Thank You, Commissioner

By Kris Polly

Commissioner, we wish you a very happy 70th birthday! 

Enclosed are well wishes from some of the many people you have worked with and helped over the years in so many important ways. All are proud to be your friend and grateful for what you have done for them. 

Serving as your deputy commissioner afforded me the opportunity to see you interact with people in countless meetings on numerous issues. The experience was like a boot camp training course on how to be a proper manager of people; how to be an effective problem solver; and, most importantly, how to treat others at all levels of the organization with respect. You were always friendly, polite, and jovial with everyone we met. In the first minute or two of every meeting, you would say to whomever had come to Reclamation with a problem, “We will work with you.” You said that because you meant it. The message to all staff was clear: We were to do everything we could to find a solution. 

Every morning you were in DC, you would come down the Reclamation hallway with a large McDonald’s coffee in hand and at a speed somewhere between walking and running. As you passed by my office you would say, “Good morning, Kris; it’s going to be a great day!” Once, when driving to visit former Commissioner Floyd Dominy, I asked how it was you were always so optimistic and positive. You responded by saying, “Some days you will find your tail in the crack of the door, and other days your tail won’t be in the crack of the door. You cannot control that, so you might as well choose to be happy.” During that same conversation, you told me, “There are three people in this world I do not like, but I will never tell you who they are, and you will never figure it out.” All true. Never once have I heard you say a negative thing about anyone. Such a great example for us all. 

When we began our magazines, we followed that golden rule of yours. We never print anything negative about anyone or anything. As I have learned from you, it is possible to talk about difficult issues without saying unkind things. A few years ago, when our printer accidently printed and mailed out a March issue twice, rather than send an angry e-mail, I sent a “Commissioner Johnson” response. When I told you about following your example instead of overreacting, you said, “Congratulations! That means you have overreacted 50 times already, because it takes overreacting 50 times before you learn not to overreact!” Again, very true. 

Thank you, Commissioner, for all the life lessons, exceptional advice, and steadfast support. So many of us who have had the honor of working for you or with you have had our lives go in a different, more productive, and happier direction. Yours is such a tremendous legacy of helping people. We are all very grateful. 

We wish you a happy 70th birthday! 

Kris Polly 


Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at