| Cheryl Porter becomes AWWA's first African American president at ACE24
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Cheryl Porter becomes AWWA's first African American president at ACE24

Cheryl Porter, chief operating officer of water and field services at Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), made history last week by becoming the first African American president of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) at the Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE24) gavel passing ceremony. She is also the first woman of color to hold this position at AWWA. 

Porter brings 28 years of experience in the water sector to her new role, beginning as a junior chemist at the City of Detroit in 1996 and advancing through several leadership roles, including chief customer service officer and chief operating officer. She was part of the leadership team that helped establish the GLWA in 2016, where she currently serves as COO.

“I am proud to stand before you as the first African American, and the first woman of color, to serve as president of the greatest association of water professionals in the world,” Porter said during the gavel passing ceremony last week.

Porter's presidency begins as AWWA adopts its 2030 Strategic Plan, which emphasizes diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging to empower members in serving their unique communities. AWWA is also advancing a Water 2050 initiative to chart a course for success and sustainability for water over the next three decades.

“We are all tied together by our common experiences with water,” Porter said. “I am so excited to explore new ways to connect with one another, and as our new strategic plan urges, to nurture that sense of belonging in our membership.”

As a 17-year member of AWWA and an active member of the Michigan Section, Porter has held multiple leadership positions within the organization, including a member of the Finance Committee and a past AWWA vice president. She has a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Michigan, a Juris Doctor from the University of Detroit Law School, and an MBA from Madonna University.

“Cheryl Porter brings an exceptional blend of operational expertise and proven leadership to her role as AWWA President,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance. “Coupled with her unique background in chemistry and law, her experiences make her the right leader to guide us through our new 2030 Strategic Plan initiatives and Water 2050 implementation efforts.”

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Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most vital resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.