CONFERENCE KEYNOTES & SPEAKERS
MONDAY PLENARY SPEAKERS
Chief Resilience Officer
City of Charleston, SC
Dale Morris is Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Charleston, SC. Morris’ primary role is the integration of comprehensive water management, planning and adaptation processes into City policy, land-use, and water projects and the addition of broader resilience approaches to City operations. Morris is the City’s lead for the USACE Charleston Peninsula Coastal Storm Risk Management Project, the City’s Comprehensive, Integrated Water Plan, its Flooding and Sea Level Rise Strategy and other key projects.
Morris previously served as Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Water Institute of the Gulf, an applied, technical research not-for-profit based in Louisiana. He directed the Water Institute’s outreach to and engagement with communities, municipalities, states, and organizations outside of Louisiana and guided the Institute’s Living with Water and resilience strategy work in post-Harvey Houston, the Dutch Dialogues and related work in Charleston, SC, and Virginia.
From 1994-2018, Morris served as Senior Economist at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington, DC, and, beginning in 2005, Director of the Dutch Government’s water management and adaptation work across the US. Morris started his career in the U.S. Air Force and was Legislative Director to two Members of Congress. Morris is co-founder of the Dutch Dialogues, a workshop process that integrates stormwater, groundwater, tidal and surge risks with planning and engineering in targeted cities. Morris hold a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A. from the University of Virginia.
J. David Waggonner III, FAIA
Waggonner & Ball
David Waggonner is the founding principal of Waggonner & Ball, an internationally active architecture and environment practice based in New Orleans. David is recognized as a national leader in resilient, water-based planning and design, and works within and across scales and disciplines to help cities and regions achieve added value from investments in natural systems and built networks. To advance the ability to design and deliver holistic, beautiful solutions to the critical climate and environmental challenges of our time, at the beginning of the year Waggonner & Ball merged with Moffatt & Nichol, a truly global infrastructure advisory firm.
Having developed a government- and institutional-based practice whose work has been recognized with scores or AIA and other design awards, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina David saw an opportunity for New Orleans to reinvent itself as a sustainable city that embraces its lifeblood: water. He co-created Dutch Dialogues ™ and coined and championed a Living with Water ® process that examines history, soils, biodiversity, infrastructure, urban space and habitation, along with the forces of water. His leadership of the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan positioned the city as the first of Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities. In the post-Sandy environment, he led a winning Rebuild by Design (RBD) team working in and for Bridgeport CT. He later served as facilitator for Rockefeller’s National and Global Resilience Academies, on the Resilient by Design Bay Area competition jury, and with the firm participated in the Netherlands government’s Water as Leverage design program in Asia. David has initiated and catalyzed change through Dutch Dialogues and Living with Water efforts including four successful four National Disaster Resilience Competition infrastructure awards totaling $400 million. Waggonner & Ball is presently working on coastal and water-driven challenges around the country, including in Norfolk VA, Charleston and Miami Dade, as well as places noted above.
He is a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and recipient of the AIA Louisiana Medal of Honor.
TUESDAY PLENARY SPEAKER
Liji Thomas, CPA, CIA, CRMA, SHRM-CP
Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
Liji began her career lobbying on Capitol Hill for an increase in housing for low income women and children. In 2005, Liji joined Countrywide as a Project Manager and quickly rose through the ranks to become Assistant Vice President of Compliance and Risk Management. In this role, she oversaw compliance and risk assessment in Countrywide’s offshore operations and authored Countrywide’s Model for Offshore Compliance, a cross functional, global, risk-based approach to the company’s compliance efforts. In 2008, Liji joined the Internal Audit Department of Southwest Airlines. During her time in Internal Audit, Liji led the company’s first Capitalization of Labor Audit and published an article advancing thought leadership in the space in the 2010 issue of Internal Auditor magazine. She then assumed a role as Manager of Business Strategy, implementing new business initiatives impacting over 3,600 individuals. These initiatives included strategies to increase revenue, improve customer experience and realize process efficiencies. In the first six months of 2012, Liji impacted revenue generation in excess of $40 million. As a testament to her leadership, Liji Thomas was shoulder-tapped to help build diversity and inclusion efforts for Southwest Airlines. In this role, she informed all aspects of diversity and inclusion for the nations' largest domestic airline and helped align Southwest Airlines culture with an award-winning diversity and inclusion strategy. Liji then led diversity and inclusion efforts for both Southern California Edison, an investor-owned public utility, as well as Beautycounter, a high growth clean beauty and cosmetics company, before being named the inaugural Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, responsible for delivering water to 19 million residents across Southern California through its member agencies. In her current role, Liji oversees workforce development efforts, business outreach and community engagement and the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council, consisting of representation from several employee resource groups and labor unions, and seeks to strengthen the organization’s commitment to equity and inclusion across all stakeholder groups.
Liji is married and is the proud mom of two girls. In her spare time, Liji contributes to various charitable and civic causes. She is a Former Jesuit Volunteer and a graduate of Vanderbilt University. She has an MBA in Finance, a Master’s degree in Accounting and a Master’s degree in Information Technology Management and Consulting and holds CPA, CIA, CRMA and SHRM- CP designations. She was chosen to deliver her graduate school commencement address, is a graduate of Leadership Dallas and is a member of the 2023 Class of Leadership California.
WEDNESDAY PLENARY SPEAKER
Bill (William) F. Hunt III – PhD, P.E., D.WRE
Stormwater Engineering Group
I function as the leader of the Stormwater Engineering Group, with a focus on Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure. I have co-authored more than 130 peer-refereed journal articles, two books, and many extension publications. As a team, we have designed and/or monitored more than 250 stormwater control measures. Every year I conduct 20-25 workshops in North Carolina, the US, and abroad. I teach a variety of classes including: Introduction to Engineering (E101), Grand Challenges of Engineering (E102), Ecological Engineering (BAE474), and Design of Stormwater Control Measures (BAE 575). My newest endeavor is a study abroad course entitled: Engineering in the Roman Times (BAE 495).
I love people and sharing a good laugh. Wolfpack sports are both a blessing and a bane, but such is life for a fan of the underdog. Traveling and my five kids bring me my greatest joys in life.