A steady force for local and state water issues, she is credited with building a spirit of collaboration to improve local water storage and resilience.
The San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District Board of Directors, staff, and community supporters gathered to celebrate the many contributions of Board President Melody Henriques-McDonald, now in her 30th year of leadership on the Board.
In 1991, the year she was first appointed to serve, California was in its fifth year of drought: the worst since the Dust Bowl. The governor had called on all communities to cut their water use by half. Then, a “Miracle March” dropped 240 inches of snow in the Sierra Mountains. Thirty years later, it was Gov. Gavin Newsom, not Pete Wilson, who in 2021 made the call to conserve.
All over California, districts and the state work to find solutions to their water systems – but in the San Bernardino Valley, significant progress has long been made to dramatically improve the local water storage and reliability.
And many credited Henriques-McDonald with helping to build the collaboration necessary to achieve those goals.
General Manager Daniel Cozad called Henriques-McDonald one of the modern water women pioneers – a trailblazer with extensive leadership and experience in the industry – applying her knowledge to help guide District and regional projects in terms of management, collaboration with other agencies, public outreach, and perception.
“The water world is made of peacemakers and communicators and people who are willing to go that extra mile to make sure things work out,” Cozad said. “We’re glad she’s one of them.”
General Counsel David Cosgrove agreed.
“Melody has a way to cut to the quick intellectually on any issue, and she has an instinctive understanding of the people involved in an issue and their motivations,” he said. “What I’ve learned from Melody is that you have to know not just what it is that you’re doing, but you have to deeply appreciate who it is that you’re doing it with–and sometimes even who it is you’re doing it against–because individuals, their motivations, and their methods are something that she has a keen intuition for.”
Vice-President Richard Corneille said her institutional knowledge has been invaluable in guiding District policy and projects.
“She brings such a continuity to our Board,” he said. “With 30 years on the Board and a long history of what happened in the past, one of her greatest contributions is promoting the District and the Board.”
In addition to her work on the Board, Henriques-McDonald represents the District and serves as a voice for water interests with her involvement with the Association of California Water Agencies as a current member of the association’s Executive Committee and Federal Affairs Committee. She also serves as chair of ACWA’s Liability Program Committee, vice-chair of the Employee Benefits Committee, and has been a director of the association’s Joint Powers Authority since 1991.
Her three decades of experience in the water industry have also included previous roles at ACWA, including membership on the Water Management Committee, State Legislative Committee, and as a past member of the Region 9 Chair of ACWA’s Board of Directors. She was also a past chair and vice-chair of the JPIA Property and Workers Compensation Programs. Henriques-McDonald also served as past chair of the Water Management Certification Subcommittee, and was chair of the California Water Quality Control Board, Santa Ana Region, where she served as a gubernatorial appointee from 1993-2000.
Beyond the water world, Henriques-McDonald is a member of the Highland Area and San Bernardino chambers of commerce. She is a licensed Realtor and broker; and she and her husband, Dean, operate a business known as Southwest Lift & Equipment, Inc. She is a graduate of San Gorgonio High School, Western Real Estate School, and the Arizona School of Real Estate, and the Special Districts Board Management Institute.
She and her husband have five children and 11 grandchildren, and are members of Immanuel Baptist Church of Highland, as well as Arrowhead Country Club of San Bernardino. She also sponsors four children through World Vision, a global organization that provides long-term development programs to children and communities in need.
Click here to view a video tribute to Henriques-McDonald.
More quotes about Henriques-McDonald:
“I greatly appreciate the fact that she’s served as the vital conduit to keep us connected with so many other parts of the water world, and I am grateful for the incredible number of hours she puts in to help people of this Valley retain a sustainable supply of water.”
– Board Member John Longville
“The one thing I really appreciate about Melody is her total loyalty to the organization, and her positive demeanor with all people she deals with. It’s wonderful.”
– Board Member David Raley
“Giving back to the community here as a Board member is one thing, but Melody is doing it on a larger level to all of the special districts in California, which is beyond necessity as a Board member.”
– Board Member Robert Stewart
“My favorite character trait of Melody is her care and her concern, that comes obviously from such an authentic place. … Having Melody on our Board of Directors as a woman, as this incredibly successful human being, it’s an inspiration to me and I hope to be able to follow in her footsteps someday.”
– Betsy Miller-Vixie