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Debbie is a registered Professional Engineer in the Province of Ontario with more than 40 years’ experience in municipal engineering. She joined the OCWA Board in 2017. In 1991 she joined the Regional Municipality of York as a project engineer, and worked in several positions to eventually become the General Manager, Water and Wastewater in 2005. While at York, she served as a municipal representative on the CTC Source Protection Committee. She was also closely involved with implementation of policies under the Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Plan, the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and Source Water Protection Plans. Debbie left York Region in 2008 to pursue a broader career in Public Works with the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, where she worked with staff to develop a strategic plan for the newly formed engineering services department, combining roads, water, wastewater, development engineering and asset management and bringing in-house capital delivery. She joined Simcoe County and April 2013 as the General Manager, Engineering, Planning and Environment with overall responsibility for Transportation, Solid Waste, Planning, Forestry, Economic Development, Tourism and By-Law. Debbie retired from the County in 2021 and now devotes her time to OCWA and volunteer work.

Melanie Debassige has over 17 years of experience in Aboriginal Economic Development.  She is currently employed with the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations as the Chief of Staff.  She obtained a Diploma in Native Management and Economic Development from Trent University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Western Ontario.  She also has a certificate in Economic Development from the University of Waterloo and is a certified Professional Aboriginal Economic Developer with the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers.  Melanie held the elected position of Councillor with the M’Chigeeng First Nation Chief and Council for eight years and was appointed as a police commissioner with the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin Police Services for seven years.  She also holds a position as Director on the Mother Earth Renewable Energy Board that oversees the for-profit wind turbine corporation that is solely owned by M’Chigeeng First Nation. Melanie has also served on the Great Spirit Circle Trail Board of Directors, a not-for-profit destination marketing organization.  Melanie was appointed by the Lieutenant Governor to the Ontario Clean Water Agency Board of Directors in October 2013, where she leads the Board’s First Nations Task Force.  Melanie completed the Director’s Education Program at the Rotman School of Management and is now a certified corporate director.  She also has a Master’s in Business Administration.  Melanie was just recognized by the Canadian Board Diversity Council in the Diversity 50, which recognizes fifty Board ready candidates across Canada.

Richard Austin was born and raised in Toronto.  He spent most of his professional career as a financial services lawyer and became increasingly involved in securities, and mutual fund dealer, financial planning and securities dealer matters in particular, over the last 20 years. He has held a variety of positions, including Senior Legal Counsel with the Ontario Securities Commission, Vice President, Legal and Business Affairs for Money Concepts, Deputy Head of Compliance, Wealth Management Scotiabank and Counsel at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.  He works part-time as the General Counsel of Lending Loop, a peer-to-peer fintech lending organization.

Richard was admitted to the Ontario Bar in 1983 after receiving his law degree from the University of Windsor in 1981. He received a B.A. (Honours) majoring in Economics in 1978 from the University of Toronto and an MBA majoring in Finance from York University in 1984.   He has been a member of boards of the Investment Funds Institute of Canada, Scotia Securities Inc. and the Association of Canadian Compliance Professionals and the author of a number of courses and articles related to the securities industry. He currently is a member of Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada’s Hearing Panel and the Administrative Penalty Tribunal of City of Toronto.

Joseph Pennachetti’s storied career in municipal public service spans about four decades.  He became Toronto’s Chief Financial Officer in 2002 and City Manager in 2008, where he was responsible for the city’s budget until his retirement in 2015.  Of his many accomplishments at the City of Toronto, Pennachetti developed the City’s strategic plan for 2014-2018 in order to build on the city’s key achievements from the previous decade, advancing City Council’s vision, mission, and goals for years to come.  Under his leadership, the City of Toronto was – and continues to be – recognized internationally for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services and is among the highest ranked cities for tax competiveness, business investment, labour attractiveness and livability. 

Prior to joining the City of Toronto, Mr. Pennachetti was the Chief Financial Officer for the regional municipalities of Peel and York, held a senior financial position with the regional municipality of Durham and spent ten years at the City of Edmonton.  Mr. Pennachetti was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System Sponsors Corporation in January of 2016.  He joined the University of Toronto as executive adviser to the Global Cities Institute and the World Council on City Data and as a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Municipal Finance and Governance in November of 2015.

Candice White is the Chief Administrative Officer for a rural municipality in Peterborough County.  She is a results-focused Municipal Manager specializing in finance and executive leadership. While promoting balanced economic growth, she has demonstrated significant accomplishments in streamlining operations, maximizing efficiencies, driving strategic outcomes, and developing an effective communication plan for relationship building.  After two decades in finance, she has taken specific interest in asset management and the benefits that program provides.  Known as a proficient grant writer, she has successfully received millions of dollars for municipal infrastructure and community programming for her community.  Candice also sat as a member of the York Region Wastewater Advisory Panel and is the Secretary-Treasurer for the Police Services Board.  

Hao (Artie) Li is a Chartered Professional Accountant with years eight years of professional experience. Hao graduated from the University of Toronto in 2013 with a degree in Accounting. Hao started his professional career with Ernst & Young LLP where he worked as a senior accountant and serviced clients from a wide array of industries such as Medical, Manufacture, Government Agencies, and Non-For-Profit Organizations. Hao is currently the Chief Financial Officer of two publicly traded companies in the resources industry where he spearheaded multiple acquisition deals and manage operations from multiple foreign jurisdictions. 

Joe Farag is a public finance professional with over 30 years’ experience, including 25 years in senior and executive management positions with the City of Toronto. In 2017 and 2018, Joe served as the City’s Interim Chief Financial Officer, overseeing a $17 Billion annual Budget and providing strategic financial and policy advice to the Mayor and members of Council. Joe also served as the City’s Executive Director of Corporate Finance for a decade with direct management oversight of the City’s multi-billion dollar investment portfolio and debt issuance programs, insurance and risk management, intergovernmental finance and corporate policy development including policies dealing with taxation, development charges and water and wastewater pricing and financing. Joe has developed and led many unique financing arrangements and public private partnerships to deliver major City building initiatives in the areas of transit expansion, affordable housing and social and recreational facilities.  Joe holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and a Masters Degree in Economics and Finance.

Laila Hulbert graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Engineering Science, with Honors, in 2013, and has worked in the semiconductor industry since. Laila is currently a Staff Engineer and Technical Lead for a hardware design verification team at a large industry-leading multi-national corporation. She has worked primarily on cutting edge hardware to support Artificial Intelligence and image processing applications on mobile platforms. She is passionate about increasing diversity in engineering, and has led numerous initiatives to promote women in engineering. 

Michael Watt, P.Eng is the Executive Vice President of the Environmental Division at Walker Industries, headquartered in Niagara Falls. He is responsible for a wide portfolio of businesses in the environmental field, including composting, biosolids treatment, growing media from waste organics, grease trap and organics collection as well as the traditional waste management services of landfill, waste transportation and logistics. He specializes in business development, change management and mergers and acquisitions. Michael also sits on the Ontario Waste Management Association Board, where he previously served as chair for two terms. 

Mitchell brings over 40 years of experience within the Ontario engineering industry to OCWA, including 25 years in senior management positions with the Regional Municipalities of Peel and Halton. During his tenure in the public sector, Mitchell managed operational programs and progressive innovation in a wide range of municipal business areas. As Commissioner of Public Works for the Regions of Peel and Halton, he was responsible for a number of portfolios, including water, wastewater, solid waste, transportation, metering, fleet, Public Works facilities and buildings.