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Shining a Light on Excellence in Public Service

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San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation Steward Receives 2018 Peer-Nominated Award

The CalPERS Spotlight on Excellence award recognizes the outstanding contributions of an exemplary California public agency, program, or employee. These are the unsung heroes who often go unnoticed as they work diligently behind the scenes to educate us, protect us, keep us healthy, and provide essential services and infrastructure to our communities. The award recipient is chosen annually among nominations received from agencies that contract with CalPERS.

The recipient of this year’s Spotlight on Excellence award is Manuel Colunga, outdoor field supervisor with the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District. Manuel was joined by family and co-workers when he received his honor at the 19th-Annual CalPERS Educational Forum held in October.

“I serve the community by making sure all this water that we’re given reaches our community members,” said Manuel. “If we didn’t, the majority of it would flush down to the ocean and very little would benefit this area.”

Nominated by his San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District peers, they were overflowing with praise for his dedication.

“Manuel’s enthusiasm for service knows no bounds,” one nominator said. “As a dedicated steward overseeing 44 miles of water canals and recharge basins throughout the San Bernardino County region, Manuel’s work requires him to monitor the surrounding landscape and keep a watchful eye on ever-changing weather conditions. Nature doesn’t punch a clock, and neither does he.”

His drive to learn and share information about the importance of groundwater conservation has led to a growing awareness and appreciation from the public, as well as renewed support from the government. This year, 12 neighboring agencies joined forces to boost water efforts in surrounding communities. Under Manuel’s watch, the Santa Ana River Wash, once viewed as a neglected dump, is now seen as a community treasure to be preserved and enhanced.

" "As if that dedication wasn’t enough, he has been a volunteer with the Great Y youth circus in Redlands for more than 18 years. Like so many public servants, giving of himself is just in his DNA.

Whether he’s working to protect the water ecosystem for residents and growers in the region, or mentoring local youth, Manuel’s co-workers summed up their admiration by saying, “he’s a model of doing what you love, working with purpose, serving the community, and having fun every single day.”

Learn more about the CalPERS Spotlight on Excellence Award.