November 26, 2022

Tom Birmingham

Tom Birmingham image via Westlands Water District Facebook video screen capture

published on November 23, 2022 – 3:10 pm
Written by The Business Journal Staff

After more than two decades with the nation’s largest water district, the organization’s chief executive has announced his retirement.

As of December 31, General Manager Tom Birmingham of Westlands Water District will resign.

“It has been a great honor for me to be part of a dedicated team of district employees for more than 22 years. I retire with extreme pride in the things Westlands has achieved over the last two decades,” Birmingham said in a press release.

With the announcement, Birmingham spoke about the land pension programs, habitat restoration efforts, water conservation programs and more being implemented during his tenure.

“None of these things have been accomplished by me. On the contrary, I was part of a team of talented employees who worked under the direction and guidance of a committed, thoughtful board of directors,” said Birmingham.

Also under Birmingham’s tenure was the implementation of pumping rules set out in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Another milestone was the repayment of debt to the US Bureau of Reclamation for the construction of the Central Valley Project, which enabled water allocations for land purchases of more than 900 acres.

New elections were held this month by landowners in the district covering 1,000 square miles of farmland in Fresno and Kings counties for new board members. Incumbents in all four board seats up for election were ousted.

New members include Justin Diener, Ernie Costamagna, Jeremy Hughes and Donald Ross Franson III. The results of the election will be certified on November 28, according to the Westlands website.

The group was seen as a “coalition of change” seeking more “more innovative, collaborative solutions to strengthen the district’s regional water resources,” sjvwater.org reported.

As such, they sought new leadership for the district — a departure from Birmingham’s focus on water export conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, according to sjvwater.org.

Birmingham started his career at Westlands in 1986 as an external consultant before becoming managing director in 2000.

A press release from Westlands said the district expects the board of directors to appoint an interim general manager while they search for a replacement.

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