WQA announces 2022 Leadership, Excellence award winners



LISLE, Ill. (April 6, 2022) – Winners of the prestigious Hall of Fame and Lifetime Membership awards – as well an Illinois company honored with the Excellence Award – are among 13 honors announced Wednesday, April 6, during the Opening General Session of the WQA Convention & Exposition. The Convention runs through Friday, April 8, in Orlando, FL.

The 2022 Hall of Fame award – the highest honor bestowed on a WQA member, given for lifetime dedication and service to the industry and association – goes to Richard Mest, President of Master Water Conditioning Corporation. Mest, who served as WQA President in 2013-14 and is completing his second year as Water Quality Research Foundation President, is an avid education and the author of numerous technical articles on water treatment. He previously was honored with WQA’s Award of Merit (2006) the Key Award (2011) and the Lifetime Membership Award (2020).

Former WQA President Steve Ver Strat, who recently retired after more than 42 years with Amway Corporation, is honored with the WQA Lifetime Member Award, which recognizes exemplary service to the association. Ver Strat was Amway’s Regulatory Policy Director for the home environment category of products that included water and air filtration products and represented the corporation in many national and international trade associations, including his WQA Presidency in 2019-2020.

WQA’s Excellence Award is given to WQA member companies who excel in their operations, innovation, customer service or community involvement.  This year it was awarded, in the Manufacturer/Supplier Category, to Antunes, a water treatment and commercial kitchen appliance manufacturer in Carol Stream, IL. The company partners with the non-profit organization Splash to bring clean water to children around the world through Splash’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program. Antunes’ ultra-filtration technology, designed for the challenges of the food service industry, treats water in public schools, hospitals and other institutions to meet WHO guidelines for drinking water quality. As of 2021, Splash and Antunes have partnered to provide clean water technology to nearly 900,00 children at more than 2,300 schools, hospital, shelters and orphanages.

Other awards announced April 6:

  • The Key Award, which honors members who demonstrate the highest quality of leadership within their company, industry and various associations, including local civic and community activities, was awarded to Cindy Gresham, who recently retired as Business Development Manager with Thermax, Inc., where she worked for 17 years. Gresham served on the WQA Board of Directors from 2012-2018, two of those years on the Board of Governors. She also was president of the Florida WQA from 2007-2009.
  • The Ray Cross Award, recognizing WQA members whose pioneer spirit and unwavering commitment made a notable difference in the water treatment industry, is presented to Bob Maisner, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Paragon Water. Maisner has been a member of WQA for the past 25 years, serving on many committees and task forces and currently serving on the Industry Research Committee. He served on the WQA Board of Governors for eight years and was WQA President in 2017-2018.
  • The Regents Award, presented to individuals who have made significant contributions at the state or local level, went to Mike Heatwole, MWS, a Territory Sales Manager for Water-Right, Inc. A frequent speaker at the WQA Convention & Exposition, Mike has taught water quality and water treatment topics at numerous state associations and other national events.
  • The Award of Merit, in recognition of exceptional service to the water quality improvement industry, goes to two recipients:
  • Claudia Milliron, Market Research Manager at Kinetico Incorporated, who has chaired the WQA Market Research Committee, led the RO task force and now is chair of the newly created WQA Thrive Advisory Council.
  • Candice Wentling, MWS, Director of Certified Action, a business advisement and training company, who has been conducting sales training, field coaching and leadership accountability seminars for the last 16 years, including many for WQA.

·WQA’s Honorary Membership Award, given to someone outside the water treatment industry with meritorious contributions to humanity though research, education or exemplary service, goes to U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. Sen. Baldwin serves on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and the Senate Appropriations Committee. She is also Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.  She is sponsoring WQA’s Clean Water for All initiative in the Senate.

  • The Next Gen award, given to individuals 40 or younger who have demonstrated a commitment to the betterment of the water treatment industry, went to two rising stars this year:
  • Trent Jacobi, Senior Director – Water Treatment for GE Appliance, a Haier company, who serves on the WQA Board of Directors. He has been in the water treatment industry 14 years and mentors youth in his community through leading several youth sports teams and actively volunteering in youth programming at his church.
  • Ariane Paris, a 20-year veteran of the water quality industry and Founder and CEO of Ethical H2O in San Diego, a company that was named One of the Top Dealers of 2020 by WQP Magazine. Paris serves as Vice Chair of the WQA Women in Industry Advisory Council and mentors for WQA’s LEAD mentoring program.

WQA also honored two members with Presidents’ Club memberships for recruiting at least three new companies to join WQA in the last year:

  • Roy Esparza, MWS, CI, CWR, Puronics Water Systems Inc.
  • Kelly Thompson, MWS, CI, Moti-Vitality

More details about the awards and the honorees, plus photos of the winners, can be found on the WQA Convention website.

WQA is a not-for-profit trade association representing the residential, commercial, and industrial water treatment industry. WQA’s education and professional certification programs have been providing industry-standardized training and credentialing since 1977.  The WQA Gold Seal certification program has been certifying products that contribute to the safe consumption of water since 1959. The WQA Gold Seal program is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). WQA publishes a consumer-friendly website, BetterWaterToday.org.