Skip to content
Water First

Our Team

At every step, highly qualified and dedicated professionals are involved in our operations.

Staff Members

John Millar, B.A., M.A.

Executive Director & Founder
 
Water First Staff: John Millar

John Millar, B.A., M.A.

Position: Executive Director & Founder
Categories: Staff

John has extensive experience in First Nations engagement and non-profit management and has collaborated with nearly 50 Indigenous communities over the last 14 years. Throughout his career he has worked for and partnered with a variety of non-profit organizations focusing on community development, drinking water systems, environmental projects, education and training.

Jesse Wright, M.ES.

Fish Habitat Project Coordinator
 
Water First Staff: Jesse Wright

Jesse Wright, M.ES.

Position: Fish Habitat Project Coordinator
Categories: Staff

Jesse’s professional background includes extensive work as a wilderness fishing guide and environmental educator. His work at Water First focuses on fish habitat restoration in partnership with First Nations communities. He holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Studies from York University.

Justin McGregor

Internship Trainer & Community Engagement Coordinator
 
Water First Staff: Justin McGregor

Justin McGregor

Position: Internship Trainer & Community Engagement Coordinator
Categories: Staff

Justin’s passion for understanding Indigenous water challenges began when he had the opportunity to work in his community’s water treatment plant in Whitefish River First Nation. Although his time there was short, Justin more deeply appreciated the need for safe, clean water and the impact that water treatment plants have in communities. Shortly after graduating from the civil engineering technology program at Cambrian college, Justin worked for his First Nation’s tribal council where he conducted GIS mapping work on his and affiliated First Nation communities.

Jacey Bonertz

Technical Trainer & Instructional Designer
 

Jacey Bonertz

Position: Technical Trainer & Instructional Designer
Categories: Staff

Jacey, a member of the Piikani Nation in Southern Alberta, first began her educational journey at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Following her graduation from the Chemical Engineering Technology program, she pursued her Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Lakehead University, from which she graduated in the Spring of 2022. Proud of her identity as an Indigenous woman in engineering, Jacey is excited to share her passion for STEM with other Indigenous youth and play a part in training and providing resources for current and future generations of water protectors.

Jenny Matthew

Office and Community Engagement Coordinator
 
Water First Staff: Jenny Matthew

Jenny Matthew

Position: Office and Community Engagement Coordinator
Categories: Staff

Jenny is one of the first happy people you see when you come into the office. When she isn’t in the office, you can find her hiking local trails, camping or canoeing. She jumped at the opportunity to work at Water First and takes pride in being part of an organization that is taking action with the water crisis.

Jessica Rawn, CFRE

Senior Manager, Development
 

Jessica Rawn, CFRE

Position: Senior Manager, Development
Categories: Staff

Jessica holds her Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Geography and has been working in the charitable sector as a Certified Fundraising Professional for over two decades. Over this time she has worked closely with large corporations, small businesses, family foundations and individuals and families. She says the best part of her role with Water First is seeing people of all kinds have a real impact on a critically important cause.

Julia Zazzarini

Project Manager & Instructor
 

Julia Zazzarini

Position: Project Manager & Instructor
Categories: Staff

Julia brings a unique perspective to the field of water science, blending her experience in land and water monitoring programs with expertise in 3D designing concepts. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Water Science from the University of Wilfrid Laurier, Julia is committed to leveraging her diverse skill set to address complex challenges in the field. Before joining Water First, she served as the Environment Technician with Six Nations of the Grand River, where she developed a deep understanding of environmental issues and community needs.

Juliana Smits

School Engagement Coordinator
 

Juliana Smits

Position: School Engagement Coordinator
Categories: Staff

Juliana is an Ontario certified teacher in the Primary and Junior divisions, and has a background in biology and chemistry from Lakehead University. Juliana is happy to be able to contribute her love for teaching and commitment to environmental stewardship by empowering young minds to become advocates for water conservation and sustainability.

Board of Directors

Advisors

 
Water First Advisor: Jonathan VanderSteen

Jonathan VanderSteen, Ph.D., P.Eng.

Categories: Advisors

Jonathan was an engineering professor at the University of Guelph before becoming a project engineer working in the Water and Wastewater field. He has extensive experience related to civil and mechanical engineering, humanitarian engineering, and instructional and training program design.

 
Water First Advisor: Jana Levison

Jana Levison

Categories: Advisors
Jana Levison, Ph.D., P.Eng. holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering (environmental option) and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (focus: anthropogenic impacts on fractured bedrock aquifers) from Queen’s University. She is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering  (Water Resources Engineering and Morwick G360 Groundwater Research Institute) at the University of Guelph. She is also the inaugural Doody Family Chair for Women in Engineering (2022-2027). Previously she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Université du Québec à Montréal, working on multidisciplinary ecohydrological modelling related to climate change. In 2009-2010, she led engineering and public policy initiatives as the Junior Fellow and Acting Executive Director of the Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy at Professional Engineers Ontario. She has also worked on the Drinking Water Source Protection team at the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority. Dr. Levison was an Associate Editor for Hydrogeology Journal from 2015 to 2019. In 2020, Dr. Levison received the IAH-CNC Early Career Hydrogeologist Award. At the University of Guelph, Dr. Levison is conducting novel research related to agricultural and climate change impacts on groundwater quality and quantity. Other areas of research interest include source water protection, appropriate potable water approaches for marginalized communities, and fostering engineering and technological input into public discourse.

Ambassadors

Add impact to your inbox

Water plant operator in the office