Celebrating 20 years of inland waterways infrastructure advocacy - Dan Mecklenborg reflects on his time as WCI Chair from 2007 - 2009 and the last 20 years!
"I had the privilege of serving as WCI’s Chairman from 2007 until 2009. During my tenure I had the honor of hosting the retirement celebration for Barry Palmer, WCI’s first President and CEO. Barry was a dynamic force for the inland waterways who knew how to work with and persuade the Corps of Engineers and Congressional Appropriators. He was one of the founding fathers of WCI, having worked tirelessly to merge WCI’s predecessors: Pittsburgh-based DINAMO, which modernized the Ohio River; St. Louis-based MARC 2000, which advocated modernizing the Upper Mississippi River; and DC-based Waterways Work!, which evolved from the National Waterways Conference, all into the unified lobbying powerhouse that WCI has been for the past 20 years. While Chairman, I also had the opportunity to travel to Vienna, Austria to represent WCI at the international forum hosted by Via Donau, a subsidiary of the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology tasked with the preservation and development of the Danube waterway.
WCI’s amazing success is attributable to the laser focus of its mission and the incredible leadership that conceived it and sustains it to this day. Berdon Lawrence, Barry Palmer, Merrit Lane, Mark Knoy, Craig Philip, Steve Little, Peter Stephaich and others had a vision that the industry needed a DC-based lobbying presence if we were to meaningfully increase federal appropriations for new construction, major rehab and operations and maintenance. In the early 2000s, the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) was not being fully utilized and, in fact, was growing a large unspent balance. At its inception, WCI assembled a highly skilled lobbying team featuring John Doyle and Bob Livingston, among others. Together with Barry Palmer, the team began to churn out year after year of increasing appropriations for our nation’s waterways infrastructure. Mike Toohey continued this success during his tenure and now, Tracy Zea and his team are taking WCI to the next level, with the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 that bestowed billions of appropriations dollars on our priority projects, and cost-sharing changes that have greatly leveraged Inland Waterways Trust Fund dollars."