The staff of Soquel Creek Water District is heartbroken at the sudden, tragic loss of the many Santa Cruz County residents who lost their lives in the fire aboard the diving boat Conception on Labor Day off the Channel Islands, including a beloved member of their work family — Vaidehi Campbell Williams.
Vai was the District’s communications specialist who’s been with the District for over 18 years and will be greatly missed by her colleagues, by the community she served and, most of all, by her family.
Vai’s career was spent sharing with the community her sparkling energy and exuberance about the District’s mission of preserving and protecting the precious local water resources. Well-known as an easy-going, beautiful, kind soul, her impact on the District and on the community will be felt for generations to come.
She eagerly and patiently supported her colleagues, and everyone who came in contact with her was touched by her kind and giving spirit. Vai was as comfortable implementing complex technological tools such as geographic information systems (GIS), as she was presenting water conservation curriculum to rooms full of elementary school students – when she would wear a tiara and call herself the Water Princess, to the absolute delight of the kids.
She began her career at the District as a student intern for two summers while attending Scripps College in 1999 and 2000, before joining the staff full time in 2001. Vai worked in several areas of the District, including launching its GIS platform and becoming the District’s expert in many of its technology tools. Recognizing the emerging importance of GIS technology, she pursued her GIS certification while working full time.
An ardent environmentalist, she headed up the District’s “Green Team,” helping guide its offices toward a higher level of sustainability, and was instrumental in the District becoming a Certified Green Business.
As communications specialist, Vai shared her passion for water and the environment with countless community members at local, county, and statewide educational and special events. She loved working with teachers and kids, and eagerly provided fun, interactive presentations in local classrooms from preschool to college — and wherever else there was an opportunity to share her enthusiasm. In everything she did, she set a tone of gracious and collegial collaboration with fellow employees, with District customers, and with the community at large.
As an exceptional communicator and educator on water conservation and recycling, Vai’s commitment to the District mission and her carefree spirit often had her volunteering to wear a water droplet costume at the Santa Cruz County Fair, Earth Day in the Park, and at the Water Harvest Festival.
Most recently Vai was out and about with the District’s Pure Water Soquel Educational Trailer (which, with her help, won the 2018 National Award of Excellence in Outreach and Education by WateReuse Association), using her vitality and extraordinary people skills to help carry the District’s message to kids and their families.
Vai’s love of all things water and the environment inspired her to serve as past president of the Monterey Bay Water Works Association, and since 2002 she was part of the California Water Education Committee. She was also a Project Water Education for Teachers Facilitator, and received the 2008 Water Awareness Wizard award.
Outside of the office, Vai was a caring friend and always prioritized adventures and fun activities with her husband Sarma, and their two children, Daelen and Makani. She loved to volunteer at her children’s schools, travel all over the world, and be outdoors – hiking, swimming, dancing, and singing loudly out into the universe. She was also a big supporter of local art and artists, regularly attending craft fairs and artists’ open studio events.
The District’s annual educational/informational Water Harvest Festival, which Vai organized, will be held this October 20 in memory and celebration of Vai’s life (soquelcreekwater.org/waterharvestfestival).
With the immense joy she brought to work every day, the friendship and camaraderie she fostered, and her tireless enthusiasm, Vai became a dear friend to all at the District, and to many in the community whom she served so well.
Vai, the Water Princess, will be fondly remembered by all who knew her. The legacy she leaves at the Soquel Creek Water District, and the legacy of her life with her family and friends, will continue to inspire and motivate those who are left behind.
In the wake of this tragedy, friends have set up a gofundme.com account to help the family deal with the aftermath. Visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/vaidehi-williams-memorial-fund for more information.