Public Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

Posted on in Community Involvement, Energy, Environment, Environmental Impact Statements, K&A Staff, Katz Konnection, Military, Public Participation, Water


Since early October our environmental outreach team has been on the road, conducting 22 public meetings for four clients, and traveling more than 5,000 miles in California, Nevada and Arizona. With all the moving parts, there were bound to be a few adventures along the way. And while we can’t control cows, horses and deer on the road, we do know solid public meeting planning takes months to complete – and that we can help steer!

photo4U.S. Navy – Fallon Range Training Complex Modernization – K&A held seven public meetings in five days, driving over 1,000 miles in central Nevada for the U.S. Navy’s proposed expansion of the Fallon Range Training Complex. It’s an important training complex for naval aviators and special operations forces. The meetings drew in larger than expected crowds, but as K&A Environmental Director Tania Fragomeno says, “You just have to plan for the unexpected; bring along what you think you don’t need and prepare for questions that might not be asked. Part of putting on successful public meetings is preparing the team to speak confidently about the project.”

img_2986Just a few weeks later, K&A was off to the high desert of California, while other K&A team members were simultaneously off to Arizona, to conduct public meetings for the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, respectively. The Twentynine Palms project focused on the Marine Corps’ proposed plan for relocating desert tortoises from training areas. Project managers Natalia Hentschel and Shannon Slaughter agree that anytime you can bring a good visual to the meeting, it’s a plus, to make the meeting more interactive and appeal to hands-on learners. For this project, two very special team members joined the series of meetings – Thelma and Louise. These rescued female Agassiz’s desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) served as “project ambassadors” for the meetings, promoting the Marine Corps’ commitment to being good stewards of the environment.

kknewsletter_gif2Switching gears to power plants and coal mines, project manager Emily Michaelson had her hands full planning 11 public meetings for the Bureau of Reclamation. Most of these meetings for the Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine were held on the Navajo and Hopi reservations. The remote locations posed numerous logistical challenges – everything from multiple time zones within a region to a lack of phone reception or Internet access in areas where we needed to contact hotels, venues and vendors. “In cases like this,” says Emily, “always have a backup plan in place and allow plenty of time to coordinate logistics. This will help ensure your meetings go off without a hitch.”

20161107-deanza-sandra-wellhausen-014Closer to home, the City of San Diego’s DeAnza Cove Revitalization Plan project drew more than 600 people to Mission Bay Senior High School. This third workshop unveiled draft concept alternatives for revitalizing the De Anza Cove area of Mission Bay Park. Many San Diegans care about the future of this regional park and their input on the draft concepts is vital to the project’s success. For this reason, designing a workshop that allows all participants to access the information they need in an organized and comfortable manner in order to provide valuable feedback is critical. With a record turnout in the hundreds, project manager, Natalia Hentschel and the K&A team had to get creative with space. Every available area in the school, from the auditorium for a presentation to the cafeteria and courtyard for the Open House were used to accommodate the attendees and create an effective meeting environment.


Trading Timesheets for Time Off: A Farewell to K&A’s Joe Charest

Posted on in K&A Staff, Katz Konnection

By Marissa Twite, Intern


After 30 years in the public affairs industry and 12 years of service with Katz & Associates, Joe Charest, our Vice President, is retiring and embarking on the next journey of his life. I am new to Katz & Associates, just starting over three months ago, and at first I was at a bit of a loss of what questions to ask Joe about his career for this interview. But then, I learned more about the work Joe has accomplished. Over his 30-year career, Joe developed and implemented multi-disciplinary communication programs for a wide range of projects, built strong and lasting relationships with clients and coworkers alike, and has left a lasting legacy at Katz & Associates. Joe’s commitment to not just communicate answers, but to find actual solutions, conveyed to his clients that the message “helping others communicate effectively about things that matter” is really the core of our company’s values. He brought heart, humor and camaraderie to every relationship. It is clear that Joe has been an invaluable player for the Katz & Associates’ team; he will be sorely missed. And today I had the honor to sit down with Joe and reflect upon his time with us.

Marissa Twite: What was your first position at Katz & Associates?

Joe Charest: I came in as Vice President because I had many, many years of experience in other firms. So, I was able to step in pretty quickly to pick up some of the workload.

MT: Did you find the environment at your last agency different from the environment in this office? Or was it a pretty smooth transition?

JC: It was pretty much the same. One of the things that I find with agency employees in general is that they enjoy the work in a way people in corporations may not see the same way. I always say that what people in other communication fields see as stress, we see as a challenge. The variety of work here is what makes people like agency work. I think it’s something that you like or you don’t like, and if you don’t like it, you can move on to something else where you can relax a little more.

MT: You’ve worked on dozens of projects in this office alone. Do you have any favorites you worked on? Do any stand out?

JC: Well, there have been a lot of good ones. The Mid-Coast Trolley project is a project we are taking from start to finish. Way back in the beginning, we were working with the prime contractor in the design phase. Now, we are working on construction and, eventually, we will have a grand opening. I had the same experience with the Mission Valley East project, which was another trolley project for my former agency. I started with public meetings in the environmental review process, worked all the way through construction, and then had a grand opening for the first couple of train rides. That took about 6 years. It was very rewarding to see that done.

MT: How were you able to convey the message “helping others communicate effectively about things that matter” to clients? Is there any specific message you like to emphasize to clients?

JC: Well, I think you used the main word: message. The messaging we do is the key focus for every project. We focus on which message our client needs to convey to their various publics. If they are looking for approvals, how do they need to communicate that information? If they are looking for community acceptance, what are those key messages that talk about benefits to the community and the needs that will be filled by this project? We are in an industry that often finds people opposing or at least being concerned about a project until they get the answers that make them comfortable with it. So that critical stakeholder outreach remains our focus.

MT: That can be pretty challenging, I imagine.

JC: It is (laughs). But, it can be very rewarding. Another client I still work with is in the avocado industry. I’ve worked with both the California Avocado Commission and the Hass Avocado Board since 1993. I started working with them on crisis communications. They were concerned that avocados from Mexico would be allowed in the United States and would contain bugs that would damage the crops here in California, the heart of the avocado industry in the United States. We fought that battle for 10 years and now, Mexican fruit is accepted but with strict safeguards against importation of pests. That started as a crisis communications project, but we ended up doing a lot of consumer promotions and a lot of other things along the way

MT: It is very exciting/interesting that when you first start a project it is something completely different when you finish it.

JC: What Katz people do very well is build really strong client relationships. The longer you have a client, the more likely it will be to get additional assignments that may have nothing to do with where you first started. That’s a really good outcome and a really rewarding thing for both the client and the agency.

MT: I have noticed, while working with different account executives, that there is a very strong relationship between our agency and clients and I really admire that. But, when it comes to relationships with coworkers while working on a project, what was the most important message you tried to pass on to them?

JC: I think teamwork is the key thing. We don’t stand on titles here. I think mentoring young people is critical and also one the most fun things a manager can do to help someone break into an industry that interests them and help them grow. That teamwork aspect is terrific. This has always been a terrific environment for collegiality. I have seen many great people that have come in as interns grow and flourish over the years. I’ve been here almost 12 years now and there are many solid professionals still down the hall who are now in mid-manager and senior positions, doing really well. That’s a tribute to the agency that people are here for such a long time.

MT: I have noticed that, too. I’ve been working on-site at the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department. The staff there started as interns as well and then stayed on with K&A.

JC: Yes, Sarah Rossetto is a great example, she is going on ten years and Tania Fragomeno even longer, Greg Parks, Sandra Wellhausen, others: good people staying a long time.

MT: Throughout your career, did you ever feel stuck or unmotivated? How did you overcome those feelings and has your strategy changed over the years?

JC: I’ve had times in my career where I didn’t feel the direction we were heading was going to be successful. That caused me to want to change, so that’s what I did. Generally, I think what makes good agency people is having a drive that keeps them going. It’s like they say, “if you have a job you really like, you don’t work a day in your life

MT: What is the biggest lesson you learned? What lessons would you like to pass on to others?

JC: I think it’s [the importance] of relationships, both internally and externally. The stronger relationship you have with clients, the longer they are going to be with you. The more you build internal relationships to help people grow, the longer people are going to be here and the more successful you are going to be as a team. That is number one for both sides of the business.

MT: What do you have planned next?

JC: I have a few plans, not too many, I don’t want to be busier in January than I am in December (laughs). But I’m looking at a few nonprofits in North County, where I live. I’ll start doing volunteer work there and that will kind of expand my circle of acquaintances in my home area. I’m going to do a little bit of travelling. I like going to jazz and blues festivals; I’ll do some of that. Probably some long distance driving to see a little more of this great country up close. And I’ve got family and three grandkids that I can spend more time with right here close to home. Maybe I’ll even get to do some freelancing for Katz & Associates along the way.

MT: What will you miss most about Katz & Associates?

JC: Absolutely the people and the relationships. The people I know here, I consider sincere friends. We have good, close relationships here. A number of those will continue after I leave the day-to-day work. If you are in an environment where the culture is one of cooperation and teamwork, that is a pretty good environment to be in All you have to worry about is client challenges and there are plenty of those.

Cell Phone or Water… What’s Your Choice?

Posted on in Water

By Sara M. Katz, Founder and CEO


2016 marks our 30th year in supporting important water infrastructure projects throughout the U.S. and abroad. Over those many years, we’ve had the privilege of working with experts – engineers, scientists, researchers, financial analysts, elected officials, district managers, communication experts and more – all dedicated to solving our infrastructure challenges so we NEVER have to imagine a day without water. Much has been accomplished… and yet much remains to be achieved.

In some recent “man on the street” interviews for one of our projects, regular citizens were asked to name one thing they couldn’t live without.  Answers included the following: “Family,”  “My Cell Phone” and “My Car” among others. No one, not one person, mentioned “Water.”  Fair to say that they have not imagined a day without water? A day without water to brush their teeth, flush the toilet, take a shower, or make their first cup of coffee. Or a day without water to run their manufacturing facility, restaurant or business.

Most North Americans take water, and the systems that bring it to and from homes and businesses, for granted. They turn on the tap, and safe drinking water reliably comes out. They flush the toilet, and they don’t have to think twice about how that wastewater will be taken away and safely treated before it is returned to the environment. Certainly there is little thought to the infrastructure, planning, and advances in alternative water supplies that are helping to ensure a sustainable water supply is available for future generations.

What’s the disconnect between urgent need and action?  It’s not the science. It’s not lack of great thinking and ingenuity. Generally speaking, it is the fact that service providers have been doing a great job for many, many years with limited means. It is lack of awareness, lack of clarity on the issues and potential solutions, and sometimes – lack of interest in this competitive information-filled world.

In the western United States, this is changing a bit. Historic drought and mandated conservation have brought supply issues into focus. People are making behavioral changes that are probably going to need to be permanent. Every time a new fire breaks, there are questions about whether or not there will be sufficient water to fight the fight. But is this raised awareness enough to get us where we need to be – given the challenges with drought, flooding and climate change which all need to be planned for as well as funded.

The problems that face our drinking water and wastewater systems are multi-faceted, and funding for improvements has been underfunded for too long. The infrastructure is aging and in need of investment, while drought, flooding, and climate change all place extra pressure on our water and wastewater infrastructure. Understandably, different regions face different water challenges, so the solutions to strengthen our drinking water and wastewater systems must be locally driven, yet adhere to state and federal standards, which also continue to change (requiring more investments) to address many factors. At the same time, a common condition throughout the country is generally low political will to make the tough choices and, in turn, raise rates to fund critical infrastructure projects.  Let’s face it —  overall the industry has done a great job providing these services for many years, yet the costs for these services are often far less than what we pay for our monthly gas & electric, cable or mobile phone services.  As such, as a nation we are now facing an estimated need to invest over $500 billion over the next 10 years to deal with our current water and wastewater infrastructure.  These investments are being discussed and debated community by community across the nation.

Katz & Associates is driven by our mission to help clients “communicate effectively about things that matter.” Water matters. Infrastructure matters. Finding alternative ways to ensure a sustainable water supply for now and the future matters. Helping other achieve results through effective, transparent and regular communication matters. This is not just our business, it is our passion. As we embark on our 31st year, we will continue to work hand-in-hand with our clients across the U.S. and beyond to plan and support successful infrastructure projects through awareness and understanding.

That is why we are taking part in this nationwide educational effort called “Imagine a Day Without Water.” Hundreds of organizations across the country are joining forces to raise public awareness and spark action to solve water and wastewater problems today, before they become a crisis tomorrow. These include many of our partners and clients, both engineering firms and water and wastewater utilities, who are joining forces to highlight the connection between the need and solutions. This campaign of imagining a day without water is about helping to highlight the importance of water and wastewater services and how it connects to the daily lives for all Americans. We need more of a focus on investing in keeping these services operating each and every day from water and wastewater utilities, but what goes along with that is that the public needs to understand and support those investments.

We look forward to many more years of helping water and wastewater utilities plan and implement important projects with the support of the communities they serve to ensure our water and wastewater systems continue to function properly now and for future generations.

We must remain focused on how important it is that we address issues with our water and wastewater systems today, so we can all imagine a day without water if we need to, but ideally never have to actually experience it.

Katz & Associates at AWWA

Posted on in Best Practices, K&A Staff, Uncategorized, Water

Three K&A staff are presenting and facilitating at the American Water Works ACE conference in Chicago, June 19-22.

Director Emily Powell will co-present with SFPUC’s Florencia Prada on informing and increasing engagement through emerging social media trends. From Social Media to Storytelling: Finding New Ways to Speak to Your AudienceMonday, June 20th, 2pm Room W194b.

Executive Vice President Patricia Tennyson will moderate the panel discussion, Moving Potable Reuse Projects Forward – Using Common Terminology to Explain a Complex Topic. Tuesday, June 21, 2016 9:00 am to 12:00 pm Room: W183c

Water Practice Lead and Senior Director, Karen Snyder will present the session, Stakeholder Relations – How to Reach Different Audiences About Different Issues. Tuesday, June 21, 2016, 2:00 to 2:30, Room: W194b

SOURCE Features Fresno’s “Total Water” Story

Posted on in Community Involvement, Construction Relations, Public Involvement, Stakeholder Communications, Stakeholder Outreach, Stakeholder Research, Strategic Communications, Water

Karen Snyder, Senior Director at Katz & Associates, and Mark Standriff, Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the City of Fresno, have outlined how public outreach and involvement helped tell the “Total Water” story and build community understanding about water resources, infrastructure solutions and rates in the City of Fresno.

Read the article, “Fresno Implements Urgent Proposition 218 Campaign, Citizens Learn Their Total Water Story” in the SOURCE, Winter 2016 edition, an American Water Works Association – California/Nevada Section publication.