VVWD General Manager Kevin Brown shows off water pipes that reveal the impact of the harsh desert environment after just a few years. Brown has been recognized by Rural Utah Water Association for his lifetime achievement in water management. Photo by Linda Faas

It isn’t often that a person in the prime of his career is honored with a Lifetime Achievement award. That fact alone confirms the excellence that General Manager Kevin Brown has brought to Virgin Valley Water District. The Rural Water Association of Utah (RWAU) has named Brown recipient of their most prestigious award, to be presented at their convention in St. George, UT on Feb. 28.

Brown earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1981. That degree was put to use as he managed division level staff responsibility for planning and inspecting major construction projects for the US Army at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah, and Nuremburg, Germany. In holding positions of public works director and chief of engineering, he credits his years working at military facilities as highly valuable in providing him diverse sets of engineering and managerial duties while steering him to specialize in water management.

In 1993, Brown was hired as Director of the Utah Division of Drinking Water for the Greater Salt Lake area. For the next 13 years he was responsible for 950 public drinking water systems in Utah, tasked with protecting the public from water borne health risks.

He dealt with water distribution, storage and treatment plants, and participated in the rulemaking and legislative priorities for the Division. He worked with federal, state and local authorities to implement plans for water system security for the 2002 Winter Olympics. His professional performance twice earned him the RUWA Award of Excellence in 1998 and 2006.

Brown’s exceptional work attracted the attention of Sunrise Engineering, a leading engineering firm in Utah. He joined Sunrise as their principal engineer in 2006, focusing on community infrastructure. The Sunrise mission statement reflects Brown’s own philosophy: “Create solutions that work and relationships that last.”

When Brown looked to change locations in 2013, he intended to go to Sacramento, CA. He was ready to accept a job, and was, in fact, in the midst of moving west when he saw a notice of the opening for general manager at the Virgin Valley Water District. The job description interested him so he made a quick detour to Mesquite to interview with the district. After the interview, he went on his way, but mid-trip was called by VVWD officials urging him to take the VVWD job. He hired on as general manager in July 2013.

Taking over in a chaotic period of litigation, huge debt, and general disorganization, Brown brought his considerable experience and calm demeanor to bear. In his first meeting with staff, he presented an outline of his work philosophy that included an open-door management policy, collaborative problem solving, and values that included trust, honesty, helping others to succeed, and fun. Setting high goals for himself and his team, he expressed his desire to make VVWD the best water operator in Nevada.

In the four years he has served the Virgin Valley, Brown has led VVWD to a dramatic turnaround. By the end of 2017, district finances were on solid footing and the district was functioning effectively under his leadership. During his latest annual review by the board, every board member praised him for outstanding performance.

With that high approval rating, it was still a jolting surprise when—not Nevada, but UTAH–called to tell him he had been chosen to receive the 2018 Utah Rural Water Association award for Lifetime Achievement.

“You expect such awards to go to retired folks” says a disbelieving, humble Brown. He anticipates continuing to serve VVWD for at least another five years until he reaches retirement age. He will hang that plaque alongside others on his crowded office wall of accolades. Then he will move forward toward his next goal: Making VVWD the best water operator in Nevada.