Karla Nemeth was appointed Director of the California Department of Water Resources by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on January 10, 2018, and was reappointed by Governor Gavin Newsom on June 28, 2019.
DWR operates and maintains the California State Water Project, manages floodwaters, monitors dam safety, conducts habitat restoration, and provides technical assistance and funding for projects for local water needs. Nemeth oversees the Department and its mission to manage and protect California’s water resources, working with other agencies in order to benefit the State’s people and to protect, restore and enhance the natural and human environments.
Nemeth worked at the California Natural Resources Agency as Governor Brown’s deputy secretary and senior advisor for water policy since 2014. She was Bay Delta Conservation Plan project manager from 2009 to 2014.
Nemeth was environmental and public affairs director for the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District from 2005 to 2009. She was community affairs manager at Jones and Stokes from 2003 to 2005.
She has a Master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington.
Cindy Messer was appointed as Lead Deputy Director in February 2017. Prior to her appointment, Messer served as a subject matter expert and policy advisor to the director and former chief deputy director on a broad range of issues impacting statewide water management. She briefly served as acting director in the summer of 2017 after Mark Cowin retired and prior to Grant Davis' appointment.
Messer was the deputy director of the Planning, Performance, and Technology Division at the Delta Stewardship Council from 2012 until her appointment with DWR. As deputy director, she coordinated the preparation and implementation of the Delta Plan. Prior to this position, Messer served as the assistant executive officer for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy where she provided oversight for development of the Delta Conservancy’s Interim Strategic Plan. Messer also worked for more than 10 years in various technical and managerial roles in DWR's Division of Environmental Services.Messer is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental policy analysis and planning. She also earned a Master of Science degree in conservation biology from California State University, Sacramento.
Kristopher A. Tjernell was appointed Deputy Director of the Integrated Watershed Management Program on May 14, 2018. This position is responsible for advancing policies and programs that integrate and provide multiple benefits including flood management, local water supply, and ecosystem restoration. Tjernell oversees the Division of Integrated Regional Water Management, the Division of Statewide Integrated Water Management, the Climate Change Office, and DWR’s EcoRestore Program.
In 2014, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. appointed Tjernell to the position of Special Assistant for Water Policy at the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) where he accelerated and coordinated implementation of Yolo Bypass flood and habitat restoration projects, California EcoRestore projects and related planning, and other actions to further the California Water Action Plan. Tjernell worked closely with Secretary John Laird to develop and negotiate proposed voluntary settlement agreements for each of the major Delta tributaries as part of the State Water Board’s ongoing Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan process.
Prior to his appointment with CNRA, Tjernell was a policy consultant for Conservation Strategy Group, LLC, where he specialized in integrated water management, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta restoration and governance, ESA/CESA issues, land conservation, water supply, ecosystem conflict resolution, and public finance. Tjernell advised a broad array of local public water agencies and non-governmental organizations to advance their federal, state, and local natural resource funding and policy objectives.
Tjernell graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Ted Craddock was appointed Deputy Director of the California State Water Project (SWP) on May 18, 2020. He was previously acting SWP Deputy Director since July 2019. In this role, Craddock oversees a workforce of more than 2,000 employees who are responsible for the operation of the SWP. The SWP is one of the world’s largest water and power systems and provides water to more than 27 million Californians.
Prior to this role, Craddock served as Assistant Deputy Director of the SWP and Chief of DWR’s Hydropower License Office. Craddock has led several important DWR efforts including the Oroville Spillways reconstruction and extension of the SWP’s East Branch system. The American Society of Civil Engineers awarded Craddock with the Outstanding Projects and Leaders award in 2020 and the Outstanding Civil Engineer in the Public Sector award in 2018.
Craddock is a registered Professional Engineer and holds a degree in Civil Engineering and Materials Science Engineering from the University of California, Davis.
Gary Lippner was appointed Flood Management and Dam Safety Deputy Director on September 16, 2019.
Gary advises and assists in the formulation and implementation of policies and programs within the Division of Flood Management (DFM) and Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD). Gary is a key advisor to the Director and other Executive staff on major policy, program and operational issues affecting DFM and DSOD, as well as the entire Department.
Gary joined the Department in 2009, after working in the private sector and in academia for more than 12 years. In 2016, Gary served as the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Drought Emergency Response Team Director. He was instrumental in assessing risks, identifying areas impacted by drought, facilitating water transfers and infrastructure improvements, and taking actions related to protecting Delta water quality. In February 2017, Gary was appointed as the Chief of the North Central Region Office where he was responsible for various programs, including the Truckee River Operating Agreement and the State’s administration of the Davis-Grunsky Grant, Recreation Planning and Implementation Program.
Most recently, in February 2018, Gary was appointed as the Deputy Director, Delta Conveyance where he has overseen all aspects of the California WaterFix project and managed DWR’s efforts to implement a solution to provide reliable water to California’s businesses, farms, and residents while also providing ecosystem benefits.
Gary earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from California State University, Chico. He also earned a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from California State University, Sacramento. Gary is a licensed Professional Engineer.
Katherine S. Kishaba was appointed deputy director of Business Operations on March 2, 2011. Her primary responsibilities include managing fiscal, information technology, procurement, human resources, facilities, and safety programs. Business Operations consists of approximately 400 employees department-wide.
Prior to assuming her current role, Kishaba served as our budget officer beginning in 2003 and was responsible for the development and administration of a multibillion dollar budget. Previously, Kishaba also oversaw all administrative activities of the Bay-Delta Office and worked in the administrative sections of former Division of Land and Right of Way and Office of Water Education (now the Public Affairs Office). She participated in the implementation and upgrade of SAP, our enterprise financial system, and more recently managed the design and roll-out of the Enterprise Budget Planning system in 2009.Kishaba holds both a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in social science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Thomas Gibson was appointed General Counsel at DWR in June 2021, overseeing the Office of General Counsel. He provides legal advice to the Director and DWR management and oversees approximately 50 attorneys. The Office of General Counsel is responsible for a broad range of issues, including water rights; water transfers; energy law; flood management; integrated water management; dam safety; personnel; and state contracting.
Thomas was previously Undersecretary, Deputy Secretary and Special Counsel for Water, and General Counsel for the California Natural Resources Agency as well as General Counsel for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Prior to joining the State, he was a Partner at the law firm of Best, Best & Krieger LLP and an Associate at the law firms of Hyman, Phelps & McNamara P.C. and Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard.
Thomas earned a Juris Doctor degree cum laude from the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College.
Kasey Schimke was appointed assistant director of the Legislative Affairs Office in May 2007. His responsibilities include monitoring and guiding legislation and representing us before the State Legislature. He also assists the director in policy discussions with the Governor's Office, government agencies, and private groups.
Prior to his appointment, Schimke served as personal staff to several members of the California State Legislature for more than 8 years. From 2000 to 2005 he served as staff to the Assembly Budget Committee. Schimke's assignment to the Committee included reviewing the budgets of the departments of the Resources Agency, CalEPA, and the Department of Food and Agriculture. During this time, he was involved in reviewing funding proposals and crafting implementing legislation relating to the nearly $9.3 billion in environmental protection bonds approved by voters between 2000 and 2002. From 2005 to 2007, Schimke served as staff to State Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny, where he worked on a broad range of issues, including water policy, state budget, social services, agriculture, Indian gaming, and tribal sovereignty.
Anecita Agustinez has served as our tribal policy advisor since August 2013. Agustinez has over 30 years of advocacy experience on behalf of California’s Native American tribes. She provides policy support and recommendations regarding tribal issues to the director and chief deputy director and has been actively engaged with our projects and programs, assisting with tribal consultation and development of the DWR Tribal Consultation Policy.Before joining DWR, Agustinez served as the Native American liaison and manager of the Office of Legislative and External Affairs and the Office of Health Access at the Department of Health Care Services. She previously served as the assistant director of the Office of Native American Affairs at the Department of Justice in the Office of the Attorney General. Her experience includes developing and conducting training in the areas of tribal consultation and cultural competency. Agustinez studied political science at Stanford University and is a tribal citizen of the Dine (Navajo) nation.
John Paasch was appointed Security and Emergency Management Program Deputy Director on June 26, 2021.
Paasch provides executive-level policy direction, coordination, and leadership for Department emergency management and security programs.
Paasch joined DWR in 2009 as a levee inspector and flood fight specialist and has served in numerous emergency management positions within the Department’s Flood Management Division. Most recently, Paasch managed the Hydrology and Flood Operations Office overseeing a multi-disciplinary team of managers, engineers, programmers, scientists, technicians, and analysts to deliver data, tools, and expertise in support of real-time water management with numerous state, federal, and local partners.
Paasch is a licensed Professional Engineer and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Bioresources and Agricultural Engineering form Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He also earned a Certificate in Business and a Master of Engineering degree in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University, College Station.
was appointed the Chief of the Internal Audits Office on October 2, 2017. Whitsell initially joined DWR as a Senior Management Auditor in 2005. In 2008, he left DWR for a Chief Auditor position with the California Department of Public Health. He returned to DWR’s Internal Audits Office in 2012, where he has been in charge of special investigations and complex audit assignments. Throughout his career, he has worked as an auditor for the Department of Social Services, the Employment Development Department, and the Department of Insurance. Whitsell has also been a program manager at the Department of Health Services overseeing $1.8 billion in funding for hospitals that treat indigent patients.
As Chief, Whitsell provides management consultation and recommendations to the Directorate, particularly in areas of internal controls and risk management, and will have responsibility for planning, coordinating, and managing the activities of the Internal Audits Office.
Whitsell earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the California State University, Sacramento.
Prior to assuming her current role, Varrelman served as the executive advisor to the deputy director of Business Operations beginning in 2008 and was involved in a wide array of initiatives, including the Safety Project and Enterprise Budget Planning Project. Previously, she served as an administrative officer for the Departmental Services Office and an analyst responsible for drafting enterprise policies and procedures in the Management Analysis Office. Varrelman also served on the Change Management Team for the Next Wave SAP Migration Project.
Varrelman received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of California, Davis, and a Master of Arts degree in history from California State University, Sacramento.
California Department of Water Resources
1416 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
California Department of Water Resources
P.O. Box 942836
Sacramento, CA 94236-0001