Meet the Santa Clara Valley Water District Executive Management Team
CEO: Rick Callender
Rick Callender is the Chief Executive Officer of Valley Water. Appointed CEO by the Board on May 26, 2020, Mr. Callender oversees an integrated water resources system that includes the supply of clean, safe water; flood protection; and environmental stewardship of waterways for Santa Clara County’s 1.9 million residents.
Mr. Callender has worked for Valley Water since 1996, serving most recently as the Chief of External Affairs. As the CEA, he led Valley Water’s efforts in strategic external communications to the media, community, and the public. Mr. Callender also oversaw all government relations efforts on local, regional, state, and federal levels, as well as public policies that directly affect Valley Water.
Prior to joining the district, Mr. Callender worked as a Special Assistant to former City of San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer, as a Field Campaign Organizer for the California Democratic Party, as a Congressional Fellow for the United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Energy, and as a Congressional Fellow to Congressman Ronald V. Dellums. He also served as president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP from 2000 to 2008.
Mr. Callender earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and Technology with an emphasis in electronic and computer technology from California State University, Chico, completed all coursework for his Master of Arts in Public Administration from San Jose State University, earned his Juris Doctorate from Northwestern California University School of Law, and is a member of the California State Bar. He has also attended and graduated from eight executive leadership programs at different universities throughout the nation.
District Counsel: J. Carlos Orellana
J. Carlos Orellana is the District Counsel for Valley Water. The Board appointed Carlos to serve as Valley Water’s chief legal officer in April 2021, with an effective date of June 1, 2021.
Carlos was previously the Deputy General Counsel of the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). At VTA, he was the primary attorney responsible for construction contracts—including the $9 billion extension of the BART train system into Silicon Valley—and successfully defended the agency’s $6 billion sales tax measure in the trial court and on appeal. Before joining VTA, Carlos was a senior associate at the local firm of Miller, Morton, Caillat & Nevis, practicing construction law and commercial litigation. Carlos began his career at the national firm Fenwick & West, where he practiced in the firm’s litigation, employment, and electronic information management groups.
He graduated from UCLA School of Law and received a BS in Political Science and a BA in Spanish Studies from Santa Clara University.
Carlos recently chaired the La Raza Lawyers of Santa Clara County Charitable Foundation, which awarded over $40,000 in scholarships in 2020.
Originally from El Salvador, Carlos grew up in the Bay Area and has called San Jose his home since he was 10 years old.
Clerk of the Board: Michele L. King, CMC
Michele King was appointed Clerk of the Board on Jan. 12, 2010. As a Board Appointed Officer, she answers directly to the Board of Directors and supervises a staff of 10. Ms. King has been with the district since 2004 and has had over 12 years experience in providing support to elected officials of special districts. As a Certified Municipal Clerk and a member of the Northern California Clerks Association and the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, she brings years of experience and training to her job of assisting Board members and the public.
As Clerk, her priorities are ensuring that the public has access to the board’s information and records as well as supporting board members so they can do the jobs they were elected to do. Ms. King is an expert in state regulatory requirements, such as the Ralph M. Brown Act, which ensures through posting and archiving of records that the public has equal access to the information of the district’s elected officials. While overseeing her staff, she also makes sure the district complies with regulations and deadlines for board and committee meetings, agenda publications, frequent Groundwater Production Charge Protests, directors’ schedules and travel plans, Lobbyist Ordinance compliance, public record requests, directors’ expenses, and the Board of Directors, Board Advisory and Ad Hoc Committee, and Clerk of the Board annual budgets.
Assistant CEO: Melanie Richardson
Melanie Richardson is the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of Valley Water. Appointed by the Board on July 14, 2020, Ms. Richardson oversees all Valley Water operations including the Water Utility Enterprise and Watersheds business areas.
Ms. Richardson has worked at Valley Water since 1990 and has held the positions of Assistant Operating Officer of Water Supply, Deputy Administrative Officer of Corporate Business Services, Deputy Operating Officer of Watersheds Design and Construction, and most recently Chief Operating Officer of Watersheds. As COO of Watersheds, she provided management oversight for flood protection, environmental stewardship and dam safety capital projects.
Ms. Richardson has a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from Montana State University and is a registered Civil Engineer in California. She has also completed the Executive Leadership Program from UC Berkeley Extension.
Ms. Richardson currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Flood Storm Management Agencies (NAFSMA) and is a board member of Bay Planning Coalition. She previously served as Chair of the City of San Jose Parks and Recreation Commission and was past President of the WateReuse Northern California Chapter.
Chief Financial Officer: Darin Taylor
Darin Taylor became Valley Water’s Chief Financial Officer effective Dec. 19, 2016, after 15 years as a senior project manager with Valley Water. Mr. Taylor has more than 18 years of governmental financial planning and management experience with Valley Water. As CFO, he oversees the areas of Accounting, Financial Planning and Revenue Collection, Budget, Treasury and Debt, and Continual Improvement.
Mr. Taylor holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Claremont McKenna College, and a master’s degree in business administration from San Jose State University. Mr. Taylor is a Certified Public Financial Officer, a certification designated by the Government Finance Officers Association.
Chief Operating Officer, Information Technology and Administrative Services: Tina Yoke
As Chief Operating Officer, Information Technology and Administrative Services, she oversees Information Technology, Procurement, Facilities, Fleet, Emergency and Security Services; Business, Customer Service and Warehouse and Environmental Health and Safety units.
Tina has over 20 years of experience working in public service. Tina is a Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) and has worked in procurement, contracting and material and supply chain management for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), the City of Mountain View, and the City of San Diego.
Tina currently serves as Chair of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Association of Public Procurement Officials (CAPPO) and has served as Director North, Treasurer, Vice Chair or Chair over the last 17 years for either the Santa Clara Valley or San Diego Chapters. Tina also served on the American Public Transportation Association’s Procurement Steering Committee, providing guidelines and training for over 7,000-member transit agencies in the USA. Prior to public service, Tina held managerial positions as a General Services and Contracting Manager in the private and non-profit sectors.
Chief of External Affairs: Rachael Gibson
As the Chief of External Affairs (CEA) for Valley Water, Rachael Gibson oversees the Offices of Civic Engagement, Government Relations, Communications and Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. In this capacity, Ms. Gibson manages Valley Water’s relationships with the community, government officials, the media, and other key stakeholders and leads the development of Valley Water’s external communications and community engagement strategies, including incorporation of racial equity, diversity and inclusion into all areas of business operations and decision making.
Rachael has over 20 years of experience working in the local, regional, state, and federal arenas of government relations and community and public affairs. She has extensive knowledge and understanding of complex water policies at all levels of government, and she fosters strong relationships with employees, Board members, partners, stakeholders, elected leaders and government officials to advance Valley Water’s interests. Rachael currently serves as the Chair of the Public Relations Society of America’s 1,000-member strong Public Affairs and Government (PAG) Section, and has been a member of the PAG Executive Committee for a decade. Ms. Gibson also is a Gold Life Member of the NAACP, and serves as the Environmental and Climate Justice Chair for the California/Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP. Prior to joining Valley Water, Rachael served as a senior policy advisor to a regional elected official and successfully lobbied and advocated for several landmark policy initiatives in the areas of land use, parks and recreation, and agriculture
Chief Operating Officer, Water Utility: Aaron Baker
Aaron Baker is the Chief Operating Officer of the Water Utility Enterprise providing a clean, reliable water supply for current and future generations of Santa Clara County. He oversees the Water Utility Enterprise which imports water into the County, manages two groundwater subbasins, three water treatment plants, an advanced water purification center, a state-of-the-art water quality laboratory, ten reservoirs, three pumping stations, numerous recharge facilities in seven major recharge systems, and related distribution facilities.
He has worked for Valley Water for over 20 years and has held the positions of Deputy Operating Officer of Raw Water and Assistant Operating Officer of Treated Water. His experience includes engineering, hydraulic modeling, regulatory permitting and other project support in Capital Program Services, along with engineering and leadership in water treatment, water supply, and flood protection. Some of Aaron’s responsibilities included the continuous operation of the county’s primary water supply system to distribute an average of 300,000 acre-feet per year to water treatment plants, recharge facilities, and other users. He has successfully managed water supply operations through difficult issues including the last drought and interim water supply operations for the Fisheries and Aquatic Collaborative Effort.
Aaron is a State of California Registered Professional Civil Engineer and holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Southern California.
Chief Operating Officer, Watersheds: Christopher Hakes
Christopher Hakes is the Chief Operating Officer of Watersheds. He oversees the Offices of Stewardship & Planning, Operations & Maintenance, and Design & Construction.
Christopher started his career at a private engineering firm before joining Valley Water in 2004. From there, he worked his way up through the agency and across the Watersheds and Water Utility business areas as an Associate then Senior Civil Engineer, before becoming an Engineering Unit Manager in Watersheds Design and Construction and then Assistant Officer in the Water Utility Capital Division. In 2018, Christopher served as the Deputy Operating Officer of Valley Water’s Dam Safety and Capital Delivery Division before being appointed Chief Operating Officer of Watersheds in 2023.
Christopher has provided exceptional leadership, strategic oversight, and multi-stakeholder coordination for the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project, Valley Water’s highest priority project, and for much of his career, he has played an instrumental role in the planning process and development of Valley Water’s Five-Year Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Chris has also worked on many flood protection projects across the county including the Upper and Lower Berryessa Creek Projects, Upper Guadalupe and Lower Guadalupe River Projects, the Upper Adobe Creek Project, and the Pond A8 Applied Study Project.
Christopher holds a Master of Science degree in Structural Engineering, a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and is a Registered Professional Engineer in the State of California.