39. Jeff Kightlinger
Jeff Kightlinger is the general manager and CEO of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and that pretty much says it all. The biggest uncertainty in the world of water this year is the fate of the massive project to convey northern water south through a single tunnel in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta; MWD wants that water and wants that tunnel. The state said in January that it was proceeding with the project, but that was then. The multibillion-dollar plan has already been scaled back from an earlier twin tunnel incarnation, and it’s uncertain, given budget shortages and pandemic woes, exactly how all this will play out. In a state where water has been the single biggest bone of contention since statehood, the sprawling MWD — it has 1,800 employees and a $1.8 billion annual budget — is the major player, serving nearly half of California’s population in six southern California counties. By the way, Kightlinger has plans to retire next year after 14 years at the helm, and the hunt is underway for a successor. No, we don’t know who that will be.
Updated Aug. 11, 2020