plans under SGMA, SAFER and its impact on communities in the San Joaquin Valley, and information about community water systems, their issues, and potential solutions.

The first cohort of the 2020 Leadership Institute has a total of 15 graduates from 10 communities throughout Fresno and Tulare Counties. The second cohort of participants started meeting in June and is scheduled to complete the program on October 17.

“Whether I advocate for them and their right for safe and affordable drinking water or help bring a food distribution event to our town of Monson-Sultana, the knowledge I have gained that I can implement from being part of the Leadership Institute is tremendous,” said Kari Quitana, a Leadership Institute participant.  “I am walking away from this experience feeling more confident to go out and make the necessary contacts to get things going. I am able to make more informed decisions as a board member, and other groups I am part of, because I have learned how important and impactful my position is at that table I sit at once a month and how important my role is in how the decisions we make today will impact the future of our town and the people after who will live here way after I am no longer here.”
 If you would like to learn more about the Leadership Institute, please email Eva at

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