Water association’s new leader is fixture in area agriculture
Water is an essential part of life, especially in the high desert of the Grand Valley.
One man who understands that is Mark Harris, the newly selected general manager for the Grand Valley Water Users’ Association.
“Right here in the valley, everything that we do is made largely possible by the fact that we have this huge benefit of good water,” Harris said.
Dick Proctor stepped down from the position in March, leaving association board members with the task of finding a new general manager. The board selected Harris for the position after weeks of deliberation.
“I consider myself very lucky. There’s not that many jobs of this nature anymore,” Harris said.
The first few weeks have gone well, he said, crediting interim manager Kevin Conrad and officer manager Shirley Joslin in helping ease the transition.
A resident of the Grand Valley since 1958, Harris has been involved in agriculture for most of his life. He worked in the farm building business for 17 years and helped build many of the grain bins throughout the valley.
Harris later became co-owner of Grand Valley Hybrids farm, working mainly on the commercial side of things, he said. The company sold the commercial division of the business to Dow AgroSciences in 2010, so he began to look for another job.
Knowing that the job market would look different than it did years ago, Harris made the decision to go back to school and earn his master’s degree in agricultural development through Texas A&M University. He completed that degree in December 2012 and said it has already helped him in his new position.
“This job is an ideal venue for me,” Harris said. “I wanted to remain involved with natural resources, particularly water. I wanted to be involved with the ag and rural community along with the broader community.”
And reaching out to the broader community is something he plans to do more as general manager.
“One of the things we want to make sure we focus on is that there is appreciation on the part of the greater community of the economic engine that these conveyance systems and everything that has to do with them provides for the community,” Harris said.
While he said he is confident in the position, he no doubt realized the significance of taking on the job as water chief of this “complicated bathtub” that is the Grand Valley. Harris said he intends to maintain good relationships with rest of the state and other water users downstream but plans to keep Grand Valley water users a top priority.
“We want to be good stewards of this resource but we also need to protect our access to it. We need to protect our water rights,” Harris said.