Alan Steinman reflects on his two decades as director of Annis Water Resources Institute
August 04, 2022
After 21 years as the Allen and Helen Hunting Director of the Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute, Al Steinman officially steps down from his role on August 5 to focus on research and teaching. Steinman was named director shortly after the institute opened its Lake Michigan Center in 2001. Since his arrival, the institute has added two additional buildings, seen its staff grow from about two dozen to nearly 70 and transition toward more academics and research.
Before joining the AWRI, Steinman was director for the Lake Okeechobee Restoration Program for the South Florida Water Management District, overseeing a staff of 50 with a budget of $30 million. While he may no longer be director of the AWRI, Steinman will continue to focus on research and teaching. Biology Professor Mark Luttenton, who focuses on ecological research, has been named interim director for a two-year term while an international search for Steinman’s successor begins.
Q: Why did you decide to come to Michigan?
By the late 1990s, early 2000s, the focus on the Everglades kind of migrated around south Florida, depending on where the crisis du jour is. First we had way too high water level and then too low water level with focus on Lake Okeechobee, and I was director of the restoration program for the lake. That position with the constant media, the constant lawsuits, became really stressful. I actually had an anonymous death threat. It was taking a serious toll on my health. With my soon-to-be-wife’s blessing, we decided to look elsewhere.
A couple of things that gelled when I came up here to Muskegon. One, the people were incredibly warm, incredibly welcoming, which was really nice because most of the public meetings I was having in Florida, I was accompanied by armed guards. It was a very different venue. My wife grew up in the country, and this was much more appealing than some of the other alternatives like D.C. or Boston. Second, I could work at this brand new building and help build the institute. It was a challenge and an appealing environment.
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