Chief Executive Officer

Req Number: FY652
Location: Washington, District of Columbia, United States
Posted: 3/9/2020
Category: Industrial : Energy
Job Type: Permanent


Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) is the only national organization that advocates for modern, efficient and well-maintained inland waterways, including lock and dam infrastructure, and channel maintenance.

The nation’s inland waterways are a vast national treasure of 12,000 miles of navigable rivers stretching across 38 states, intracoastal waterways, channels, ports, canals, and locks and dams that facilitate the safest, most fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly surface transportation mode for essential commodities.  U.S inland waterways sustain more than 541,000 jobs worth $29 billion, and facilitate competition for farmers, manufacturers and other shippers across global markets. The U.S. construction industry benefits from properly maintained waterways, and America’s energy renaissance relies upon efficient waterways transportation.  Other non-transportation beneficiaries of the waterways include hydropower, water supply, ecosystem vitality, recreation, national defense, flood control and more.  WCI strives to keep this system operating efficiently and reliably today and for decades ahead.

WCI educates policymakers in the nation’s capital and around the United States, within the news media, and the general public about the waterways system’s critical importance.  With aging locks and dams built in the 1920s and during the New Deal of the 1930s, it is time to modernize these structures to continue to reliably serve the nation’s transportation supply chain.

WCI members include shippers and receivers of the nation’s bulk commodities, waterways carriers, ports, shipping associations, agriculture producer groups, organized labor, waterways advocacy groups from all regions of the country, and environmental and conservation groups, totaling approximately 175.

WCI programs and operations rely solely on the financial resources of the organization’s membership.  WCI works to promote the importance of the inland river transportation network to policy leaders, the news media, and the general public.  WCI is seeing progress in this regard through the passage of WRRDA 2014 and higher appropriations funding levels that will ultimately create hundreds of millions of construction man-hours and regenerate America’s economic prosperity through more efficient river transportation.  WCI has an opportunity to make further progress with a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in 2020.

WCI’s timely legislative initiatives are complemented with a strategic public education campaign, as well as active grassroots work across the country.  A strong foundation of public awareness is necessary to meet the challenges ahead, but WCI’s success is based solely on funding from its members.

WCI provides tremendous value to its members who rely on the infrastructure that supports a strong and vibrant inland waterways transportation system.


The Chief Executive Officer will be responsible for the effective leadership of WCI, and execution of its strategic mission and goals – and will develop a strong working relationship with the Board of Directors.  S/He will be responsible for achieving WCI’s goal of ensuring that the United States builds and maintains a reliable and efficient inland waterways system with adequate funding for its long-term maintenance and modernization.  The successful candidate will be an innovative leader with demonstrated strategic communications skills, and political and business management acumen, who will provide effective stewardship of the organization’s resources, operations, programs and staff.  S/He will be the organization’s lead nonpartisan advocate and spokesperson before all external audiences including federal and state government, media, organizational partners, business partners and the public.  S/He will be responsible for effectively managing WCI’s relationship with the Corps of Engineers.

The Chief Executive Officer will ultimately be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the organization, including board relations, strategic planning and execution, fiscal management and fundraising, annual conferences, and general administration of business affairs.  The successful candidate will report to and work collaboratively with the Board of Directors.  S/He will work to align resources with strategic priorities and focus the organization on its long-term sustainability and competitive advantage. 

Specifically, s/he will:

  • Demonstrate strategic leadership, with the ability to clearly define and communicate a strong value proposition to members; create a compelling agenda that attracts and sustains strategic involvement by the senior leaders of member companies.
  • Establish annual and long-term strategic priorities in conjunction with the Board, with focused execution plans and measurable objectives; communicate regularly with Board on progress toward these goals; forge an open and trusting working relationship with the Board; align staff objectives to these priorities.
  • Lead the WCI’s bipartisan political and advocacy agenda, delivering specific results in the legislative and regulatory arenas; oversee WCI’s outside consultants. 
  • Identify and communicate the unique value that WCI brings to the membership and the industry.
  • Anticipate the political and economic issues that will affect the industry and recommend appropriate action and responses to government agencies, membership, and the public. 
  • Construct an organizational structure that attracts and encourages talented team members to achieve excellence and establish accountability.
  • Serve as a nonpartisan chief advocate and spokesperson on priority policy issues to the Corp of Engineers, Congress, the Executive branch and its agencies, state governments, the waterways community and the waterways industry.
  • Cultivate and establish relationships with WCI members and organizations to maximize active engagement and ensure retention and membership growth. 
  • Forge and maintain key alliances among organizations that share similar objectives, including relevant trade associations, working to explore consistent messaging when possible.
  • Ensure that WCI remains a reliable source of information on waterways infrastructure. 
  • Serve as the primary link to the Board of Directors, providing them with advice and information related to the operations of the organization, as well as assistance in the development of policy for the organization.


The successful candidate will be a strategic leader with at least 10 years of proven relevant executive leadership experience, a deep knowledge of the legislative branch, and a strong understanding of the waterways industry.  S/He will be a strategic thinker with proven communications, legislative advocacy and relationship-building skills, and will possess significant organizational management experience.  S/He will be a passionate spokesperson for the industry and WCI’s mission and priorities before a wide range of audiences.  Experience managing a government relations team and association staff is highly desirable. 

Additional qualifications will include:

  • Track record of effectively working with diverse stakeholders to forge an organization’s strategic plan and execute upon that plan with appropriate urgency, timeliness and responsiveness to outline goals, establish metrics and meet benchmarks, and deliver projects on budget.
  • Outstanding Board relations and consensus building skills.
  • Demonstrated experience as an articulate, credible, and persuasive spokesperson with a wide range of audiences, including senior government officials, media, other industry groups, and the public at large; strong credibility with legislators. 
  • Ability to raise the visibility of WCI’s mission among targeted audiences and forge strategic partnerships and national and regional coalitions with organizations that share common objectives.
  • Outstanding interpersonal and persuasion skills, including the ability to relate well to a wide range of constituencies; outstanding listening skills, with the ability to clearly articulate the message and command the respect of his/her audience.
  • An ability and passion for quickly engaging in the legislative and regulatory issues facing the industry to advance its agenda with credibility.
  • Respected by policy influencers in the executive and legislative branches, on both sides of the political aisle, with an exceptional record of achievement, credibility and integrity.
  • Demonstrated unconditional commitment to serving the needs of and displaying a commitment to the members which WCI serves.
  • Ability to communicate effectively and persuasively to all levels of staff and members, and experience working with a diverse group of individuals charged with guiding an organization.
  • The courage and conviction to challenge and defend ideas and strategies before opponents; superior analytical skills.
  • Unquestionable integrity, credibility and character, demonstrated high moral and ethical behavior.


A Bachelor’s degree is required.  An advanced degree will be considered a plus.


Korn/Ferry shall provide equal employment opportunity to all qualified candidates, and will refer candidates without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, veteran status or any other legally protected basis.