America’s Watershed Initiative Celebrates 10 Years

Rainy Shorey, a 16-year veteran of Caterpillar Inc. with “lean master black belt” experience in organizational management and a strong supply chain background, was elected as chairwoman of America’s Watershed Initiative (AWI), a non-profit based in St. Louis and serving as a voice of the Mississippi River and its basins.

Shorey joined Caterpillar in 2007 and spent the first half of her career there as an environment, health and safety professional and manager in central Illinois. After serving seven years overseas as a project manager and new products implementation manager in Poland and Japan, she returned to Illinois in 2020 to her current role as a Lean Master Black Belt. Prior to joining Caterpillar, Shorey worked as a professor of natural sciences at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., and Illinois Central College in Peoria, Ill.

Shorey has extensive laboratory and field research experience, including international projects based in locations such as Kenya and the North Slope of Alaska. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology with minors in chemistry and environmental studies from Alma College and completed both her master’s and dual Ph.D. degrees from Michigan State University in the areas of fisheries and wildlife management and ecology, evolution and behavioral biology.

AWI hosted its board of directors and partners at the Missouri Botanical Garden on the evening of September 26, followed by the AWI annual meeting September 27 at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, East Alton, Ill., where Shorey took the helm to begin her two years of service. 

“I am excited to join AWI as board chair at this remarkable time for the watershed, and to lead AWI to be the trusted voice and partner for all of the Mississippi River basins, from the Appalachians to the Rockies and from the North Woods to the Gulf Coast,” Shorey said.

Dan Mecklenborg will continue in his role as board president. A founding member of the AWI board and one of the organization’s earliest and strongest advocates, Mecklenborg most recently served as its chair from 2019–21. He recently retired as senior vice president and chief legal officer of Nashville-based Ingram Barge Company.

Outgoing chairman Larry Weber, who will remain on the board as chairman emeritus, is the director of the University of Iowa’s IIHR–Hydroscience & Engineering unit. He co-founded the Iowa Flood Center, an academic center devoted solely to flood-related research and education helping Iowans prepare more effectively for flood events. 

“We are a vibrant organization building on the momentum set forth by Larry Weber, our most recent chair from University of Iowa,” said AWI Executive Director Kim Lutz. “I am so pleased to have Rainy, a woman with 10 years of experience in our organization, take the reins and move AWI forward to help us serve the entire watershed.”

America’s Watershed Initiative is a collaborative organization working with hundreds of businesses, government, academic and civic organizations to find solutions for the challenges of managing the Mississippi River—and the more than 250 rivers that flow into it—to ensure that America’s watershed remains viable for future generations. 

The slate of new AWI officers includes:

Board President:  Dan Mecklenborg, Ingram Barge (Ret.), Nashville, Tenn.;

Board Chair: Rainy Shorey, Caterpillar, Peoria, Ill.;

Vice Chair: Kristen Wallace, Upper Mississippi River Basin Association, Minneapolis Minn.;

Treasurer: Charlie Hess, Brown & Root, New Orleans, La.;

Secretary: Rachel Orf, National Corn Growers Association, St. Louis, Mo.