Senior Management of the Department and Key Financial Officers

The California Department of Water Resources bond program is administered by several Senior Management and Key Financial Officers.

Karla Nemeth

Karla Nemeth

Director

Karla Nemeth was appointed Director of the California Department of Water Resources by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on January 10, 2018. 

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. Karla 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.

Karla worked at the California Natural Resources Agency as Governor Brown’s Deputy Secretary and Senior Advisor for water policy since 2014. She was the Bay Delta Conservation Plan project manager from 2009 to 2014.

Karla was the environmental and public affairs director for the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District from 2005 to 2009. She was also the community affairs manager at Jones and Stokes from 2003 to 2005.

Karla has a Master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington.

Cindy Messer

Cindy Messer

Chief Deputy Director

Cindy Messer was appointed as the Department's Chief Deputy Director in February 2017.  Cindy 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, Cindy served as the assistant executive officer for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy where she provided oversight for the development of the Delta Conservancy’s Interim Strategic Plan.  She also worked for more than ten years in various technical and managerial roles within DWR's Division of Environmental Services.

Cindy 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 obtained a Master of Science degree in conservation biology from California State University, Sacramento.

Katherine Kishaba

Katherine Kishaba

Deputy Director of Business Operations

Katherine S. Kishaba was appointed Deputy Director of Business Operations in March 2011. Her primary responsibilities include managing the Department's 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, Katherine served as the Department's Budget Officer, beginning in 2003, and was responsible for the development and administration of DWR's multi-billion dollar budget. Previously, Katherine also oversaw all administrative activities of DWR's Bay-Delta Office and worked in the administrative sections of DWR's 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, the Department's enterprise financial system, and more recently managed the design and roll-out of the Department's Enterprise Budget Planning system in 2009.

Katherine 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.

Joel Ledesma

Joel Ledesma

SWP Deputy Director

Joel Ledesma was appointed State Water Project (SWP) Deputy Director, in July 2017, by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

Joel is an electrical engineer who has worked with the Department for more than three decades and has expertise in water, energy, and project management. He served as assistant Division Chief of Operations and Maintenance, Chief of the Plant Asset Management Branch, Chief of the Delta Field Division, Chief of the Systems Support Office, and Chief of the Energy Management Systems Branch.

He's led several projects, including preparation of the initial start-up of the California Independent System operator (ISO) Corporation, Business 2000-Phase 2B, implementation of Cyber Infrastructure Protection Program for SWP, and Market Redesign Technical Upgrade project in compliance with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and ISO regulatory and energy market requirements.

From January 4, 2016, until his appointment to SWP Deputy Director, Joel was an Assistant Division Chief II, Chief of Utility Operations for Operations and Maintenance where he oversaw the SWP Operations Control Office, Oroville Field Division, and Delta Field Division with more than 350 employees. This included overseeing SWP Water Supply, ensuring coordination of statewide SWP operations and maintenance, and coordinating water delivery with SWP contractors. Prior to that role, he managed more than 130 employees as Delta Field Division chief, overseeing the operation and maintenance of five pumping plants, four reservoirs, four dams, two major environmental projects, and 115.6 miles, within three aqueducts, that included the California Aqueduct, North Bay Aqueduct, and South Bay Aqueduct.

As SWP Deputy Director, Joel oversees the Division of Engineering, Delta Habitat Conservation and Conveyance Program, SWP Power and Risk Office, Hydropower License Planning and Compliance Office, SWP Analysis Office, Delta Conveyance Office, Division of Environmental Services, Bay-Delta Office, and the largest division—the Division of Operations and Maintenance, which includes five field division offices.

A native of Sacramento, Joel earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering, with a concentration in power, from the California State University, Sacramento.

Vinay Narjit Singh Behl, CPA

Vinay Narjit Singh Behl, CPA

Comptroller & Chief Financial Officer

Vinay Narjit Singh Behl has served as the Chief of the Division of Fiscal Services since April 2017 and as such is the Comptroller and Chief Financial Officer of the Department.  He manages and directs the activities of the Budget Office, General Accounting Branch, Enterprise Accounting Branch, Financial Analysis and Risk Management Office, and the Administration/Out-of-State Travel/Master Data Office.  Vinay is also responsible for the the long-term financial planning of the State Water Project and management of the outstanding debt for the Department. 

Prior to joining the Department, Vinay served as Chief Financial Officer as a subsidiary of Guardian Life Insurance Corporation from 2015 through 2017; Chief Financial Officer of an operating division of the United States Department of Health & Human Services from 2010 through 2015; and Vice President of Finance for various multinational software companies from 1997 through 2010. 

Vinay is a licensed CPA in California and Delaware with various certifications in Accounting, Audit and Finance. He holds a Bachelors and Masters in Finance and graduated with a Masters In Business Administration from University of California, Davis, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Vinay is a Chartered Accountant (ACA); Certified Internal Auditor ( CIA); Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA); Certified Management Accountant (CMA); Certified Internal Auditor (CIA); Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE); Certified in Finance Qualification (CFq); Certified Government Audit Professional (CGAP); Certified Government Finance Manager (CGFM); Certified in International Financial Reporting Standards(CIFRS); Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA); and Certified Information Technology Professional(CITP). 

He is also a graduate of the prestigious Strategic Leadership program for Healthcare Executives from Cornell University. In addition, Vinay has held official positions as an advisory board member on the Performance and Accountability committee composed of eight members selected nationwide of American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) tasked with recommending performance improvements and governance in large organizations.

Spencer Kenner

Spencer Kenner

Chief Counsel

Spencer Kenner was appointed Chief Counsel, in February 2016 , overseeing the Office of Chief Counsel. He provides legal advice to the Director and Management, and oversees approximately 40 attorneys. The Office of Chief 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.

Spencer was Assistant Chief Counsel beginning in 2013; acting Chief Deputy Director in 2015, and Senior Staff Counsel from 2008 to 2013. He served as commission counsel at the California Water Commission, staff counsel at the Employment Training Panel, and deputy general counsel at the California State Lottery. He also served as court counsel at Yolo County Superior Court, staff attorney at Empower Yolo, deputy district attorney at Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, and senior associate at Downey Band LLP.

Spencer earned a Juris Doctor degree from Brigham Young University.

Lisa Toms

Lisa Toms

Chief, Enterprise Accounting Branch

Lisa Toms has served as Chief of the Enterprise Accounting Branch, within the Division of Fiscal Services, since March 2014.  She has over 27 years of financial experience at the Department of Water Resources and has served in many leadership roles within the Division of Fiscal Services. 

She oversees the reporting of the State Water Resources Development System’s financial records, including the preparation of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, as well as ensures adequate financing needs are met for all State Water Project funding needs, including the issuance of Commercial Paper and Central Valley Project (CVP) Water System Revenue bonds. 

Her institutional knowledge of the Department and many years of State Water Project experience has allowed her to become one of the key financial representatives of the Department.  

Lisa received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, with a concentration in Accounting, from the California State University, Sacramento.