Rick Callender officially starts as chief executive officer, becoming the first African American to serve in the role in Valley Water’s 90-year history.
Callender’s immediate priorities will be navigating the agency through COVID-19, while focusing on the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit, Pacheco Reservoir Expansion, Rinconada Water Treatment Plant Reliability Improvement, and the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program.
Callender, a longtime advocate for racial equality, also announced that he will establish a new unit within Valley Water, the Office of Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. This office will ensure effective diversity and inclusion practices are in place internally and also within the communities Valley Water serves.
“I believe having these conversations around racial equity and taking a look at increasing our diversity and inclusion efforts will result in Valley Water transforming to an organization in which no one feels marginalized,” said Callender. “Programs like Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection are an opportunity to make sure everyone has a voice in the public safety and life sustaining services we provide.”
Valley Water’s Board of Directors approved Callender’s appointment in June to take over for Norma Camacho. Camacho announced her planned retirement in December 2019.
Callender has worked for Valley Water since 1996, most recently as the Chief of External Affairs (CEA). As CEA, he led the district’s strategic external communications, all government relations efforts on local, regional, state, and federal levels, and was responsible for keeping the agency informed of public policies that directly affect the water district.
Before joining Valley Water, 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.
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.
Callender currently serves as Vice President of the California State Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and has previously served as President of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP.