Sid Wilson began his water management career at Salt River Project as a watershed specialist and was promoted various times, eventually becoming the Associate General Manager for Water and for Planning and Resources. In 1995, he became the second General Manager of CAP, serving until his retirement in 2009.

Sid Wilson: Doing what he loves

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Sid Wilson didn’t set specific goals in his career. In fact, he believed in finding a job that he enjoyed doing and doing it well. And for him, it was a magical combination.

He started his water career at Salt River Project in 1967 as a watershed specialist. He relished his time in the field, away from offices, shirts and ties and politics. But when he was approached with a request to take on more responsibility and lead a team, he stepped up.

“My dad modeled taking responsibility, do it as well as you could. Do more than your share and help others,” said Wilson. “Every time that I was asked to take a job, it was one where I was asked to do more. I was asked to be responsible for others, and I felt obligated to do it as well as I could, but I enjoyed each of them.”

For the next 24 years, Wilson sharpened his skills at SRP. He was part of some monumental work…floods in the late 1970s and early 1980s, development of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, groundwater recharge legislation and more.

He was SRP’s Associate General Manager when he left in the early 1990s and was recruited to be Vice President for Bookman-Edmonston, a small water resources consulting firm. He wasn’t looking to make a move when his administrative assistant told him CAP was advertising for a new General Manager and she thought he’d be perfect…and he didn’t have anything to lose.

“I thought about that and my theory about finding something you enjoy doing, doing it as well as you can; and consider new opportunities as they may present themselves,” Wilson said. “So I said, ‘okay.’”

His first day as CAP’s second General Manager was January 1, 1995. During his time, he saw the organization finish the transition from primarily a construction project to a maintenance organization and was involved in the CAP’s lawsuit against the federal government over repayment, the Yuma Desalting Plant, the Multi-Species Conservation Program, drought planning and recharge, just to name a few.

But his proudest accomplishment, he says, is bigger than that. It’s his work to make sure Arizona has water for years to come.

“CAP makes sure that the water is not only here today, but it’ll be here tomorrow,” said Wilson. “Everything that I’ve been involved in at CAP all goes into that. The biggest accomplishment for me is that CAP exists in the desert, brings water 336 miles across that desert in a manmade river that’s larger than any river in the state, uphill, to meet the expectations of people. That is what it’s really about.”

Wilson retired in 2009.

“I’ve concluded over the years is that it’s more important to have a direction than a vision, because it’s kind of like developing a photograph. You start with a general idea, but it’s not very clear, and as you work on it and as you approach it, it’s like watching that film come to life.”

Read David S. Wilson's Oral History Transcript
Listen to David S. Wilson's Interview - Part 1, Part 2