Justin Ehrenwerth

President and CEO

Justin R. Ehrenwerth took the helm as President and CEO of The Water Institute of the Gulf in early 2017. Founded in 2011, the Institute is a not-for-profit, independent applied research and technical services institution with a mission to help coastal and deltaic communities thoughtfully prepare for an uncertain future. Through an integrated and inter-disciplinary approach, our work helps to create more resilient communities, thriving economies, and a healthy environment.

Most recently, Ehrenwerth served as the inaugural Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council).  The Council was created in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and is comprised of the Governors of five Gulf Coast States and Secretaries from six Federal agencies.  The Council is responsible for restoring the ecosystem and revitalizing the economy of the Gulf Coast.  Ehrenwerth successfully established the Council as the newest independent agency in the Federal government and oversaw all aspects of its programmatic, technical and operational activities.  Under his leadership, the Council approved an Initial Comprehensive Plan and Funded Priorities List, created a Federal grants system to allocate and monitor billions of dollars in restoration projects, and approved a Comprehensive Plan Update outlining a strategy for moving forward with large-scale ecosystem restoration in the coming decades.

Prior to joining the Council, Ehrenwerth served as Chief of Staff to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce where he assisted the Secretary and Deputy Secretary in overseeing issues of management, policy and strategic planning for the Department which has an annual budget of $10 billion and approximately 47,000 employees.  Among other responsibilities, Ehrenwerth focused on strategic opportunities and management challenges facing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the International Trade Administration, two major bureaus of the Department.    

Previously, Ehrenwerth served as Assistant Counsel to the President where he took the lead on Deepwater Horizon litigation for the White House working with the Department of Justice.  He also served as a member of the Oversight and Litigation group representing the White House in Congressional investigations and advising Federal agencies on oversight matters. 

Ehrenwerth has held leadership positions on a number of national and statewide political campaigns.  He has been active in the non-profit sector having worked at the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics and the Northern California Grantmakers. He also served as a Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Teaching Fellow as well as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership.

Ehrenwerth is a summa cum laude graduate of Colby College and holds an MA in philosophy, politics and economics from the University of Oxford and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  He and his wife, Dana Dupré, originally from Opelousas, have called Louisiana home since 2013.