2022 WWD Young Pros

May 25, 2022

Learn about this year's Young Pros in the municipal water and wastewater industry

Nikki Holloway

Age: 33

Title: Lab Supervisor

Company: Beaver Water District

Location: Lowell, Arkansas

Education: Chemistry B.S. from Missouri State University

Bio: Nikki grew up with a strong relation to water. Part of her upbringing was spent close to the Buffalo River in rural Arkansas and without running water in the home in an effort to live a simpler life. Not having the convenience of turning on the tap to get clean drinking water was really eye opening, even at a young age. Being close to the national river, she saw how human actions can impact the water source, which led to an appreciation and fascination with environmental science and nature stewardship.

Nikki is very active within AWWA, including the Water Quality Laboratory Committee, the Young Professional Committee and the Aesthetic Quality and Perception Committee. She also has been both a competitor and coach in Top Ops, and she holds a Level 4 Water Treatment License and a Level 4 Water Distribution License from the state of Arkansas.

Alex Harper

Age: 37

Title: GIS Manager

Company: Central Arkansas Water

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Education: Spatial Information Systems B.S.

Bio: Alex’s more than 13 years of experience have been spent maintaining and optimizing the use of enterprise geospatial solutions, which include custom applications, integrations between other systems into GIS, and administration of Cityworks for work orders and asset management. He directs the development and maintenance of GIS solutions not only to support CAW but also various wastewater utilities, electric utilities, city and county government agencies that are a part of the Pulaski Area Geographic Information System.

Alex has received the honor Esri Water GIS Hero in the winter of 2020 for his work and leadership, the Young Alumni Rising Star Award from the University of Arkansas at Monticello, and Excellence in Departmental Practice from Cityworks, among others. Alex enjoys the great outdoors and spending time with his family.

Chelsea Boozer

Age: 30

Title: Government Affairs Manager

Company: Central Arkansas Water

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Education: Public Administration Executive Masters from Syracuse University; B.A. Journalism from University of Memphis

Bio: As government affairs manager at Central Arkansas Water, the state’s largest drinking water utility serving half a million people, Chelsea Boozer works with government, community, and wholesale partners and stakeholders on policy, economic development, and regionalism efforts. This work promotes resilient and trusted utilities that are both environmentally and financially sustainable and encourages regional collaboration to create efficiently managed utilities that provide safe, high-quality, reliable, and affordable water services.

In her early days at Central Arkansas Water working in its Communications Department, she grew the utility’s online following by 2,700% and quickly became regarded as a go-to source for advice on communications in the water industry. She also is member of the AWWA Young Professionals Committee and was appointed as the YP Liaison to AWWA’s Water Utility Council. She also is the Vice Chair of Create Little Rock, the young professionals initiative of the Little Rock Regional Chamber.

Sri Vedachalam

Age: 38

Title:  Chief Scientist & Director of Water Equity

Company: Environmental Policy Innovation Center

Location: Washington, D.C.

Education: Ph.D. from Ohio State University

Bio: Dr. Sridhar Vedachalam is chief scientist and director of Water Equity at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center. His work has addressed national water issues such as affordability, aging infrastructure, extreme weather impacts, financing, and non-point source pollution. He currently serves on the advisory board for Water Hub, and is a member of Source Water Initiative led by the Great Lakes Commission and the Water Equity Task Force led by Virginia Health Catalyst.

During his term as Legislative Fellow for the U.S. House of Representatives, he helped introduce a bill to authorize the WaterSense program at EPA, which was eventually included in the 2018 America’s Water Infrastructure Act, and received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for exceptional Student Leadership, Contribution, and Involvement at the Ohio State University in 2011.

Nadine Robertson

Age: 35

Title: Wastewater Treatment Operator

Company: Veolia North America

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Education: A.A. Process Technology (PTEC), B.A. Criminal Justice

Bio: Nadine Robertson is a wastewater treatment operator for Veolia North America, the entity hired by the Sewage and Water Board of New Orleans to oversee the day-to-day operations of their Eastbank WWTP. She serves as the Student and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC) Chair for the Louisiana Water Environment Association and is an active member of the Water Environment Federation (WEF) SYPC where she has coordinated the Emerging Young Professional Leadership Summit 2021. Nadine also serves as the officer at large for the Louisiana Conference on Water Supply, Sewerage, and Industrial Wastes and is the Region IV’s Young Professional Director for the Solid Waste Association of North America.

She has been awarded the 2021 WEF Operator Scholarship, the 2020 WEF SYPC Rookie of the Year and an 2020 AWWA Operator One Scholarship, among other numerous accolades.

Mahesh Budhathoki

Age: 38

Title: Lead Engineer

Company: SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions

Location: Trevose, Pennsylvania

Bio: Mahesh Budhathoki is a lead engineer at SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions. In this role, he is responsible for developing, and supporting novel solutions for asset protection in water & steam systems, leveraging his education and expertise in surfactant chemistry and chemical engineering. The resulting solutions add significant value to customer operations such as power generation; refineries; food & beverage processing and comfort heating.

His past research has included seminal work in surfactants, enhanced oil recovery, and micro-emulsions, all of which are relevant to multiple industrial applications. His work has resulted in five patents and patent applications, and 10 peer-reviewed publications in high-impact journals with almost 500 citations.

Kristina Surfus

Age: 37

Title: Managing Director of Government Affairs

Company: National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA)

Location: Washington, D.C.

Education: Master’s Degree in Freshwater Science and Policy from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Science; Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Environmental Policy from Boston University

Bio: Kristina Surfus is the managing director of Government Affairs for NACWA. In this role, Kristina guides the association’s legislative and regulatory advocacy with Capitol Hill and U.S. EPA. She previously was the Association’s legislative director. Prior to NACWA she worked in the U.S. Senate and in municipal economic development consulting.

Surfus has also been instrumental in the elevation of legislative solutions to water access and affordability issues, particularly through federal low-income water customer assistance funding. Thanks in part to her advocacy, this priority received more than $1.1 billion in emergency funding in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of December 2020 and the American Rescue Plan of March 2021. The IIJA also authorized the creation of permanent federal program to these ends. She and others are working hard to ensure this program is appropriated funds either via passage of the Build Back Better Act or future legislation.

Keith Sommers

Age: 31

Title: General Manager

Company: U.S. Submergent Technologies

Location: Orlando, Florida

Education: Economics B.A. from New College of Florida; Economics M.A. from University of South Florida

Bio: Keith Sommers grew up in Tampa Florida and graduated with a B.A. in Economics from New College of Florida in 2013. He worked at a local nonprofit in Sarasota helping area youths with drug addiction, and graduated with an M.A. in Economics from the University of South Florida (USF) in 2015.

He started at U.S. Submergent Technologies (USST) in 2016 as an intern, working with the use of satellite images to determine suitability of cleaning processes in industrial applications across Florida. Over the years, he diligently learned the wastewater industry, worked his way up to senior cost estimator, and revolutionized the markets in submergent cleaning. In January 2022, Keith was promoted to general manager at USST and he now leads the company’s operations.

In his former role as senior cost estimator, Keith has estimated greater than $90 million in projects over the last three years, including more than $36 million in 2021, while also making USST more competitive in the marketplace.


Lu Xing

Age: 27

Title: Data scientist

Company: Xylem Inc.

Location: Austin, Texas

Education: Civil Engineering Ph.D. from University of Texas Austin

Bio: Before Xylem, Lu Xing was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (2021), an M.S. in Statistics (2020), an M.S. in Ocean Engineering (2018) from the University of Texas at Austin, and a B.S. in Ocean Engineering (2016) from Tianjin University, China.

Lu was awarded Civil and Environmental (CEE) rising star by Carnage Mellon University (CMU) in 2020. She has authored six peer-reviewed papers in journals such as Water Research, Applied Energy, Advances in Engineering Software, and Advanced Engineering informatics. She is the developer of an open-source package: Transient Simulation in Water Networks (TSNet). She is also a control group member of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Woman-Water Nexus (WNN).

Andria Hannegan (Swann)

Age: 38

Title: Pretreatment Coordinator

Company: City of Sumner

Location: Sumner, Washington

Education: Associates Degree Science

Bio: Andria has 15 years of working experience in the sewer field, most of which involved supporting and managing fats, oils and grease (FOG) program activities. Since 2011 she has served in an environmental program manager capacity for sewer agencies. In this position she administered FOG Programs; coordinated inspection, data management, reporting and follow-up communication with program participants; and facilitated the work of program staff. She has developed and performed FOG management training for food service establishments, as well as municipal staff.

She is the president of the Oregon Water Education Foundation, chair of the Pacific Northwest Source Control Training Association (now known as the Pacific Northwest Pretreatment Workshop), a board member of the National FOG Forum, and content expert and developer for the Western States Alliance Website (www.westernstatesalliance.org).

About the Author

Bob Crossen

Bob Crossen is the editorial director for the Endeavor Business Media Water Group, which publishes WaterWorld, Wastewater Digest and Stormwater Solutions. Crossen graduated from Illinois State University in Dec. 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in German and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. He worked for Campbell Publications, a weekly newspaper company in rural Illinois outside St. Louis for four years as a reporter and regional editor. 

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