Fresh generation takes charge at IWA

Geraint Talfan Davies introduces the new Director of an organisation that aspires to be a critical friend of the National Assembly

The end of the IWA’s 25th anniversary year is proving to be a pivotal moment of change for the IWA, made concrete today by the appointment of 37 year-old Lee Waters, currently the Director of Sustrans Cymru, as our next Director. Celebration of an anniversary always entails an element of looking back, but with Lee’s appointment our focus now will be very firmly on the years ahead.

He succeeds John Osmond, who is stepping down after 17 distinguished years in the post, during which he has put the IWA firmly on the map of civil society in Wales – one of his many contributions to Welsh life.

In Lee Waters we have found someone at the forefront of a new generation of politically engaged people whose lives and careers have been shaped by devolution. As such his appointment marks a generational shift for the IWA and will be part of a wider process of refreshing our mission in the years ahead. I am pleased to say that his appointment concludes an open and strongly competitive process.

Lee has already demonstrated a powerful capacity to bring practical innovation as well as challenge into the policy debate in Wales. His profound commitment to moving Wales forward, his understanding of Welsh politics, coupled with his range of experience, equip him well not only to continue the work of the Institute but also to build out from the strong foundations that have been laid over the last quarter century. As he himself says:

“I am excited to get the opportunity to lead the IWA. For Wales to achieve our potential we need an open and self-critical culture. The IWA has a vital role to play in creating a space where ideas can collide, and solutions can be forged. Having played a crucial role in shaping the creation of a law-making Assembly for Wales, the challenge now for the IWA is to play the role of critical friend in scrutinising the way the powers are used”.

What experience does he bring to his new role? He is a former Chief Political Correspondent for ITV Wales and BBC Wales producer, and since 2007 has been Director of the influential green transport organisation, Sustrans Cymru. Significantly, Sustrans is one of the first civil society organisations in Wales to be on the verge of getting a Bill through the National Assembly – the Active Travel Bill, now going through its committee stage.

At Sustrans he has transformed the profile of the organisation in Wales, doubling its size in the process, and now with overall responsibility for a portfolio of practical projects to change travel behaviour worth in excess of £24 million.

In 2011 he was asked by the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, to be his representative on the cross-party Yes campaign ahead of the referendum. He became Vice Chair of the campaign organisation, led on media and communications, and was responsible for working with all four parties to forge messaging for the campaign.

He was brought up in the Amman Valley and educated at Ammanford Comprehensive School and the University of Wales, Aberystwyth where he received a first class degree in politics, and authored a prize-winning thesis on devolution. He was also selected to be an English Speaking Union Capitol Hill Scholar and worked in the US House of Representatives in Washington D.C, before working for politicians in Wales and Westminster.

After graduating he served as a speechwriter and political secretary to the Secretary of State for Wales before joining BBC Wales as a producer of the flagship breakfast radio programme, Good Morning Wales, where he helped establish the programme’s reputation for breaking political stories. In 2001 he joined the ITV Wales political unit. Over the course of five years he presented the weekly politics programme, Waterfront, and reported on the National Assembly and House of Commons as a lobby correspondent.

For the past decade he has also been Chair of Governors of the highly regarded Barry Island Primary school. He lives on the island with his wife and two children.

I am sure that all our individual and corporate members, and our Fellows, will give Lee Waters their full support in developing the work and impact of an institution that is vital for civil society in Wales.

Geraint Talfan Davies is Chair of the IWA.

15 thoughts on “Fresh generation takes charge at IWA

  1. My congratulations to Lee Waters on his appointment and do hope the IWA can become a lot more inclusive platform for raising the real and important issues that matter to people of Wales and not just the few. We all know Wales is in a terminal decline and IWA needs to provide leadership and a platform for creative intellectual debate where censorship should be no part of, no matter what the issues are!?

  2. I would suggest that the title of this article is inappropriate, disrespectful and poorly considered. ‘Fresh generation’ would tend to imply something about the previous director’s splendid period in office and contribution and, indeed, older people who continue to work.

    He and they deserved better from the IWA.

  3. Jacques Protic said “We all know Wales is in a terminal decline”

    Beg to differ.

    Mercifully Lee Waters is an optimist of the will.

  4. Congratulations Lee. Time now for the IWA to focus on ‘the national interest’, rather than getting bogged down by playing the British devolutionary game!

  5. A response to David W. Jones, above: I plead guilty to formulating the headline. But of course I agree with the sentiments about the contribution that older people can make and which I hope to emulate!

  6. Lee Waters is a thoughtful and intelligent man. Such baggage as he appears to possess seems to involve an intolerance with a narrow tribal insularity. I am confident he will do an excellent job.

    There is though a but coming on. Lee, you can be viewed as being rooted in a communitariat of political science types who can at times appear to be over absorbed by the minutiae of devolutionary affairs. There is another school of thought that believes the single greatest challenge for the welfare of Welsh citizens is the arrest and reversal of countless decades of comparative economic under-performance. The dynamic between devolution and economic development policy architected in Wales is a significant one. Sensible policy must combine imagination with a meticulous eye for detail backed up by an emphasis on execution that treats performance falling short of perfection as unacceptable mediocrity.

    If the Institute is to exercise a strong civic voice and influence on economic affairs, which I for one believe to be welcome, it would do well to deepen its reach within the Welsh business community. Therein lies one of your challenges Lee.

  7. Noel Thompson is totally correct. It would be great if Lee and the IWA helped to drive Wales down to the road to becoming a full nation-state. With Alex Salmond announcing the date for the Scottish Referendum it would be good to see Lee declaring his support for a Welsh referendum within a few years.

  8. It would appear that Mr. Waters is a first class young man who ‘ticks the boxes’ needed to get on in the current state/condition of Wales today. Clearly we in Wales are facing a very difficult future, as is the UK as a whole and creative thinking and action going to be needed to persuade the Welsh people that major changes are needed, as the money to fund all we need isn’t there any more. I was, and still am very sceptical about Welsh political devolution, as it will tend to push away the changes needed, until things collapse, or the English tire of funding us and getting no thanks. I’m 68, so it doesn’t really matter as far as it affects me on a personal level, and my children/grandchildren are thankfully over the border, however it would be nice to go out with Wales in a better and happier condition than we currently find ourselves.

  9. A Banker Says is spot on. Lee is bright and articulate and he will do a grand job, as long as he dumps the baggage that comes with Labour’s tribal insularity.

  10. There are some people in the Wales Labour party who you might reasonably accuse of ‘tribal insularity’. (And some other parties, come to that).

    Lee Waters isn’t one of them.

  11. Congratulations to Lee Waters. This is a good appointment. What Lee must not do is to cave in to the Labour lobbyists or to the university pressure groups who inhabit the Bay. He must take the debate out of that stifling zone and start a truly national conversation.

  12. I am delighted with the choice of Lee Waters. He has very big shoes to fill and will of course choose his own direction. However, he has a great knowledge of Wales, he has drive and energy and above all, he
    tends to say what he thinks, often with interesting consequences!

    Pob lwc Lee.

  13. To have someone in such a prominent role with a background in sustainable transportation is terrific news.

    Great appointment, all the best Lee.

  14. Interesting times ahead for all of us, Lee. Important work for you to do. Very best wishes.

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