Steve Woods named to lead Freshwater Society

Steve Woods
Steve Woods

Steve Woods, an assistant director of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, has succeeded Gene Merriam as the Freshwater Society’s top leader.

Woods was chosen by the Freshwater Board of Directors to succeed Merriam, who announced last spring that he planned to retire by the end of this year.

Learn more about Woods by reading a short q-and-a interview.

“We are thrilled to have Steve joining our organization,” said Stu Grubb, the Freshwater board chair. “After an extensive search process, we found the right person.  Steve’s leadership and experience in water resource policy, management, and engineering will be vital to continuing and improving the programs and activities of the Freshwater Society.”

Woods, a civil engineer with extensive experience in water conservation and pollution prevention, is Freshwater’s new executive director.

Beginning Dec. 2, 2013,  Woods assumed Merriam’s role in executing Freshwater policy on key water issues, especially those dealing with groundwater sustainability and the pollution of lakes and streams by runoff from farm fields and city streets.

He will be the Society’s point person in relations with state and local policy-makers and with other environmental organizations. Merriam was a long-time state Senator and commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources before joining the Freshwater Society.

“The Freshwater Society had a major impact on my professional development in the1980s,” Woods said when his appointment was announced in late October. “It is an honor to succeed someone of Gene’s stature. Minnesota has realized a number of water management successes in urban and forested areas. The Society’s current work on groundwater and agricultural runoff is needed to address areas where we are not meeting expectations.”

Woods also will assume some of the duties of Joan Nephew, Freshwater’s previous executive director who began a phased retirement.

“Gene Merriam and Joan Nephew joined the Freshwater Society six years ago when the organization was very different,” said Grubb, the board chair. “The board challenged them to make the Freshwater Society a convener of people and ideas and an ‘organization of consequence.’  They guided the Freshwater Society staff in making great strides through programs such as the Moos Lecture Series, Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality, FarmWise, the Road Salt Symposium, the Weatherguide calendar, and now the new Master Water Stewards program. “They leave the organization on a strong footing, prepared to move forward on new challenges and opportunities. They will be missed, but we are grateful for all they have accomplished.”

At the Board of Water and Soil Resources, Woods was one of two assistant directors helping run the $60 million a year state conservation agency. He started working at BWSR in 1999, and was  assistant director in charge of statewide operations since 2001.

From 1987 to 1999, Woods worked as a consulting engineer and manager in the Minnesota office of MWH, a global environmental  consulting company.  Before that, he worked two years as a research analyst in the former Division of Waters in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Merriam praised Woods’ experience and qualifications for the leadership post. “He’s knowledgeable, conscientious and hard-working,” Merriam said. “I know he has a passion for water resource conservation and protection.”

Woods, 50, graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering. He earned a master’s degree in public administration from Hamline University.

He and his family live on Turtle Lake in Shoreview.

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