Speakers

*Speakers subject to change. Please return to this page for updates.

Jon Alby is Deputy General Counsel for Leprino Foods Company in Denver.  While Alby has responsibility for a wide range of corporate legal and business issues, he has played a critical role in the development and oversight of the company’s environmental management systems and sustainability programs. Leprino Foods is a world leader in dairy food ingredients; particularly, premium quality mozzarella cheese, sweet whey, lactose, and whey protein concentrate. It is the largest U.S. exporter of whey products. Leprino cheeses are made especially for pizzeria and foodservice operators, frozen food manufacturers and private label cheese packagers. Leprino Foods operates nine manufacturing plants in the United States, including two in Colorado (Greeley and Fort Morgan), and has international operations in the UK, Brazil, and Singapore, and offices in China and Japan.

Read more about Jon Alby.

Marc Arnusch is a third-generation farmer and is the owner of Marc Arnusch Farms; a diversified irrigated operation, located in Prospect Valley, CO.  After graduating from college with a degree in Agriculture Economics, Arnusch returned to the family farm in 1995.

Marc Arnusch Farms encompasses nearly 3,000 irrigated acres today and specializes in growing valued-added crops including certified wheat and malt barley seed, malt barley for the craft-brewery industry and grain corn, silage corn and alfalfa for the local dairy market.

In addition to his production agriculture role, Arnusch has served in several leadership capacities including as the President and Vice-President of the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee. At the Colorado Farm Bureau, Arnusch has filled leadership roles, including President of both Weld and Morgan County Farm Bureaus, and now serves as a director on the Colorado Farm Bureau State Board and the Colorado Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company. He currently represents Colorado Farm Bureau on the American Farm Bureau National Water Policy Advisory Committee in Washington D.C.

Read more about Marc Arnusch.

Luis Benitez stepped into his current role with the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office when the agency was established in 2015. His early career was spent conducting mountaineering, climbing, and skiing courses for the Outward Bound Professional development program. While Benitez still guides for Outward Bound through his Endeavor Consulting Company, an even more intense occupation captured his imagination: high altitude mountaineering. Through Endeavor Consulting and other organizations, Benitez has led parties of climbers to the summit of some of Earth’s most imposing peaks. His first of six summits on Mount Everest was in 2001 with blind athlete Erik Weihenmayer, and Benitez has guided on the famed Seven Summits numerous times. 

 At the heart of his career, Benitez has always focused on teaching as well as serving. Some of his most rewarding work has been to help create the nonprofit “Trekking For Kids”, which focuses on service based expeditions allowing participants to climb and trek while teaching them about local issues like housing and healthcare for orphans around the world. He has also worked closely with Warriors to Summits, a nonprofit focusing on serving returning Veterans by connecting them with the outdoors. 

Read more about Luis Benitez.

Christina Burri is a watershed scientist at Denver Water. She works to inventory, protect, and improve the 2.5 million acres of watershed area in Denver Water’s collection system. She also leads Denver Water’s innovative watershed management and planning efforts, including forest health investments. As part of this effort, Burri manages the “From Forests to Faucets Partnership,” a $66 million agreement between Denver Water, the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State Forest Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service to improve the health of Colorado’s forests and watersheds.

Burri serves as the board chair for the Coalition for the Upper South Platte. She is also involved in several watershed and forest health collaborative groups such as the Upper South Platte Partnership, Wildfire Watershed Protection Group, Front Range Roundtable, High Country Forest Collaborative, and the South Platte River Urban Waters Partnership.

Read more about Christina Burri.

Rick Cables enjoyed a 35+ year career in the Forest Service, including assignments in Arizona, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Washington DC, Alaska and Colorado. He was recruited to direct the merger of two state agencies, Colorado State Parks and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, in 2011. As the first Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Cables was applauded for his leadership in effectively merging two proud and highly respected agencies into a new organization.

Cables embarked on his “third” career in August 2013. As Vice President for Natural Resources and Conservation, he led Vail Resort’s industry leading conservation and sustainability efforts—in conjunction with their longstanding partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. He started his own consulting business in November of 2017, specializing in conservation strategies and solutions, focusing primarily on forests, water, wildlife and recreation issues.

Read more about Rick Cables.

Mark Cackler is Manager, Agriculture and Food Security, at the World Bank, responsible for World Bank programs on agricultural transformation in Africa. He is also the World Bank’s representative on the CGIAR governing council.

Cackler joined the World Bank in 1981, after working as an Overseas Representative for John Deere Intercontinental, Ltd., an agricultural equipment manufacturer, based in Thailand. Initial assignments in the World Bank included agriculture and natural resources units for East Africa, China, Indonesia and the Pacific Islands, and in the World Bank’s New Delhi Office, where he led the World Bank’s commercial agriculture portfolio in India. In 2000, he was appointed Manager of the Agriculture and Rural Development for Latin America and the Caribbean, and in 2007 Cackler was appointed Manager of the central agriculture and rural development department, where he managed World Bank global programs and partnerships for agriculture and food security, including the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the Global Food Safety Partnership, the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development, AgriFin (on agricultural finance), AgResults (on private sector innovations), and other programs dealing with climate smart agriculture, agricultural technology, gender in agricultural livelihoods, livestock, and agricultural risk management. In May 2015, Cackler was appointed as Manager for the unit responsible for World Bank activities dealing with agricultural transformation in Africa.

Cackler is from the United States and was raised in Moline, Illinois. He has economics degrees from Oberlin College, Ohio, and the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Jason Curl is a principal water treatment technologist with Jacobs’ Building, Infrastructure, and Advanced Facilities business in Denver, Colorado and has over 16 years of experience in the water market. He is Jacob’s Global Technology Leader for Software Applications, leading a team of engineers who develop software that enhances analysis and delivery of solutions to his client’s most challenging projects.

Curl has been a design engineer on more than $900 million of water treatment infrastructure, treating more than 400 million gallons per day. He is also the current chair of the AWWA Water Reuse Committee.

Tony Frank is the 14th president of Colorado State University, one of the nation’s leading public land-grant research universities with nearly 35,000 students and more than $332 million in annual research activity. Since his appointment to the presidency in 2008, he has overseen a period of record fund-raising and enrollment, rising graduation rates, increased diversity, improved campus infrastructure, and unprecedented research support. He was named Chancellor of the Colorado State University System on June 1, 2015.

Read more about Dr. Frank.

Kate Greenberg was appointed the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture by Governor Jared Polis in December 2018. As Commissioner, Greenberg leads the Department’s daily operations, directs its 300 employees, and oversees the agency’s eight divisions: Animal Health, Brand Inspection, Colorado State Fair, Conservation Services, Inspection and Consumer Services, Laboratory Services, Markets, and Plant Industry.

Most recently, Commissioner Greenberg was the Western Program Director for National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) where she was involved in water issues. This includes working closely with Colorado’s Basin Roundtables and being involved with the state’s Water Plan and Colorado River Basin water policy.  Over the last six years, she has worked with producers across Colorado to reshape policies and programs at the state and federal level that will enable more family producers to make a living for themselves and their families on the land. This has included working on issues of farmland affordability, agriculture education, access to capital and credit, and Food Safety Modernization Act compliance.

Read more about Commissioner Greenberg.

Jay Ham is a Professor in the Soil and Crop Sciences Department at Colorado State University.  His research area is micrometeorology and environmental physics with a focus on Ag technology, Internet-of-Things (IoT) sensors, and water and air resources. He has over 70 peer-reviewed publications has led federal grants totaling over $12M. He is a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy.

Dr. Ham is the newly appointed Executive Director of the Irrigation Innovation Consortium, a group of five universities that works closely with industry to advance research and training related to irrigation technology.

Bruce Karas is the VP of Environment & Sustainability for Coca-Cola North America. He has more than 25 years of experience as an Environment, Health and Safety professional and has practiced in a wide range of Industrial operations in North America.

Karas leads Coca-Cola North America’s environmental efforts focused on water stewardship, climate protection and energy efficiency, packaging and recycling and sustainable agriculture. Under his leadership Coca-Cola North America and The Coca-Cola Company achieved its global goal to replenish 100 percent of the water used its beverages and return it to nature. Karas’s team is also responsible for developing the strategy and plans to help Coca-Cola achieve its global goal to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one sold globally by 2030. In support of this goal, the team works with NGO partners and local governments to improve access to recycling and bring innovative solutions to the marketplace that will help drive a circular economy.

Jim Lochhead was appointed Denver Water’s CEO/Manager in 2010. Lochhead leads 1,100 employees in providing a reliable water supply to Denver and surrounding suburbs. Lochhead also oversees stewardship of a system that includes 4,000 miles of watershed land, 20 reservoirs, four treatment plants, and 3,000 miles of pipe.

Prior to Denver Water, Lochhead was in private law practice, dealing with national and international natural resource issues. He was also executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Lochhead was the Colorado governor’s representative on interstate Colorado River operations and served on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, The Nature Conservancy and Colorado Conservation Trust.

Lochhead has a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology from the University of Colorado and a law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law.

Matt McKenna is currently an Executive in Residence at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University where he founded the Rural Opportunity Initiative.  The Initiative studies and promotes the role of private investment in the rural economy as a key in establishing rural prosperity.  Key areas of investment focus are in agriculture, technology, infrastructure and venture capital.

McKenna served as a Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack from 2013-2017. In that role, McKenna worked to leverage federal resources with public and private partners to foster job creation, business development and economic growth in rural America.  During his time with the Administration, McKenna was also a Presidential Executive Fellow.

Prior to joining USDA, McKenna served as the President and Chief Executive Office of Keep America Beautiful, the nation’s leading nonprofit that brings together volunteers to build and sustain vibrant communities.

Read more about Matt McKenna.

Rebecca (Becky) Mitchell serves as the Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). She is an accomplished water leader with over 14 years experience in the Colorado water sector and highly knowledgeable in the water laws of the State. Mitchell played a significant part in working with the State’s Basin Roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee, the public at large and CWCB staff in producing Colorado’s Water Plan.

Mitchell has worked in the public and private sector as a consulting engineer; she received both her B.S. and M.S. from the Colorado School of Mines.

Bill Northey was confirmed as Under Secretary on February 27, 2018. Previous to leading the Farm Programs and Conservation Mission Area overseeing the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Risk Management Agency and the Farm Service Agency, Mr. Northey served as the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture from 2006 to 2018.

A fourth-generation farmer, Mr. Northey’s experience and depth of knowledge also brought him to serve as a commissioner of the Dickinson County Soil and Water Conservation District, and president and chairman of the National Corn Growers Association. He was also president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture from September 2011 through September 2012, while serving as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.

Mr. Northey has a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business from Iowa State University and an MBA from Southwest Minnesota State University.

Amy Parsons serves as the Executive Vice Chancellor of the Colorado State University System, overseeing strategy and initiatives across the three CSU System institutions (CSU Fort Collins, CSU Pueblo, and CSU Global Campus) and throughout Colorado. She manages strategic partnerships and projects including the National Western Center redevelopment in Denver, the Todos Santos Center in Mexico, the Ascend program based in Fort Collins, and the construction of CSU’s new football stadium.

Parsons oversees the operations of the Board of Governors of the CSU System, and the Denver System office. She serves on the boards of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, the National Western Center Authority, The Big Green, as a Trustee of the Western Stock Show Association, and as a member of Colorado Concern and the Metro Denver EDC Executive Committee. She was recognized by the Denver Business Journal with the Outstanding Women in Business award for Education in 2017.

Read more about Amy Parsons.

Jared Polis is an entrepreneur, education leader, public servant, and Colorado native. He started his first business, American Information Systems, while in college out of his dorm room. By the time he was 30, he launched three successful companies, including ProFlowers, one of the world’s leading online flower retailers. Jared’s pioneering role in the internet economy earned him an “Entrepreneur of the Year” distinction from Ernst and Young.

In addition to his career as an entrepreneur, much of Governor Polis’s adult life has been focused on improving public education. He served six years on the State Board of Education, where he worked to raise pay for teachers and reduce class size for students. He also founded several public charter schools for at-risk youth, and served as superintendent of one of them, the New America School, which helps immigrants earn their high school diploma. Most recently, he served as the U.S. Representative for Colorado’s Second Congressional District.

Read more about Governor Polis.

Claudia Ringler is Deputy Division Director at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). A thought leader on water for food, she manages IFPRI’s Natural Resource Theme, co-leads the Institute’s water research program and is a co-manager of the Managing Resource Variability, Risks and Competing Uses for Increased Resilience (VCR) flagship of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE). Dr. Ringler also chairs the Food, Energy, Environment and Water Network (FE2W) and is associated with the Sustainable Water Futures Program of Future Earth. She has more than 100 journal articles in the areas of global water and food security, gender-water and gender-climate change linkages and the synergies of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Dr. Ringler has a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from University of Bonn and an MA in International Development Economics from Yale University.

Andy Schultheiss joined the Water Trust in October, 2017, after 20+ years in the conservation world and experience in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. Schultheiss’s career started in East Africa, where he worked to develop financial connections between nearby communities and protected natural areas that were also popular tourist destinations. Since then, he has worked all over the American West, usually on projects involving local communities and natural resources, including water. He operated regional and national programs for the League of Conservation Voters, and also developed grassroots outreach programs for the National Parks Conservation Association.

Schultheiss served on the Boulder City Council from 2003-2007, and as Chief of Staff and Colorado Director for Representative Jared Polis, both before and after then-philanthropist Polis ran for Congress in 2008. While he holds a master’s degree in Natural Resources Policy and Administration from the University of Michigan, Andy is an engineer at heart, having earned his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Yale University. He lives in Boulder with his wife and two children, and enjoys spending his (rare) free time hiking, skiing, or whatever other outdoor activity he can think of doing.

Nancy Smith has worked for 20 years with The Nature Conservancy, developing, implementing, and managing conservation strategies to protect critical land and water resources. Currently, as Director of the Sustainable Food and Water Program for the Conservancy’s Colorado Program, she leads a team dedicated to developing and testing innovative approaches to meeting the food and water needs of people in a manner that supports a thriving natural environment. Previously, with the Conservancy’s California Program, she worked with wine producers in Northern California to keep water in rivers to support endangered salmon populations. She also led the effort to secure protective environmental provisions in California’s 2016 marijuana legalization ballot initiative. Smith specializes in private/public sector partnerships such as the Shortgrass Prairie Initiative; she managed the team that developed and implemented this national award-winning effort, securing a $5.5 million contract to provide habitat mitigation services to the Colorado Department of Transportation by conserving 27,000 acres of critical shortgrass prairie habitat.

Smith is a second-generation Colorado native with a law degree and MBA from University of Colorado in Boulder.

Ty A. Smith, MBA, was born and raised on the Navajo Nation. He is Tódích’íi’nii  (Bitter Water Clan), born for  Ashiihi (Salt Clan). Smith received both his baccalaureate degree (B.S. Mechanical Engineering) and master’s degree (MBA) from Colorado State University.  He was a practicing engineer in the energy industry prior to becoming director of the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) at Colorado State University in 2005. NACC’s mission is to ensure a successful educational experience for students by providing support and services related to recruitment, retention, graduation, and community outreach. The office embraces and encourages a supportive environment based on the traditions and cultures of Native American peoples.

Smith resides in Fort Collins along with his wife, Jan, and their two boys, Ty Jr. and William.

Former Secretary of Agriculture and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack now holds several roles, including president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC); a Strategic Advisor of Food & Water Initiatives at the National Western Center as part of the Colorado State University System team; and Global Chair for the International Board of Counselors on Food & Water Initiatives.

Secretary Vilsack’s work with the CSU System and Denver Water supports the growing educational partnership at the new National Western Center in Denver – a 250-acre, $1.1 billion redevelopment project that will convert the historic site into a year-round destination for entertainment, research and educational opportunities, and agricultural business innovation and incubation.

Read more about Secretary Vilsack.

Katie Wallace is the Director of Social & Environmental Impact at New Belgium Brewing, where she’s been for 15 years. A 100% employee-owned B Corp, New Belgium brews a number of craft beers, including Voodoo Ranger IPA and Fat Tire. Wallace leads the brewery’s efforts to address climate change, land and water protections, and social equity. Her team works toward these goals through sustainability programs, philanthropy, policy, company culture, and brand advocacy.

Based out of Colorado, Wallace sits on the senior leadership team at New Belgium, co-chairs the Brewers Association Sustainability Committee, and co-founded the Glass Recycling Coalition. She has degrees in Economics, Finance, and Positive Psychology.

Reagan Waskom currently serves as the Director of the Colorado Water Center. Dr. Waskom is a member of the Soil & Crop Sciences department at CSU, where he has worked on various water related research and outreach programs for the past 32 years, conducting statewide educational and applied research programs on water quality, water quantity, water policy and natural resource issues related to water use. In addition, Dr. Waskom provides oversight for the CSU Extension water outreach program and personnel.

Dr. Waskom’s current research emphasis is on the integrated use of surface and groundwater, the impacts of shale gas development on water resources, and agricultural water conservation in the Colorado River basin and Ogallala Aquifer.