Southwest Water Authority CEO retires after 25 years

Southwest Water Authority CEO Mary Massad said Thursday was her last day with the organization, calling it a bittersweet moment.

CEO Mary Massad of Southwest Water Authority delivers a presentation to the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at City Hall during a regularly scheduled meeting regarding the business' 30 years of service to the City of Dickinson. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

DICKINSON For two decades, Southwest Water Authority's Mary Massad has worked diligently to ensure that the SWA provides quality water to more than 30 communities and thousands of rural-water customers across Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Grant, Hettinger, Mercer, Morton, Oliver, Slope and Stark counties; including the cities of Dickinson and Mandan.

After 25 years, including 13 years as CEO, Massad announced her retirement earlier this year and began the process of training her successor, Jen Murray, to take over the position.

"Mary's really knowledgeable and has been with SWA for years," then SWA board chairman Loren Myran said in a previous interview. "She's dedicated, hard working and good with people and numbers, which is important with the CEO position because finances are the biggest thing."

Massad graduated suma cum laude from Dickinson State University in 1986 with a business administration degree before joining the SWA in 1996. Working her way up to business administrator and chief financial officer by 2006, the SWA’s board of directors selected her as the new CEO following the retirement of Ray Christiansen. Massad began her current role in July of 2007.

A vocal proponent of North Dakota making better use of the Missouri River, Massad has been recognized with multiple awards leading the entity.


On Dec. 9, Massad was the recipient of the Upper Missouri Distinguished Service award from the North Dakota Water Users Association. At that same conference, SWA’s Board Chairman Jim Odermann, of Belfield, was honored with the Water Wheel award — which recognizes his 25 years of service. Massad said she’s proud of how the organization has grown and that she has enjoyed her time there.

“It’s a bittersweet day,” she said, adding that Thursday was her final day. “It’s been an amazing, amazing time. It’s an amazing project, what good drinking water can do for a region, for quality of life and economic development. I know our future is in good hands.”

Her successor Jen Murray will assume the CEO position effective Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 — leading the company from the first day of the new year.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to work for Southwest Water Authority and to serve our region,” Murray said. “I can’t imagine a more important responsibility than supporting the vision of Southwest Water Authority. I look forward to building on what they’ve done before me… building on that 30 years of commitment to quality water.”

Murray noted that Massad has been a great mentor to her.

“I’ve worked directly with and for Mary for the last eight years as her assistant and I’ve learned so much from her. I wish her all the best in all of her future endeavors,” Murray said.

SWA has big plans for the future, she added.

“We just plan to continue moving forward with our strategic plan and our approach to getting more water out into the underserved areas, improving hydraulic deficiencies so that we can hook more people up,” Murray said. “We are also expanding our transmission capacity in all three directions from the City of Dickinson so that we can more water out into the counties that we serve.”

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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