Washoe County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung has been named by the Water Environment Federation as the 2020 Public Official of the Year. This international award recognizes Hartung as an elected public official who has made a significant, documented contribution to improvements in the quality and resiliency of the water environment.
Hartung serves as chairman of the Western Regional Water Commission, chairman of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority Board of Directors and vice chairman of the Truckee River Flood Management Authority. He has actively supported the development of the Nevada Water Innovation Institute at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Institute Director Krishna Pagilla led the effort to nominate Hartung for the award.
“Commissioner Hartung has been a champion of the University and, particularly, the Nevada Water Innovation Institute,” said Pagilla, who holds the Ralph E. and Rose A. Hoeper Professor and Chair in the University’s acclaimed Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. “He understands the importance of addressing regional water challenges and opportunities, and he brings effective leadership to the issues of water environment, water security and water resiliency of in northern Nevada.”
“Supporting advanced water treatment research is part of our community’s long tradition of building a sustainable, resilient water supply for future generations,” said Hartung. “In the high desert, we should never treat our water assets as disposable. This is important to me because it’s vital to our region’s well-being and continued resiliency. I feel fortunate to have been able serve on boards that support efforts to conserve, innovate and foster water sustainability in our region and the West.”
The nomination highlighted Hartung’s contributions to regional water-management planning, the development of alternative water supplies through reclamation, and support of research on climate- change effects on regional water resources. It further noted Hartung’s prioritization of the protection of Lake Tahoe through stormwater pollution-control programs, protection of the Truckee River by supporting development of state-of-the-art water reclamation at the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility, and promotion of sustainable regional development with water recycling and stormwater management as key infrastructure requirements. In 2018 the Nevada Water Environment Association’s Public Official of the Year Award was jointly presented to Hartung along with then Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.
“When it comes to water use and reuse, Commissioner Hartung has been the ‘eyes and ears of the community,’” said Pagilla. “He consistently advocates that all water projects in the region incorporate public education and K-12 education.”
Hartung has helped the Nevada Water Innovation Institute further develop its external partnerships with Washoe County, City of Reno, City of Sparks, Truckee Meadows Water Authority, Western Regional Water Commission and Nevada Department of Transportation.
Hartung has served on the Washoe County Commission since 2012, representing District 4 which includes Sparks, Spanish Springs and Wadsworth. He has been a small-business owner for 36 years and was a partner in a photography studio. He is a former adjunct faculty member for the University and Truckee Meadows Community College, where he taught photography over two decades. In addition to the community service noted, Hartung serves on the governing boards of the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency, Nevada Association of Counties, Regional Transportation Commission, Washoe County Stadium Authority, Truckee Meadows Fire Commissioners, Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza and Washoe-Storey Conservation District.
The Water Environment Federation is a nonprofit association that provides technical education and training for thousands of water quality professionals.