Skip to main content

To celebrate Clean Water Action's 50th anniversary, we’re sharing our history and journey with the people who have joined us along the way as we worked to protect clean water through #CleanWater50Stories. Kathy Aterno is one of the central figures who helped build Clean Water's legacy, playing a range of parts throughout her long tenure with our organization. Kathy was a jack of all trades, and took on whatever project needed attention -- from directing the programs in states like Michigan, Florida and Colorado to managing Clean Water nationally for many years and countless other behind-the-scenes roles that helped strengthen us for the long haul. Thanks Kathy for your signature commitments to our work and our history!

What's Your Connection to Clean Water?

I had the privilege of working at Clean Water for more than 31 years.

What's Your Favorite Clean Water Action Memory or Story?

During my long tenure, I had various job duties. One that has particularly special meaning is my work with our voter education and outreach program. This is where Clean Water identifies and supports candidates for elected office at the local, state, and national level.

Why is this important?

You cannot have good environmental laws that protect our water supply and public health without lawmakers that are champions or advocates. In a climate that polluters have an advantage since they have the political power, it is vital that the public get information in real time. This is where Clean Water has been most effective for 50 years!

I am particularly proud of my work to educate tens of thousands of particularly young Clean Water staff and volunteers who go door-to-door in key communities across the country on the importance of making sure they provide accurate and timely information to the public. There are very few organizations that work in this personalized way of talking to people at their door.

During my tenure, we helped elect and re-elect thousands of lawmakers that helped derail efforts to destroy our environment and hold lawmakers accountable that routinely chose polluters over protecting public health and the environment. We also groomed future Clean Water leaders who have run for elected office or volunteer and serve on boards and commissions that advocate for environmental protections.

As a corporate officer, one of my favorite mantra’s was “Keep Kathy Out of Jail.” I am proud of fact that I survived my long tenure at Clean Water and the team of staff and volunteers did just that!

Why Do You Care About Clean Water?

I dedicated more than three decades of my personal and professional life to this organization because I truly believe in the mission, the great team of people that work tirelessly for the benefit of the public and environment--at times with great personal and financial sacrifice. I am now fortunate to have officially retired as a paid professional staff person of Clean Water but my heart will always be proud of the work it does and support this unique organization that stands on strong principles and advocates for what is right not always politically expedite.

Unfortunately, there will always be pollution, self-serving political leaders, and need to have advocates fighting in the trenches for what is in the best interest of the public and the environment. That is why we need Clean Water for another 50 years!

Make a gift today to power our campaigns now and for the next 50 years. Your support is essential to helping Clean Water Action protect our water and health, tackle the climate crisis, and make our democracy work.