How We're Organized
The Governing Board appoints the agency's Executive Director (subject to approval by the Governor, and confirmation by the Florida Senate). The Executive Director carries out the Board's directives.
Ernie Marks, Executive Director
Contact: Mary Hall
Ernie Marks became Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District in August 2017. He assumes this leadership role with more than 20 years of public service in natural resource management, with more than half concentrated on restoration of America’s Everglades.
Marks started his tenure at the District in March 2016 as Director of Everglades Policy and Coordination, bringing extensive knowledge of Everglades restoration and water resource issues to the agency. Before joining the District, he served as the South Florida Regional Director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He previously worked for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as Director of the Office of Ecosystem Projects and as a regulatory manager.
A Massachusetts native who now resides in Martin County, Marks earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Economics and Natural Resource Management from the University of Rhode Island.
As executive director of the state's largest water management agency, Marks leads the District in carrying out its mission to balance and improve flood control, water supply, water quality and natural systems across the region. Under his direction, the agency provides flood protection to South Florida through one of the largest water management systems in the world; works with utilities and stakeholders to develop long-term water supply plans; and is implementing landmark restoration strategies to improve water quality, expand water storage and restore more natural flows to the Everglades.
Carlyn Kowalsky, General Counsel (Acting)
Contact: Jennifer Aiton
Carlyn Kowalsky provides and supervises legal services in support of the agency's mission responsibilities. Key program areas include negotiations and dispute resolution, resource protection rulemaking, litigation, preventive law, public records and Sunshine Law.
Joel Arrieta, Field Operations & Land Management
Contact: Yailenis Diaz
Joel Arrieta was named Director of Field Operations & Land Management in January 2017 after more than 18 years of service at the South Florida Water Management District and 17 years working in the agricultural industry.
Arrieta’s prior roles with the District include Superintendent of both the Clewiston and Okeechobee field stations and, most recently, Operations and Maintenance Bureau Chief for the North and South Regions. Throughout his time at the agency, he has worked to optimize District resources to ensure peak operations of the regional water management system while saving taxpayers money.
Joel Arrieta manages the operations and maintenance functions conducted by the agency's eight field stations to provide year-round water management system readiness. He also supervises the District's canal and levee rights of way and stewardship of public lands.
Tia Barnett, Governing Board & Executive Services
Tia Barnett took over responsibility for Governing Board and Executive Services in February 2016. Since joining the District in 2000, Barnett has spent many years supporting the agency's legislative agenda and community outreach.
In her most recent role, Barnett was the Water Resources Advisory Commission (WRAC) Coordinator, working closely with Governing Board and WRAC members, advocacy groups and interested citizens. Earlier in her career, she worked in the Engineering and Construction Bureau and supported several senior managers. She also has private sector experience as a manager in the hospitality industry.
Barnett earned a Bachelor of Applied Science degree from Palm Beach State College.
Barnett is responsible for coordinating the District's Governing Board meetings and other scheduled events with Governing Board members. She also serves as the agency's Ombudsman and supervises the District Clerk, Public Records, Records Management, Reference Library, mailroom and related functions.
Terrie Bates joined the District in 1985 and has gained wide-ranging experience in environmental regulation, water supply, water quality, wetland mitigation, ecosystem restoration, applied science and watershed management issues. She directed a streamlining effort in environmental permitting to combine the state's surface water management, dredge & fill and sovereign submerged lands programs and to create the mitigation banking program.
Bates has held executive management responsibilities for overseeing the District's water shortage and drought response in 2006-2007 and again in 2011.
Born and raised in Palm Beach County, Bates received a Bachelor of Science in Forest Resources & Conservation from the University of Florida and a Master in Public Administration from Florida Atlantic University.
Bates manages the agency's scientific focus on ecosystem and technology research, water quality monitoring and analysis, water supply planning and resource evaluations.
Stephen Collins, Real Estate
Contact: Natalie Defraene
Stephen Collins joined the South Florida Water Management District in November 2016. He brings more than 25 years of practical experience and insights in South Florida’s corporate real estate industry to the agency. Most recently, Collins served as CEO of The Wetlandsbank Group, a wetlands mitigation bank company, and prior to that as Asset Manager of Florida Power & Light Co.’s multibillion real estate portfolio.
Collins’ work in the wetland mitigation industry has been recognized both nationally and internationally. He was a 2001 recipient of the Edison Electric Institute National Land Management Award for his work at FPL’s Everglades Mitigation Bank. In 2010, The Wetlandsbank Group’s Panther Island Mitigation Bank was designated as a Ramsar wetlands of international importance by the Ramsar Convention. In both instances, it was the first time a mitigation bank had been recognized.
Born in Schenectady, N.Y., Collins is a 30-year resident of Palm Beach County. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the State University of New York at Fredonia.
Collins is responsible for the District's extensive property interests, which include more than 1.4 million acres of land with a combined value of more than $2.5 billion. He and his staff handle all real estate acquisitions, exchanges, sales, leasing and asset management for the agency.
Jill Creech, P.E., Regulation
Contact: Lourdes Elias
Jill Creech, P.E., joined the District as the Regulation Division Director in February 2016 after serving five years as director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Southeast District Office in West Palm Beach. In addition to her public service experience with South Florida's regulated community, Creech brings an extensive private sector background to the District. She was president and co-owner of her own engineering firm for 18 years and also worked as a project engineer at several national firms.
Creech has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and is a registered professional engineer in the state of Florida.
Creech manages the agency's regulatory programs, which help protect, manage and improve regional water resources. The District's streamlined permitting process and online database provide ready access to historical and current regulatory information, including pending applications.
Jerry Eisenband, Communications
Jerry Eisenband joined the District in June 2016 as Director of Communications. He brings more than a decade and a half of experience in public and media relations, communications and marketing to the agency. Prior to his District service, he worked in the private sector managing communications at a regional, national and international level.
Eisenband graduated with honors from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Information and Library Studies.
Eisenband leads the District's media relations and communications functions to keep the public informed of the agency’s accomplishments in fulfilling its core mission – providing flood control, protecting water supplies, improving water quality and restoring America’s Everglades. Responsibilities include strategic communication planning, social media and multimedia services.
Candida Heater, Administrative Services (Acting)
Contact: Kimberly Bates
Candida Heater manages the day-to-day business/administrative support operations for the District including budget, finance, procurement, human resources and performance metrics.
John Mitnik, P.E., Chief District Engineer
Contact: Mary Hall
John Mitnik was named Chief District Engineer in February 2016. He previously served as Engineering and Construction Bureau Chief after working as a section administrator and a supervising engineer with that group. Before joining the District in 2004, he worked as an environmental administrator and engineer for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Mitnik has a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from the University of Florida and an MBA specializing in Environmental Resource Management from Florida Atlantic University. He is a professional engineer registered in the state of Florida.
Mitnik manages around-the-clock water control operations and monitoring of the regional water management system and coordination with local entities. He also supervises the inspection and refurbishment of existing facilities, along with the design and construction of new projects and infrastructure.
Duane Piper, Information Technology
Contact: Mileneda Joseph
Duane Piper became the agency's Chief Information Officer in 2011. He brings 25 years of Information Technology experience, including 11 years at the District and 14 years in the private sector, helping businesses remain competitive through the efficient use of technology. His experience with large information systems in complex operational environments includes international and multi-site settings in the manufacturing, database and publishing industries.
Piper earned his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Florida Atlantic University and a Master of Science in Management of Technology from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is also a Certified Project Manager (PMP) and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
Additionally, Piper serves on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Palm Beach County School Board.
Information Technology supports critical work throughout the agency. Piper supervises network infrastructure, systems engineering, software applications, data security and desktop resources. He and his staff enable District functions that include Everglades restoration modeling, project planning and design, geospatial mapping and water resource and water supply monitoring and analysis. They also manage systems that support the agency’s financial and regulatory operations.
Eva Vélez, P.E., Everglades Policy and Coordination
Contact: Lourdes Elias
Eva Vélez became the South Florida Water Management District’s Director of Everglades Policy and Coordination in September 2017. Vélez previously served for two years as the District’s Office Chief of State Policy and Agricultural Coordination, Section Lead of Dispersed Water Management and Lead Engineer in Engineering and Construction. Prior to joining the District in 2015, she worked in the private sector for 15 years with an emphasis on water resources projects at the regional and local level in South Florida.
Vélez earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from the University of Florida. She is a professional engineer registered in the state of Florida.
Vélez coordinates, develops and implements comprehensive policy and projects to preserve, restore and protect the South Florida ecosystem while recognizing the needs of external constituents and stakeholders. She supervises interactions with the agency's restoration partners at both the federal and state levels.