Irrigation Leader
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A Tribute to Bob Johnson

Commissioner Johnson has touched many lives in his decades of public service. He has worked in the Bureau of Reclamation’s regional office in Sacramento as an ag economist; in Reclamation’s regional office in Boulder City, Nevada, as an economist and as branch chief for the economics branch; in Reclamation’s Washington, DC, office, as head of the contracts and repayment branch; in Boulder City again as chief of the operations division of the Lower Colorado Region; as assistant regional director and then regional director of the Lower Colorado Region; and then as commissioner of Reclamation from October 2006 to January 2009. After his retirement from Reclamation, he has been involved in the Water Education Foundation and many other organizations. Throughout, he has dealt with challenging situations involving many clashing interests with his signature mix of good humor, patience, and determination to find a solution. As you will read in the following tributes, Commissioner Johnson is not admired by his colleagues simply for his impressive professional achievements. Even more importantly, they know him for his personal virtues and his care and solicitude for everyone he knows and works with. It is because of these qualities that so many in the water world consider Commissioner Johnson not a former colleague but a fast friend. 

A special thanks is due to Mr. Robert Snow of the U.S. Department of the Interior for his significant time spent contacting contributors and helping with captions for this special tribute to Commissioner Johnson, and to all those who contributed their messages. 

Bruce Babbitt
47th Secretary of the Interior (1993–2001) 

Bob Johnson orchestrated the Colorado River management system that we now take for granted, including interstate banking, the Multi-Species Conservation Program, the Arizona Water Settlement, the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), and the all-important shortage guidelines. It was my privilege to work under Bob, taking direction and inspiration and guidance from him for 8 years. Happy birthday! 

Dirk Kempthorne
49th Secretary of the Interior (2006–2009) 

Bob, let me add my sincere best wishes to you as you celebrate a wonderful birthday. I can tell you that it was an absolute pleasure and honor to serve with you at the U.S. Department of the Interior. I had 100 percent confidence in you as we tackled significant issues regarding water, one of the most precious commodities here on Earth. I could not have had a finer partner than you, quarterbacking a magnificent team at Reclamation. 

One of the most important achievements of my tenure as secretary, and one that holds great personal meaning for me, is the initiation of the U.S.-Mexico cooperative process on the Colorado River. Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhán and I were able to start a dialogue on the Colorado River that endures to this day and is widely recognized as a positive example for other transboundary basins around the world. Having a Colorado River veteran and problem solver like you, Bob, at my side as we worked through those difficult issues with Mexico was an absolute key to our success. You knew the issues and the people and believed that we could find consensus solutions that would benefit the people of both countries. You made a real difference. 

When I look back on our partnership at Interior, I note other significant achievements that you played a key role in accomplishing. These include 

• guiding development of the historic 2007 shortage guidelines and coordinated operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead;
• overseeing implementation of the All-American Canal lining project, providing water supplies for tribal water settlements in California;
• helping to create the U.S.-Mexico cooperative process on the Colorado River;
• initiating the first basin study focusing on the future needs and challenges in the Colorado River basin; and
• overseeing finalization and implementation of the Arizona Water Settlements Act, including the Gila River Indian Community Water Settlement Act. 

Bob, you can look back at your tenure at the department and proudly know that you and our team at Reclamation did an outstanding job. Well done, my friend! God bless you! 

David Bernhardt
53rd Secretary of the Interior (2019–2021) 

First, I wish Bob Johnson a happy birthday. I do not know of a more dedicated public servant, and Bob is also an incredible individual. His leadership of Reclamation and his prior service as the director of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region were incredibly important to the western United States and to our nation. Happy birthday, Bob. 

Tanya Trujillo
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science (2021–) 

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish Bob Johnson a very happy 70th birthday and to thank him for being such a key part of our Colorado River family. In the days leading up to the 2007 guidelines, I had a chance to work directly with Bob, and I always appreciated his calm demeanor and steady optimism. Bob’s leadership at Reclamation made a real difference on the Colorado, and his approach to solving problems continues to inspire us as we continue to grapple with drought, climate change, and competing demands on the Colorado. Thank you, Bob! Salud! 

Five commissioners of the Bureau of Reclamation—from left to right, Eluid Martinez, Michael Connor, Brenda Burman, Estevan López, and Bob Johnson—in Las Vegas in 2017.

Eluid Martinez
Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (1995–2001) 

Bob, wishing you the best on your birthday and thank you for your past support and continued friendship. 

Mike Connor
Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (2009–2013) 

Happy 70th birthday, Commissioner Johnson—also known as my friend Bob. It seems like just yesterday when I first had the opportunity, as a new attorney in the solicitor’s office, to meet with the esteemed director of the Lower Colorado Region. During that first meeting in the late 1990s, your leadership and thoughtfulness were on full display, providing a great example for a young, self-proclaimed up-and-comer. Of course, that meeting was simply a precursor to being witness to your great leadership of Reclamation and your many contributions to the water community at all levels. Notwithstanding the big shoes I had to fill, it was an absolute honor to be your successor at Reclamation. The greatest compliment I heard during my tenure was someone relaying that “Commissioner Johnson would have made the same decision.” Best wishes for a wonderful birthday. 

Brenda Burman
Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (2017–2021) 

Happy 70th birthday, Bob! You have so much to be proud of. As memories go, 2007 is the year that stands out for me. I was your deputy at Reclamation (and then at Water and Science). We were so close on the shortage guidelines, and then talks broke down. Many advised (exhorted, pushed, insisted) that Reclamation should determine the answer by fiat without all seven states on board. You took in all the noise and raised voices and remained calm. You thought that we needed practical ways to bring people back to the table. You reached out to parties individually to keep the conversation going. You smiled. You made jokes to break the tension. And each party knew they could trust you to listen, to not gang up on them. It wasn’t easy, but in December of that year, the secretary of the interior and representatives of each of the seven basin states stood in front of the Colorado River community to sign the 2007 guidelines. I learned a lot from you that year about trust, integrity, and quiet steadiness. I wish you all the best, Bob. Thank you for your service to Reclamation, to the water community, and to so many others—so much to be proud of. 

Patti Aaron
Public Affairs Officer, Lower Colorado Region, Bureau of Reclamation 

Bob J. has been such an influence on my career and on me personally. When he was leaving the regional director job and heading to Washington, DC, to be commissioner, we threw a farewell party. As I was saying goodbye and shaking his hand, he said, “I’d like to see you working in the commissioner’s office.” I had never considered such a move, but it planted the seed. Fast forward a year or so, and I was working in the commissioner’s office. I stayed there for 10 years. It was a great move, professionally and personally, and I will be forever grateful. Bob’s integrity and leadership style are fine examples to follow. Thank you, Bob, and happy birthday! 

Christine Arbogast
President, Kogovsek & Associates 

Commissioner Johnson, you have been a determined, deliberate leader in the western water community. With a thoughtful and informed approach, you always tried to find that path to “Yes, we can do this.” Often, the path to “No, we can’t,” was the easier choice, but you did not take it. In that alone, you are exceptional. So, as we celebrate your birthday, we in western water celebrate your enormous contribution. All the very best. 

Chris Beardsley, Bob Johnson, and Jen Beardsley.

Chris Beardsley
Director, Policy and Programs, Bureau of Reclamation 

Here’s wishing you a very happy 70th birthday! I want you to know how much I enjoyed my years working for you when I was in Washington, DC, especially our time together working on the 2008 budget review committee. What I remember from those days was that your passion for Reclamation was evident in everything you did, the fact that you valued every single person within the organization, and how you taught all of us that it was important to laugh and enjoy what we did. 

One experience that I can’t thank you enough for was an assignment I had related to interviewing individuals in leadership. Even though you were charged with leading an organization of 5,500 people and were always extremely busy, you took the time to talk to me about things you learned over your illustrious career—things that shape who I am today. I still keep those notes with me, so I always remember to “Work hard, look to gain different experiences, take advantage of opportunities when presented with them, and make sure you do a good job in everything you do.” 

Thank you for your leadership and friendship, and I wish you a very happy 70th birthday! All the best! 

Darvin Fales (second from left), Bob Johnson (third from left), and Dohn Berger (far right) attend an exhibition in Monterey, California.

Dohn Berger
Regional Manager, Southern United States and South America, Intertape Polymer Group 

Happy birthday, Bob! We met in Reno, Nevada, at the Mid- Pacific Water Users’ Conference years ago and have been great friends ever since. Bob, you remind me of my Uncle Desi—you have a warm smile and a charming personality and are always there to lend a helping hand. Thank you so much for all your support and wisdom, and most of all, for your friendship. Best wishes, my friend!

Darvin Fales, Bob Johnson, and Dohn Berger duck hunting in Canada.

 

 

 

Brian Betcher
Former General Manager, Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation & Drainage District (2008–2020) 

Congratulations on your birthday—another milestone! I want to personally thank you for your steady leadership as regional director of the Lower Colorado Region and for working with the Central Arizona Project (CAP) irrigation districts in Arizona through some challenging times as we navigated the historic Gila River settlement. 

John Bezdek
Shareholder, Water and Power Law Group 

When I was the assistant solicitor for water and power at Interior, my team was responsible for providing legal advice to the commissioner’s office, so when Bob was confirmed, I went to see him about continuing Reclamation’s support for the solicitor’s office. I’ll never forget Bob’s reaction when I made my pitch. He looked at me and said, “John, you can count on me for support as long as you remember there’s no such thing a good deal that the lawyers can’t mess up.” That was Bob’s way of making sure I understood how things were going to work. From that point forward, Bob unfailingly defended and supported the solicitor’s office. Happy birthday, Bob! All of us who work on water in the West are so much better off for having your leadership and your friendship. 

Tom Birmingham
General Manager, Westlands Water District 

Happy birthday, Bob! On your 70th birthday, it is fitting to pay tribute to the contribution you made to the people benefiting from Reclamation’s management of water in the West during your decades-long career at Reclamation. Your tenure as commissioner of Reclamation marked a high point of cooperation between Reclamation and its partners, and the American people are in your debt for your leadership and thoughtful management of water resources. Many happy returns. 

Donna Bloom-Crook
Vice President, HDR Engineering 

Bob, thank you for your lifetime commitment to public service. Your dedication, leadership, and ability to navigate through the most complex issues are unequaled. You always considered the many opinions of those deeply involved in an issue and successfully laid out a roadmap for consensus. Thank you for your mentorship and guidance. They have been instrumental, both personally and professionally. Happy birthday! I look forward to seeing you again in person soon. 

Jennifer Bowles, Bob Johnson, and Brenda Burman at the 2017 Colorado River Water Users Association conference.

Jennifer Bowles
Executive Director, Water Education Foundation 

Happiest of birthdays, Bob, from all of us at the Water Education Foundation! You led our organization as president, and for that we are grateful. I first interviewed you some 20 years ago when I was a reporter covering the Colorado River. I had no idea at the time that I would get to know the kind, caring, and wonderful human being that you are until I joined the Water Education Foundation as executive director. You taught me so much during your time as president with your wise and steady counsel. And I’m grateful you serve as our past president. We are so lucky to still have you! 

Carter Brown
Associate Solicitor, Division of Water Resources, Office of the Solicitor, U.S. Department of the Interior 

Happy birthday, Commissioner Johnson. It took a great economist like you to teach me about what is, and more importantly, what isn’t a subsidy. 

Carly Burton
Executive Director, Utah Water Users Association 

When I think of a good description of Bob Johnson, the things that come to mind include the fact that he is a great leader, is extremely knowledgeable, is a very competent negotiator, is a good listener, is a great problem solver, has an uncanny ability to solve complex issues, and has an ability to bring diverse interests to the negotiating table to resolve problems. But Bob is much more than competent in the water world. He is greatly respected by his peers and associates, and he always had a way of bringing out the best in people. Bob is one of those people who are bigger than life, and for me personally, he is a legend, a kind of John Wayne hero. His kindness is remarkable, and I am a better person for knowing him. Bob, Barbara and I wish you a very happy birthday and look forward to seeing you at the next National Water Resources Association (NWRA) adventure. 

Celeste Cantú
Vice President, Water Education Foundation Board of Directors
Chair, San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board 

Happy birthday, Bob. I loved serving with you on the Water Education Foundation board when you were president. I particularly enjoyed our standing appointments for lunch at the venue before the meeting—never fussy, but dependable and always delightful, as you are. I learned so much from you during those lunches. Thank you for your leadership and friendship. 

John Crotty
Attorney, Western Legal PLLC 

When it comes to water and the workplace, Commissioner Johnson always focuses on finding solutions, with a positive outlook, a grasp of history, and a sense of humor. I worked with the commissioner at the NWRA from 2014 to 2016. Each day in the office, he greeted us with a self-deprecating quip and a plan of action for the day. Whether it was navigating Reclamation directives and standards, resurrecting funding concepts from long-dormant programs, or strategizing about congressional outreach, the commissioner brought a can-do approach to member problems. I admired that state of mind and still aspire to embody his even-keeled, positive approach when my less patient side tries to get the better of me. Though we both have moved on from those days, Commissioner Johnson has continued to be just a phone call away and has been willing to provide insight and perspective on many an issue over the past couple of years. Commissioner, for your time, your guidance, and your friendship, I thank you. Happy birthday! 

Michael A. Curtis
General Counsel, HoHokam Irrigation and Drainage District 

Having worked with Reclamation along the Colorado River and in Washington, DC, since the early 1960s, I have had occasion to meet several significant Reclamation characters. Bob Johnson is one, and he is memorable. He was outstanding as a Reclamation leader and is a great friend. Our friendship and acquaintance began before he became manager of the Lower Colorado Region. As a person and as a manager, Bob was wise, thoughtful, purposeful, and fair. He provided great leadership and was a wonderful team member for J. Tyler Carlson, his Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) counterpart. Carlson, WAPA’s Desert Southwest Region manager, marketed the lower Colorado River’s output of electricity, while Bob marketed and regulated the flow of water on the Lower Colorado. As a team, they resolved innumerable issues and problems. 

Among Bob’s many Reclamation accomplishments was saving Arizona’s HoHokam Irrigation and Drainage District and its farmers from imminent bankruptcy caused by the cost of CAP water and CAP’s delivery infrastructure. Bob helped lead a complicated, multiparty negotiating process and arranged an agreement between the district and the cities and towns of metropolitan Phoenix, which were often at odds about Arizona irrigated agriculture. In return for their assumption of district infrastructure debt, some of the district’s CAP water allocations were transferred to the Phoenix cities and towns. Thanks to Bob’s leadership and help, the district avoided bankruptcy while the flow of now-affordable CAP water to irrigation farmers continued. 

In negotiating with Bob Johnson from time to time on matters of water and power, the negotiating group often had to take a break. Sometimes, the matters under discussion got contentious, and sometimes we needed relaxation. Once, during a recess, some of us, including Bob, retreated to the bar. Bob was frequently offered a chocolate martini to help smooth the temporarily contentious negotiations. Sometimes he accepted. The chocolate martini became a friendly joke between Bob and myself. The chocolate martini never did any good in moving Bob from his position in the negotiations. He always paid for his personal relaxation, including the chocolate martini. Bob was always a stickler for following the rules. He probably got the advantage over us in negotiations when the rest of us had too many. He never did. He was a good negotiator. May he have a happy birthday, a long life, and good health. 

Chris Cutler
Upper Colorado Regional Liaison, Bureau of Reclamation 

I worked with Bob for a year and a half as a projects specialist before my time as a liaison. I visited DC every 4 weeks or so, covering for Jonne Hower’s frequent trips, and got to know Bob very well. He would stop by my office, sit on the edge of my desk, and spin the most outrageous yarns. Then, I was a regional liaison under Bob’s leadership for about 5 months beginning in August 2008. He acted more like a favorite uncle than a commissioner sometimes. Bob was very grounded as a commissioner. His recycled jokes were even funny every time he told them. Whenever I have run into Bob in the years since, I have always addressed him as commissioner.

Another great memory: Patti Aaron and I wrote up an issue paper commemorating Talk Like a Pirate Day and formally presented it to Commissioner Johnson during a staff meeting. He read it carefully and completely without cracking a smile, and then turned to the room and stated that this was an important issue that deserved more consideration. I think I may still have a copy of that paper. 

The 2019 Water Education Foundation board retreat, with Jennifer Bowles and Bob Johnson in the center of the front row.

Tom Davis
President, Arizona Agribusiness and Water Council 

Bob, it has been my honor to have worked with you during your time both as lower Colorado regional director and as commissioner and to know you as a friend. I miss your practicable approach and your reasonable solutions to situations. Happy birthday, Bob! Seventy years is a great milestone. You are a positive example for many. By the way, you still owe me a pecan from Louie’s in Reno. I’ll see you there. 

Lane Dickson
The Ferguson Group 

Commissioner, while I am sure we all would have preferred to raise a glass to you in person—a glass that, whether full of water or something else from the tap, could not be so reliably filled in the West without your work and leadership—I’m grateful for the chance to be wishing you a happy birthday in print! I will never forget the kindness, encouragement, and unearned respect you showed me and so many others throughout the time I worked for you at Reclamation and during the years since as a friend. Thank you for that, and thank you for the confidence it gives me to pursue new opportunities and new ideas. Cheers to you, cheers to the next time we all get together, and cheers to knowing that even after we’ve taken a few sips, we can all count on you to remind us that the glass is still half full. Happy birthday! 

Dan DuBray
Former Chief of Public Affairs, Commissioner’s Office, Bureau of Reclamation (2006–2018) 

The test of an effective leader seems very simple: He or she must convince others to follow, roll up their sleeves, and work toward a common and cohesive goal that is often bigger than themselves. A big part of passing that leadership test is how well a leader can communicate to the team what a shared vision of success actually looks like. Throughout his career at Reclamation and beyond, Commissioner Bob Johnson has succeeded in sharing his vision of success, logging a string of amazing accomplishments on behalf of the American people along the way. He has effectively built teams of loyal and talented professionals, empowering them to succeed and surpass expectations on behalf of the public and a multitude of stakeholders. Commissioner Johnson’s effectiveness can be found in the midst of his kindly and generous approach to difficult and thorny issues. He is almost a Zen master in the way he assesses multiple points of view: hearing everyone out; letting everyone have their say. Bringing people together is his strong suit, and during my brief association with him, it was always a joy to witness. On the occasion of this celebration, I add my voice to the chorus of those who have been associated with Bob Johnson to wish him all the best. Thanks to Kris Polly and the folks of Irrigation Leader for providing each of us an opportunity to reach across the miles and wish Bob well. Those of us in the very exclusive club who are privileged to have Commissioner Bob Johnson as a past or present colleague or collaborator can attest to his kindness, his effective leadership, and his ability to get things done. All public servants would be well served to study his example. Best wishes to Commissioner Bob Johnson.

Sandy Fabritz
Director of Water Strategy, Freeport-McMoRan 

Happy birthday, Bob! There’s so much to say here, aside from recognizing the accomplishment of reaching the august age of 70. I’m so glad we have the opportunity to let you know just how much of an impact you have had in our lives. By the time any of us reaches 70, I can only hope we are as accomplished; as successful; and, frankly, as humble as you. I don’t have a single story that sums up that impact—our friendship has developed out of my respect for your ability to simply show care for others every time you encounter them, myself included. I know all the amazing things you have done throughout your career at Reclamation and afterward, but your influence has been greatest on me because you are a humble person and caring friend with an ability to make everyone feel just as important as only you really are. That’s the example you have given us all: leading by example in genuine care for others. I think that has had the most profound impact on the relationships that have been built around this river. We all really care for one another and have built respect for each other—and that is because of you. Happy birthday, my friend, and I look forward to many, many more. 

Jason Fanselau
Senior Vice President, HDR Engineering 

Bob, you are a true gentleman and one of the finest public servants I have ever met. You have always taken the time to listen and offer advice, and you have such great instincts for how to approach challenges. I have always enjoyed being around you, and I hope to be able to connect with you and congratulate you in person soon. Happy birthday, and thank you for the friendship and insights you have provided me over the years. God bless. 

Tage Flint
General Manager and CEO, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District 

Happy birthday to our friend Bob Johnson! My experience with Interior is that there are a few standouts in its past leadership who transcended the bureaucracy and made public service personal and personable. Bob, you are one of those who approached people of every political and professional background with kindness and respect—an attribute possessed by only a few in government service, but that is badly needed more often. Thank you for your service beyond your Reclamation career with the NWRA. Water purveyors in the West are better because of your service and friendship. 

Terry Fulp
Former Regional Director, Lower Colorado Region, Bureau of Reclamation (2012–2020) 

Bob, there is absolutely no one who had a stronger influence on my career than you did. I appreciated your guidance, support, and patience as I learned not just the water business, but also how to interact with our partners, stakeholders, and colleagues. I will always remember walking with you inside a dewatered penstock at Hoover Dam until we could see it turn upward to an intake tower. What an experience! Thanks again, and happy birthday! 

Mike Gabaldon
Principal, Water Resources, Anchor QEA 

Bob, wishing you a very happy 70th birthday! I want to take this opportunity to say that I sure have enjoyed working for and with you over the years. You are truly an inspiration to us, and your contributions to the mission of delivering water and generating power for the American public is to be celebrated! Don’t tell any of my other bosses, but you are at the top in that category! One example of how you treat and trust those who work for you: When you were commissioner and I was Reclamation’s director of technical resources, I needed to make some changes in the Technical Service Center organization, namely realigning divisions. We were in your office, fully prepared to convince you that the realignment was needed. Before we even started, you said, “Mike, do you believe the realignment is needed?” I said, “Yes.” You then said, “Done!” I said, “Wait, what? I have this incredible animated PowerPoint presentation to show you.” You graciously allowed me to run through the presentation.… and your answer was still “DONE!” 

Bob Johnson and Lorri Gray at CRWUA 2007

Lorri Gray
Regional Director, Columbia–Pacific Northwest Region, Bureau of Reclamation 

Bob Johnson was my mentor and supervisor for some 13 years. Bob has a quirky sense of humor with a tendency to tell bad jokes that others laugh at out of respect. He is intelligent and thinks through many angles of a situation, resulting in an ability to discuss the situation and its potential solutions with many different stakeholders. Optimism is

something that can be felt in any discussion with Bob, as he always sees the best in people. As a leader, he is compassionate and a strong communicator. Having Bob as a mentor gave me a broad understanding and a perspective on things that are not immediately obvious. I owe Bob so much for his help in shaping my leadership abilities. 

 

Jayne Harkins
Former Commissioner, U.S. Section, International Boundary and Water Commission
Former Deputy Regional Director, Lower Colorado Region, Bureau of Reclamation 

Dear Bob, working with you was always an adventure. You were always working on consensus. You taught me to think outside the box, to look for new ideas, and to find unique and creative solutions to complex issues—things that hadn’t been done before. You also were the most positive person I have ever worked with—ever. For you, nothing was impossible to solve. You just had to keep working at it. All the best to you, Bob. Happy birthday. 

Christopher Harris
Executive Director, Colorado River Board of California 

The State of California and its Colorado River water users take this opportunity to recognize and salute former Reclamation Commissioner and Lower Colorado Regional Director Bob Johnson as he celebrates his 70th birthday. Bob has been the gold standard, representing the professionalism and commitment of all Reclamation’s employees across the western United States as they collaborate with states and water users in managing the nation’s water resources. The Colorado River basin has been a region of extraordinary challenge for several decades, and Bob Johnson was instrumental in ushering in an era of collaboration and cooperation among all the basin’s water users and stakeholders. Over his career, Bob’s emphasis on identifying partnerships and finding areas of common agreement continually led the basin states and water users to develop innovative and durable agreements and programs, leading to a more sustainable future for the basin. On behalf of the Colorado River Board of California and California’s Colorado River water users, we all wish Bob a very happy birthday and all the best in the years to come! 

Rusty D. Jardine, Esq.
District Manager, Truckee-Carson Irrigation District 

Happy birthday and best wishes to Bob Johnson, a water resource icon! His has been the voice of measured calm and strong, confident leadership across this land. He has visited with us on many occasions regarding our district, and we have greatly benefited from his counsel. 

Doug Kemper
Executive Director, Colorado Water Congress 

Happy birthday, Bob Johnson! It’s been 6 years since Bob, Christine, and I took a memorable trip to Wyoming to market the NWRA to the state’s water users. Although we did not bring back a new member, we did deepen our friendships. That alone made the time valuable. Bob is such a wonderful human being. We were so lucky to have Bob build the bridge to new leadership at the NWRA. We will be forever thankful for having had his help crossing those turbulent waters, and we will benefit from his leadership for many years to come. 

Dan Keppen
Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance 

Happy birthday, Bob Johnson! It seems like it was only yesterday when I first met you during my 1 year at Reclamation, working for Lester Snow and Kirk Rodgers at the Mid-Pacific Region in Sacramento. Actually, it was 20 years ago this year! I enjoyed the collaborative relationship the Family Farm Alliance had with Reclamation, especially during the Managing for Excellence era. We spent a lot of time in a lot of conference rooms around the West! Thanks for your service to western water and power producers, Bob. You were a true credit to Reclamation. Congratulations! 

Jeff Kightlinger and Bob Johnson.

Jeff Kightlinger
General Manager, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California 

Whenever I think of Commissioner Bob Johnson, I always marvel at his optimism and good spirits. I have seen Bob struggle with battles on the Colorado River during the QSA days, and I’ve seen Bob struggle with his health. And whenever I ask Bob how he’s doing, he always responds with. “I’m doing great, Jeff. What can I do for you?” I walk away cheered up and thinking that Bob can move mountains with his attitude alone. 

Tom Knutson
General Manager, Loup Basin Reclamation District 

Commissioner Johnson, in my opinion, has always been at the top of the class. He was very supportive of our title transfer. He always said, “Keep after it and don’t give up.” He always called me “young man,” and I can only say that Commissioner Johnson will always be the young man remembered as an iconic leader of Reclamation. 

Shane Leonard
General Manager, Roosevelt Water Conservation District 

My interactions with Commissioner Johnson have been, for the most part, tangential in nature. On those rare occasions on which he and I spoke directly, his willingness to listen and in turn offer salient advice were welcome. By far my favorite memory is an evening he, John Crotty, and I spent having dinner at The Stockyards in Phoenix. The evening was spent mulling over water and other related matters, I’m certain, but the memorable part was the way in which Commissioner Johnson engaged with us. He was personable, honest, and offered his unique perspectives without the respectful reproach you often experience when talking with persons of authority. I wish nothing but the best to Commissioner Johnson and his family and offer my sincerest thanks for his years of steadfast leadership. 

Mark Limbaugh
President, The Ferguson Group
Former Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, U.S. Department of the Interior 

Bob Johnson was the perfect commissioner at the perfect time. His steady hand and calming personality were instrumental in getting the Colorado River basin seven-state agreement over the finish line in 2007. His extensive knowledge of Reclamation and western water along with his unflappable leadership skills truly made him one of the agency’s great commissioners. Happy birthday to a wonderful man and a great friend! 

Ian Lyle
Vice President, National Water Resources Association 

The power of kindness: Commissioner Johnson is without a doubt one of the greatest people I have ever been around. His greatness is found in his unshakeable kindness and positive outlook. I was fortunate to work for Bob during his time as the executive vice president of the NWRA. He took on this role at a critical time of change for the NWRA. Through his leadership, the association grew and became stronger. In the 3 years I worked for Bob, I learned a tremendous amount about managing difficult situations, overcoming challenges, and being a leader. 

You could fill an entire library with the things Bob taught me. The one that stood out the most, though, was the simple yet incredible power of kindness and a positive attitude. I never heard Bob say a disparaging thing about anyone, and no matter how stressful or busy the day was, he always said it was going to be a great day. As it turns out, he was always right. Any day you are with Bob Johnson is a great day! 

Commissioner, thank you for everything. You inspire me to be a better person! Happy birthday! 

Mat Maucieri
Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Operations, Bureau of Reclamation 

Dear Bob, happy birthday! We miss you and think of you often. You will be glad to hear that many of your great one-liners are still in active use around here, partly because they were so good, and partly because I’m not smart enough to think up my own new ones. Take care and best wishes. 

(Please put this in pink text!) 

Bill McDonald
Owner and Manager, McDonald Water Policy Consulting 

Bob J, best wishes to you for the celebration of your 70th birthday! It has been a personal and professional privilege to work with you and for Beth and me to get to know your lovely spouse as well. You are a gentleman and the consummate professional. Your positive and insightful leadership, both as a career senior executive and as commissioner, contributed immeasurably to Reclamation and is recognized and appreciated by all. 

One memory of our many interactions over the years that brings a smile to my face, is, of course, you defending latitude for the regions while I tended to push for corporate consistency across the regions. I’m sure our colleagues ruefully looked forward to the two of us engaging in that philosophical discussion at nearly every meeting of the executive leadership team. In hindsight, I can say unequivocally that your view prevailed—you, after all, became the commissioner (not that I didn’t continue to speak up!). And indeed, it was great fortune for Reclamation and its water users that you were appointed to lead the agency! Ya done good! 

Leslie Meyers
Phoenix Area Office Manager, Bureau of Reclamation 

Happy birthday, Bob! I want to extend well wishes from Reclamation’s Phoenix Area Office. There are still many of us here who had the great fortune to work with you at Reclamation, and even one or two who worked with you during your time in Phoenix. We are so thankful for your thoughtful leadership and wish you all the best on your 70th birthday. 

Mike Miller
Manager, Greater Wenatchee Irrigation District 

I always felt as though Mr. Johnson was interested and cared about each and every project as if they were his projects. He always followed up afterward. Under his lead,

Pat Mulroy
Sustainable Strategies 

Of all the people I had the privilege of working with on the Colorado River, Bob was one of the most extraordinary. In the most difficult of situations, when everyone was at loggerheads, he was a calming and productive force. I truly don’t know how many of our successes in the last 20 years could have been achieved without his steadying hand and his brilliance in crafting compromises. Those who toil in the trenches today can learn a lot by studying his career achievements. 

Tom Myrum
Executive Director, Washington State Water Resources Association 

I had the good fortune of working with Commissioner Bob Johnson during the NWRA’s transition to new management. Bob was always entirely professional, kind, and thoughtful. Bob brought a friendly and energetic demeanor to whatever task he set out to conquer. He was always a man with sage advice and the ability to see the good in all those with whom he worked. I don’t have the words to properly convey Bob’s warmth and good humor and the importance of those qualities in achieving his daily tasks and long-term objectives. I always looked forward to Bob’s phone calls and miss those discussions. Many others will help to paint the public picture of the man, but I will always be thankful for the indelible impressions he left with me personally. 

Wade Noble
Attorney at Law, Noble Law Office 

Dear Bob (what more need be said), happy birthday! Knowing you has changed many lives, including mine. You are a true man of the West. We have had great Reclamation commissioners, but none better than you. You understand water and power. You understand rural and urban. You understand agriculture and municipal. You understand us folks and government. When we discussed things, you didn’t say, “This is how it is” or “This is how it has to be,” but “What’s the issue?” and “How can I help?” I look forward to seeing you soon. May you enjoy your birthday and live many years, enjoying life. 

John O’Callaghan
Assistant Manager, South Columbia Basin Irrigation District 

I would like to offer Bob wishes for a happy birthday and say that whenever I had an opportunity to interact with Bob, he always remembered who I was, even when I was pretty far down on the totem pole. I really appreciated that. 

David Palumbo
Deputy Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation 

Hi Bob, happy birthday! Thank you for all that you have given of yourself to the water community. Your wisdom, insight, and approach have established guiding principles for managing through and arriving at difficult water resource decisions. Your humor, calming personality, and kindness have been fundamental to keeping people at the table to work through competing demands. Your counsel and your example for Reclamation leadership have been engrained in our approach. Thank you for being such an illuminating leader and example. Happy birthday and take care. 

Jennifer Persike
President and Founder, Jennifer Persike & Company
Former Deputy Executive Director, Association of California Water Agencies
Board Member, Water Education Foundation 

Dear Bob: As you count the candles on this milestone birthday, see the light they give. That light is a symbol of how you have inspired others and have contributed to the greater good. Happy birthday! 

Many will recount Bob’s significant accomplishments in water as commissioner—his work on improving management on the Colorado River, securing the QSA, and many other achievements. My story is connected with his role as the president of the Water Education Foundation, where I was fortunate to serve with Bob as a fellow board member. He was a model of how a president should lead, serving with passion, compassion, and enthusiasm. Even as he endured health challenges, he always focused on putting the foundation and the needs of others first. Bob always had a positive outlook, which influenced my own journey as a leader.

Lowell Pimley
Former Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Bureau of Reclamation 

Bob was commissioner when I joined Reclamation’s leadership team. He impressed me with what I’d call a gentle leadership style, which I tried to emulate. He brought a sense of old-school dignity to the commissioner’s job that set the bar very high for those who followed. While serving as acting commissioner several years later, I gave a short speech at the NWRA’s Western Water Seminar, discussing Reclamation activities and delivering some thoughts on the future of water resources development in the West. Afterward, I was in an empty break room on a call and Bob came in, smiling. All he said was, “Now that was a commissioner’s speech!” Those few words meant the world to me coming from Bob. They still do. Happy birthday, Bob J., and thanks for all you’ve done for me and others over the years. 

Bill Plummer
Board of Directors, National Water Resources Association 

Best wishes on your 70th year, Bob. As you know, we go back 40 years, and I have watched you advance from your position in charge of economics in the planning division in Boulder City all the way to the position of commissioner. You made a fantastic journey in a great organization—the Bureau of Reclamation. I have particularly enjoyed our visiting sessions, chatting about the events of the day, especially our conversation at Bishop’s Lodge in Santa Fe one snowy day. Again, Bob, happy birthday! 

Wayne G. Pullan
Regional Director, Upper Colorado Region, Bureau of Reclamation 

When Bob was serving as commissioner and while I was working outside Reclamation, I acted as deputy chief of staff for a short time. I loved meeting Bob. And watching him carefully as a leader, I resolved to try to incorporate his approach—his love for the agency’s mission, his integrity, and his deep humanity. 

What I did not realize was that my short time with him allowed me into his circle; I did not know that I had become a friend of Bob Johnson. When we next met, I was touched that he not only remembered me, but he also remembered my name, details of my life, and our work together. I felt like our relationship meant a great deal to him. It did and it does. And it means a great deal to me. He was and is absolutely sincere in his love for his extensive circle of friends. 

In the years since, each time we have talked has been a bit a sunshine—leaving me happy and hopeful. God bless Bob Johnson. 

Bob Quint
Former Chief of Staff, Bureau of Reclamation 

Bob J. taught me two different kinds of cussing—and that both were OK. Now, he did not cuss often, but when he did, he did it for a good reason. When he was a regional director, he and another regional director invited me along to play golf with them (I, of course, let them win). A few times during the round, Bob used several friendly cuss words—mainly about his own less-than-perfect shots, but occasionally complimenting his competitors. On another occasion, as commissioner, Bob uttered some not-so-friendly cuss words to a certain Irish regional director for not listening and following his strong, common-sense advice. But in true Bob J. fashion, he did not let this affect this regional director’s performance rating (too much). 

So, dammit, Bob J., happy birthday. I am a lucky SOB to have worked with and for you for over 30 years. You never acted like my frickin’ boss; you always treated me as a friend. Thank you, and be well, my friend! 

Bennett Raley
Shareholder, Trout Raley
Former Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, U.S. Department of the Interior 

Bob, congratulations on your 70th! I look forward to the days when we can meet in person. 

Dave Roberts
Associate General Manager, Salt River Project 

Bob, first of all, happy birthday from the Salt River Project (SRP). We hope all is well with you and your family. From all of us at SRP, thank you for being such a great leader and inspiration to all of us who work in the water resource business. You truly are an amazing person, and you have helped mentor so many of us. We can’t thank you enough for your leadership during your time at the helm of Reclamation. You accomplished so much, and John Sullivan in particular very much appreciates your friendship and your tireless work for all the water users in the West. Take care; your friends at SRP hope to see you soon. 

Mark E. Rude
Executive Director, Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 3 

Happy 70th birthday to a real gentleman who has modeled for me respect for people’s differing opinions in the big water project ideas we have discussed and a genuine desire to bring people together to find the path forward. Finding good partners across boundaries is not easy work. I have learned that I can always receive an encouraging word when I discuss it with Bob Johnson. Thank you, Bob, for that gift of support and for making yourself available to help make connections. 

Ernie Schank
Manager, L.C. Schank and Sons 

Bob Johnson and I became acquainted in about 1966. He was from Lovelock, Nevada, and I was from Fallon, just 55 miles away. We met face to face in an FFA public speaking contest. I am not sure, but I think that we may have repeated our contest the next year. He always says that I beat him, although I don’t

quite remember it that way. I became a state FFA officer, and a couple years later, Bob also had that fortune. FFA was a great producer of leaders. Bob and I went our separate ways and got reacquainted in 1998, when I was elected to the Truckee- Carson Irrigation District’s board of directors. For the last 24 years, our paths have crossed in some very important water issues, especially during the Truckee Canal breach. Our paths even crossed in an unexpected way at the Quincy Market in Boston one October day. Unbeknownst to either of us or our wives, we were each on vacation, and at noon, when thousands of people were getting lunch, I looked to my side and said in amazement, “Bob Johnson, what are you doing here?” My most cherished memory of Bob is that he has always been my friend. Happy birthday to my friend Bob Johnson, with the wish that we will both have many more. 

Ryan Serote
Meguire Whitney 

Bob, happy 70th birthday! I am grateful to have this opportunity to thank you for your work and leadership at Reclamation and for setting a wonderful example for me and for all of us during your tenure as commissioner. You consistently demonstrated professionalism and commitment to the mission of the agency while keeping a positive attitude and an upbeat daily temperament. Several moments from my time working with you stand out in my mind. I’ll never forget our Monday morning staff meetings each week, which usually began with you remarking, “Happy Monday! It’s the seventh-best day of the week!” Additionally, on several occasions I was assigned to be the acting commissioner for a day here and there while you and the other deputy commissioners were unavailable (you were really scraping the bottom of the barrel calling on me!), and the assignment invariably came with a warning from you: “Don’t screw it up!” Well, the dams are still standing, so I guess I did OK. 

I was also privileged to be at a large employee meeting in Denver near the end of your tenure at which we recognized your achievements and contributions to Reclamation. In addition to expressing your appreciation in your remarks, you took the opportunity to remind us all that the work is worthwhile and that happiness is a choice each of us can make as we go through each day, whether at work or not. This resonated with me and is something I have striven to remember each day at work and at home with my family. 

Thank you for your example and your dedication to Reclamation’s important mission of managing water in the West. Your many contributions over your career have helped better the lives of many in many ways. Best wishes, happy 70th, and I look forward to seeing you soon! 

Gene Shawcroft
General Manager, Central Utah Water Conservancy District 

Happy birthday, Commissioner Johnson, or Bob! There are a few people who leave a great mark on the world. You are one of them. I think about the scope of the projects your fingers have touched during your life, and it is hard to quantify. And as important as the projects are, each of them has personally touched countless people, and that in my mind is where you have left your greatest mark. All who have been acquainted with you have benefited from your personal concern about them as individuals. We in the water community have benefited from your technical mind and kind heart. May you enjoy your birthday celebration and know that many celebrate with you, even though not in person. 

John W. Shields
Agricultural Engineer, Water Accounting and Verification Group, Boulder Canyon Operations Office, Bureau of Reclamation
Former Interstate Streams Engineer, Wyoming State Engineer’s Office 

Dear Bob, happy 70th birthday to you! I have very fond memories of our many visits and discussions at the meetings of the Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA), the Salinity Control Forum, the seven basin states, the NWRA, and other Colorado River state meetings over the past 37 years. We have both grown older and a bit circumspect, I know, as the river has continued to flow downstream. I want you to know that the golf putter that you and Jeffrey Addiego used to practice putting with in the Water Accounting and Verification Group offices sits outside my cubicle in Building 1400, so I think of you often. Of course, I also have the poker chip you gave me upon the centennial of Reclamation at CRWUA. The Centennial Celebration on June 17 of that year, including the fireworks and bagpiper playing over Hoover Dam, were unforgettable. 

You have been an important force and mentor for water resources development and management in the western United States for decades. I trust that you will take pride in that fact, in your accomplishments, and in the many recognitions that have been bestowed upon you. As we have discussed before, Bob, in the water resources arena, it boils down to developing and maintaining relationships. Truth,

dignity, and respect win the day. I worked with your Water Consult partner, Tom Pitts, for 27 years, and the two of you have lived this truth. Please know that I wish you the very best on your 70th birthday and in the years ahead. Congratulations on your service to Reclamation, to the NWRA, and to the water users of this nation. 

Attached is a photograph of Walker Young, the first construction engineer for the Boulder Dam Project, sitting in his office in the administration building in the early 1930s. As you know, the administration building was the first federal building in the country that had air conditioning—it had it 2 years before the White House. All the same, the shades are drawn to keep the hot sun’s rays out. “It sure looks like a government office,” was the thought I had upon seeing the photo. The countenances of Secretary Ickes and Commissioner Mead look down upon the viewer and Mr. Young as he goes about solving another of the oh-so-many problems that must have had to be dealt with in building the ingenious and marvelous dam that stands in the Boulder Canyon today. Determination and steadfastness are captured on the face of that man. 

Craig Simpson
General Manager, East Columbia Basin Irrigation District 

I was fortunate enough to meet Commissioner Johnson early in my career as manager of East Columbia Basin Irrigation District. His interest in listening to my ramblings about projects and providing sage counsel has always been recognized and appreciated. As we are all aware, his schedule while commissioner was managed very tightly, and when we were given an opportunity to have him visit the Columbia Basin Project, we packed as much into our allotted time as possible. Commissioner Johnson travelled with a few other senior Reclamation officials, at least two of whom were attorneys, on our tour. Bob provided me an audience of all the folks important to our project and I responded by letting them all be witnesses to me receiving a speeding ticket for trying to visit too many stops. They did not miss the opportunity to provide me free legal (and other) advice while I was waiting for my citation. I appreciate that Bob’s sense of humor allowed him to razz me about the incident with his typical stately demeanor. While I certainly was trying to make sure that Commissioner Johnson remembered the district, Bob allowed my hiccup to provide an avenue for easy dialogue in the future, which I’m certain he really didn’t need but offered for my comfort. This is indicative of how I’ve observed him relating to many of us in the Reclamation sphere. We have all been privileged to work with him for many years and wish him the all the best. 

Bob Snow
Solicitor’s Office, U.S. Department of the Interior 

Hi, Bob—I didn’t want to miss this chance to thank you for all you did for me and our Colorado River family over the past 25-plus years of working together. You set the foundation for this remarkable period of cooperation and solving challenges on the river. Ask anyone for their list of Bob Johnson’s attributes, and you’ll hear the themes of the Colorado River in these years: challenges, creativity, consensus, optimism, hard work, integrity, and accomplishments (along with a reference to bad jokes). I had the privilege to accompany Bob to countless negotiations and meetings over the years, and Bob J. was a great colleague and a terrific fellow to spend time and travel with. It was a pleasure to enjoy our many meals together. On my very first trip west as an attorney for Interior in 1995, Bob J. was the client that I was sent to assist. From day 1 onward, Bob welcomed me to the team and helped me learn every step of the way. On my last trip in 2020 before the pandemic changed everything, the last folks I saw at a Law of the River conference in Arizona were Bob J. and Roger Patterson. Bob hadn’t changed a bit: jovial, welcoming, and optimistic. The United States could use a lot more Bob Js. Thanks for everything, Bob. Happy birthday! 

Peter Soeth
Public Affairs Specialist, Bureau of Reclamation 

I would like to wish Commissioner Bob Johnson a happy 70th birthday! My time working with Bob showed me how to be a humble, friendly, and caring person and leader. His legacy will continue at Reclamation for generations. Thank you, Bob!

Dave Solem
Manager, South Columbia Basin Irrigation District 

Commissioner, happy birthday, my friend. It is always a pleasure to see you and to have a good conversation, whether it is about irrigation or a past adventure. Looking forward to seeing you again soon. Take care and have a wonderful year. 

Karl Stock
Acting Regional Director, Lower Colorado Region, Bureau of Reclamation 

Over the many years I had the pleasure of working with him, one of the greatest ways Bob Johnson helped me was to show by example how to disagree without being disagreeable. When I pitched my first major policy idea to him in 2006, which included some language on how we would classify and price water delivered to cemetery lawns, among other applications, he listened carefully, asked thoughtful questions, and told me he’d think about it and get back to me. When he did, telling me he wasn’t willing to support the idea, he opened the conversation by asking me, “What do you have against dead people?” It lightened the mood and made it easy to hear and accept his decision, even though it wasn’t the one I had hoped for. I’ve tried to remember that example when I have to make a decision that not everyone will agree with. 

Steven Stockton
Former Director of Civil Works, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005–2016) 

I was director of civil works for the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers when Bob Johnson became commissioner of Reclamation in 2006. Traditionally, the Corps and the Bureau had been rival federal agencies, since we were both in the dam-building business, albeit for different purposes. Bob and I decided we could collaborate and create synergy between our two organizations, since we had much more in common than we had differences. We decided to hold quarterly meetings between our staffs in Washington, DC, and to hold annual meetings with the senior executives in the field. During these meetings, we shared technical information, discussed issues of concern to both our agencies, and developed work plans for the next year to address issues of concern. These meeting were hugely successful, in large part due to Bob’s openness and willingness to share information. What Bob Johnson did for me was to lead by example in developing strong, trusting relationships. Both agencies and the American public benefited. 

Bob is a true gentleman and is one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. Congratulations on your 70th birthday, Bob! 

Brit Allan Storey
Former Senior Historian, Bureau of Reclamation (1988–2013) 

I appreciate being asked to talk about my work with Bob Johnson to honor Bob’s 70th birthday. I first met Bob in 1994, when I did my first oral history interview with him. During my career at Reclamation from 1988 to 2013, I was privileged to do oral history interviews with many employees and former employees. Among them were most active regional directors, assistant commissioners, all the active commissioners of Reclamation, and most of the living former commissioners of Reclamation. That was an enlightening experience, and among the best of them all was Bob Johnson. I came to know him as well as any other employee I worked with at Reclamation. I interviewed him in 2‑hour increments many times while he served as assistant regional director and regional director in the Lower Colorado Region and as commissioner of Reclamation. He has always treated me and the staff with respectful guidance, which made our work easier. In addition, as regional director of the Lower Colorado Region, Bob was the executive representative on Reclamation’s Centennial Committee, which I chaired. I enjoyed every moment of my work with Bob Johnson at Reclamation. 

I always felt it was a privilege to work with Bob and watch the way he handled often-difficult situations. He was always open, friendly, and easy to work with while at Reclamation, and I was privileged to continue a friendly relationship with him after he moved to Scottsdale to retire. I was able to lunch with Bob about twice a year after he retired because my daughter was in graduate school at Arizona State University and then chose to work in the Phoenix area. In 2013, I retired from Reclamation, and my wife and I began to spend winters (November through the end of April) in a home in Mesa, Arizona, influenced by our daughter’s family’s residence in the area. My friendly relationship with Bob continued, and we met occasionally for lunch and light gossip about our families and Reclamation. 

I was very pleased when he asked me to collaborate with him on a book regarding his role in Colorado River issues. For the last several years, we have been working on this book. The format was a couple of years of oral history interviews guided by Bob’s notes on the topics he wanted to cover. Once that oral history work finished, we began to work on editing the text to put it into a more cohesive and useful form for readers. That work was made more complex, of course, by the COVID‑19 pandemic, which placed many constraints on the way we could work. The work is currently about 80 percent complete and is some 150 pages long. The remaining work is editing and double-checking some passages to assure that I have correctly interpreted Bob’s statements. I hope to complete the work soon. The working titles being considered for the book are Sharing the Waters: Bob Johnson Reminiscences About Evolving Colorado River Policy and Kicking the Can Down the Road: Bob Johnson Reminiscences About Evolving Colorado River Water Policy. I prepared a historian’s preface for the book, which I include here because it includes information about Bob and his career as well as my interpretation of his work, about which readers of this publication may not be aware.

Historian’s Preface 

Bob Johnson grew up on an irrigated farm near Lovelock, Nevada. His hands-on experience with irrigation, 4‑H, and Future Farmers of America eventually guided him to the University of Nevada, Reno, (UNR), where he studied agricultural business. He found that experience exciting and drew the attention of faculty who guided him toward a master’s degree at UNR and then toward a doctorate in natural resources economics at the University of California, Davis. The original plan was to go on to teach in a university. However, in 1975, marriage and a desire to get out into the real world, earning a real salary, shunted him away from graduate school and into a job at Reclamation’s regional office in Sacramento. There he worked for a number of years as an ag economist, and during his 4 years in Sacramento, he worked on creating a computer program to calculate farm budgets. In 1979, he transferred to Reclamation’s regional office in Boulder City, Nevada, where he worked as an economist. At first, he worked on CAP planning, and then, in 1981, he was selected as branch chief for the economics branch. In that position, Reclamation assigned him coordination of all CAP planning activities. That was a challenging task, since planning, program development, and construction were all proceeding concurrently. Johnson felt he was really lucky while working for Reclamation because he had very few supervisors he did not like, and he rose quickly through key jobs. In 1987, Johnson transferred to the Washington, DC, office of Reclamation, where he headed the contracts and repayment branch. Then, in 1988, as a major reorganization swept through Reclamation, he was offered the 400 chief ’s job in Boulder City—chief, operations division, Lower Colorado Region—running the water and power operations offices for the region. He returned to the region just as the CAP came online—that was an exciting time, since it meant that the lower basin was approaching full use of its Colorado River entitlements under the terms of the Colorado River Compact. As the lower basin approached full use of its Colorado River allotments, it became obvious that there were unresolved issues that had to be faced. There were flaws in the Colorado River Compact and the traditional policies that implemented the compact. Those flaws collided with rapidly increasing development in Arizona and Nevada, completion of projects that allowed Arizona and Nevada to use their full allotments, and California’s long-term overreliance on the Colorado River water that Arizona and Nevada formerly could not use. In the face of the Las Vegas area’s rapidly accelerating growth, it also became obvious that the original small Nevada water allotment would complicate and possibly stunt the growth of a major, rich, metropolitan area. In 1991, Johnson became assistant regional director of the Lower Colorado Region, and then in 1995, he became the regional director. From October 2006 to January 2009 he served as commissioner of Reclamation. Johnson’s arrival in the Lower Colorado Region coincided with a most fraught and challenging period in the management of water in the lower Colorado River basin. He gained broad experience in key positions, which positioned him in the middle of the important Colorado River water management issues of the period. He worked with all the key water players in the lower basin. Through time, he was one of the few constantly stable lower basin federal officials in Reclamation and Interior as water issues gradually worked through federal, state, and local bureaucracies. A former commissioner of Reclamation once told me that he didn’t really enjoy being the commissioner because he had been unable to make final decisions—that there were too many players who had to be consulted before a consensus could be reached about any decision. That commissioner did not find that particular collegial decisionmaking process congenial. On the other hand, Bob Johnson’s approach to complex, collegial decisionmaking, including federal, state, and local interests, seems to have meshed very well with his personality, skills, and experience. In addition, Johnson knew that water issues are complex and often require a long time to make their way into and through the generally cautious and conservative water community. This document contains Bob Johnson’s recollections of the complex water management decisions and actions taken in the Colorado River basin as Reclamation worked with state and local officials. Rapidly evolving population and land use changes in the lower Colorado River basin combined with limited water supply to force movement toward a modern, efficient water management regime. 

Jeffrey P. Sutton
General Manager, Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority 

Wishing you a happy 70th birthday, Commissioner Johnson. Thank you for all you have done for western water over several decades. On behalf of myself and the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority service area, thank you again for your support, leadership, and commitment to the Red Bluff fish passage project. Without your efforts, I don’t think it would have ever occurred. About 150,000 acres of irrigated agriculture were at risk and are still productive and thriving today as a result of the success of this project, not to mention the salmon benefits that likewise accrued. You were instrumental to that success story. Thank you! On a personal note, thank you for your friendship and your commitment to western water; it is a passion that we share. Lastly, best to you and your family during these crazy times, stay safe, and happy birthday. 

Pat Tyrrell
Manager and Owner, Tyrrell Resources LLC 

I’ll always remember late 2007—the CRWUA meeting that saw the signing of the record of decision for the 2007 guidelines. On this page, you will see a cartoon by David Fitzsimmons titled “The Rogues’ Gallery,” which hangs in my office. On the far right is Bob Johnson, whom Fitz labeled Phil Donahue. I guess that was because he was the moderator of the session depicted in the drawing. That was Fitzsimmons’s way—poking fun in a way nobody could be too offended by (in our group, at least). But Bob

was the leader of our pack that day and on many other days as he led the Lower Colorado Region and later when he served as commissioner of Reclamation. 

I want to wish Bob a fabulous birthday, with tons of well wishes! He led the federal push in many ways when it came to the 2007 guidelines and has been never far from the action since. I’ll always appreciate Bob’s straight-in-the-eyes approach, combined with a winning smile and in-depth knowledge of Colorado River issues and Reclamation’s role in them. I treasure our friendship and all Bob has brought to my work with Reclamation over the years. Happy birthday, Bob! 

Chris Udall
Executive Director, Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona 

I want to wish my good friend and colleague Bob Johnson a happy recent 70th birthday. I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone as positive, amiable, well spoken, down to earth, helpful, courteous, talented, and possessing so many other attributes of a great leader and friend. 

I first met Bob as a congressional aide. Whenever a constituent had a grievance with Reclamation, which I recall being rare, Bob was right there to clarify and provide an honest and timely response. That meant a lot! Years have passed, and I have been fortunate to work with him in his other roles, including commissioner of Reclamation, and have enjoyed his participation as a speaker during the annual meetings of the Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona and as a golfer during our annual H2Open golf tournament. Well wishes from one of your many fans, Bob! 

Meena Westford
Intergovernmental Affairs Manager, Metropolitan Water District 

Happy 70th birthday, Commissioner Johnson! As you look back on moments of your life and career and perhaps ponder your impact on others, I wanted to make sure you knew what a tremendous impact you have had on my own personal 30-plus-year water career. 

I began working for you in 2006, when you were regional director of the Lower Colorado Region. I was asked to relocate from the Fresno office to the Southern California area office in Temecula to work on title XVI programs and studies and implement the newly established Water Conservation Field Services Program for the entire Southern California urban region. This move truly changed my career trajectory. 

You probably didn’t know this, but your guidance and mentorship inspired me to pursue a degree in resource economics. I watched you during the negotiations of the 2003 QSA and participated in the Reclamation team during the development of the 2007 guidelines. In both instances, you taught me to separate the people from the issues and not to make the issues personal. You taught me to be gracious, even in times of frustration. I learned so much during my time serving as your regional liaison for the Lower Colorado Region, and you were kind in recommending me for the 2007 Reclamation regional leadership program. I was truly honored to serve under you during your time as commissioner. Not only were you a great leader, but I recall you telling me how important family was, and while tradeoffs would come my way, you advised me to never sacrifice my family for my own career pursuits. I often think about those little tidbits of advice, which guided me, without your knowing it, in many of my life decisions, from my time as a college student to today. I hope you have a wonderful birthday, and know that we all are celebrating you and are grateful for your lifetime accomplishments. I hope you enjoy your special day, commissioner. And thank you again for all the special gifts that you have shared with all of us. Happy birthday!