The Water Institute team mourns the passing of Justin Ehrenwerth, President and CEO

May 13, 2023

BATON ROUGE, La. (May 13, 2023) – The Water Institute team mourns the passing of Justin R. Ehrenwerth, who led The Water Institute as President and CEO for the past seven years. Justin’s passion for the work, his vision for The Water Institute, and his caring leadership inspired others. His passing leaves a hole in all our lives, and we send our deepest condolences to his wife Dana, their two children Louis and Charles, and their entire family.

“Justin had a tireless approach to working for a better Louisiana, a more resilient Gulf coast, and bringing those lessons to communities around the country,” said Kevin Reilly, chairman of The Water Institute board of directors. “His vision for The Water Institute is realized in the work the Institute does every day and his legacy will live on into the future.”

Internally, Justin was always supportive of The Water Institute team members, both in their work and when life challenges presented themselves. From delivering soup to a sick team member and his children, to offering a weekend hotel trip for a team member who lost their house in a storm, Justin cared for people and recognized we’re all human.

“Justin and Dana have been friends of mine for decades. From the oil spill to the Restore Council to The Water Institute, Justin fell in love with coastal Louisiana. It came out in his work. His drive for the best coastal solutions was a result of his commitment to our people. While I've lost a long-time friend, colleague and advocate, Justin's foundation and legacy will be impactful for generations. He will be missed,” said U.S. Congressman Garret Graves.

“Justin’s passing touches so many people who knew him well and respected his intellect and boundless enthusiasm for his work,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “He embodied the essence of what service to one’s state, community and neighbors is all about and made a powerful and positive impact on Louisiana and the entire Gulf coast. His presence and his work will be sorely missed.”

Justin was appointed the second President and CEO of The Water Institute of the Gulf in January 2017. Prior to joining The Water Institute, he served as the inaugural Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. The Council was created in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and charged with using billions of dollars in penalties to restore the Gulf Coast’s economy and environment and adapt in the face of climate change. Justin successfully established the Council as an independent federal agency and oversaw all aspects of its programmatic, technical, and operational activities.

“Justin was one of the most thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent, inspiring and kind people I have ever known,” said Beaux Jones, interim CEO of The Water Institute. “He committed his life to making the world a better place and to addressing the most pressing challenges of our time and found a way to build bridges and rise above partisanship in a way that most could not. Our community has lost an unparalleled leader and visionary, but Justin’s legacy serves as a challenge to us all. We must use this tragic moment as a charge to follow his example, put aside differences, elevate science, and collectively do the work that must be done.”

Justin previously served as Chief of Staff to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, where he assisted in overseeing issues of policy, budgeting, and strategic planning. He focused on matters impacting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) including complex regulatory and management challenges.

Earlier, he 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. Before joining the White House, Ehrenwerth served in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of General Counsel where he provided support to NOAA leadership on sensitive regulatory and political matters. He received NOAA’s Award for Excellence for work in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Justin held leadership positions on a number of national political campaigns and was active in the non-profit sector. He served as a Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Teaching Fellow as well as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He most recently served on the Board of Directors of Touro Synagogue as well as the Anti-Defamation League’s South Central Region and was a member of the Committee of 100 for Economic Development.

Justin was a summa cum laude graduate of Colby College, held an M.A. in philosophy, politics and economics from Brasenose College at the University of Oxford, and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The Water Institute Board of Directors has appointed former Chief of Staff and General Counsel Beaux Jones as Interim CEO. Jones and the Institute Senior Executive Team, Dr. Alyssa Dausman and Hugh J. Roberts, will ensure a seamless transition and continued focus on the Institute’s mission following Justin’s passing.