General Manager Dwayne Chisam Retires, Succeeded by Matthew Knudson
Dwayne Chisam, the General Manager at Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency for the past 10 years recently retired, giving him more time for family life after a career that he embarked on in 1982.
With over 40 years of public service in the Water Wastewater and Public Works industries, a critically need for all forms of life, Dwayne certainly earned the right to relax and perhaps enjoy some favorite activities like antique auto restoration and playing with the Grandkids .
AVEK Director Keith Dyas praised Dwayne and shared some highlights of accomplishments at the Agency during Dwayne’s tenure.
“In my opinion, Dwayne is the finest General Manager in AVEK history,” Keith said. “He is not only technically competent and a natural leader, but he has a vision for the organization. Also, he has the insight and communication skills to successfully project that vision for the board by working within the system to achieve support. That level of expertise enabled him to execute critical projects and programs.”
“Our new High Desert Water Bank, currently a work in progress, is his brainchild from start to finish,” Keith said. “The HDWB is AVEK’s most ambitious project to date, and required incredible planning, scheduling, oversight, and management, which Dwayne achieved with patience, style and grace. This project might be Dwayne’s signature career achievement.”
Dwayne was successful in succession planning when he hired Matthew Knudson in 2018 who has nearly 30 years of local experience and was recently appointed to General Manager by the AVEK Board of Directors.
Dwayne has a grown daughter, Samantha, the mother of his first grandchild, Dean Kenneth Black, born in May 2018 and now around kindergarten age. Regarding Samantha, no father could be prouder. He spent every off-work moment involved in her life. His enthusiasm for restoring old cars further strengthened their bond when he worked on a car for her. She wrote him a letter conveying her gratitude.
“I don’t believe you know how much all the work you put into my car and the time we spent working together has meant to me,” Samantha wrote. “I realize that every moment you have spent working and reworking was done because you love me. You have given me a great gift by turning your passion for cars into a symbol of your love for me.” She described it as a “cherished memory.”
Clearly, he knew the importance of being a great father, someone his daughter could depend on. As a grandfather he gets to do it all over again. In fact, for his grandson’s first birthday in 2019, he created a custom-made tricycle, a tricked-out trike.
So, what does any of this have to do with AVEK? Everything.
Dwayne’s dependable nature with his family runs parallel to his dependable nature on the job.
From the opening of a new administration building and laboratory with the latest in technological advances in a green environment to the emphasis on creating water banks, where excess imported water supplies could be stored, Dwayne provided his expertise. Those water banks make the difference between AVEK’s ability to provide its customers with sustainable water supplies during California’s cyclical drought periods and other agencies that have not prepared and are left struggling to find water.
His attention to details prevails. Dwayne facilitated the formation of a partnership with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for construction of the High Desert Water Bank, AVEK’s largest storage facility to date.
He attended meetings in Sacramento where water decisions are made by agencies like the California Department of Water Resources and various resource oversight boards. The information he gathered helped him keep AVEK’s staff and Board of Directors advised of the latest news and conditions in the water industry. He also engaged in the settlement of a groundwater adjudication court battle among numerous groundwater pumpers throughout the Antelope Valley – a lawsuit that had lingered for 15 years..
AVEK Directors, at their April 25, 2023, board meeting approved a resolution honoring Dwayne for his many years of dutiful service which continued until his retirement. Dwayne thanked the board “for giving me an opportunity 10 years ago.” He said he toured a water bank before he was hired. That’s something I wanted to do. I spent a lot of time thinking about that.”
Dwayne acknowledged that AVEK underwent some improvements during his tenure. But, he added, “you don’t do anything by yourself. It’s been a great 10 years.”
Now, he said, he’s “looking forward to the next 20 years” with the intention of “making up for some lost time” with family.