Kari was born and raised in Hacienda Heights, in Southern California. Kari’s parents, Ken and Sue Manning, provided her and her older brother Keith an incredibly loving environment, focusing on family activities and trips, good education, and the importance of extracurricular activities. Kari took part in many sports growing up, including softball, basketball, volleyball, golf, soccer, and even cheerleading. Her parents were very supportive, attending all her games, coaching, etc. One of her favorite childhood memories is playing on the volleyball and softball teams and traveling for week-end tournaments.
Kari credits both her father and grandfather for instilling a strong set of values. Strong academically, Kari excelled in math and science. When she was a junior in high school, it was her dad that planted the seeds for her future career by telling her “You’d probably be a good engineer. And you would do well with a focus on water since water is always needed in any economic market.” He believed in this so strongly that he got Kari her first job just prior to college working for the Water Quality Authority. A combination of her father’s advice and alma mater (Kari and her dad both graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo) along with the civil engineering blood from her grandfather set Kari on her current career path. Kari reminisces that she is proud, and humbled, her grandfather watched her receive her college diploma as he passed shortly thereafter.
Kari is now a Senior Civil Engineer in Wallace Group’s Water Resources department and is celebrating 14 years with us this month. Kari is a big picture thinker and thrives on master planning for water and wastewater projects. A variety of project types, interacting with clients, and providing quality work are the things that keep Kari happy in her job. She is also a member of our Business Development Team, emphasizing on maintaining current client relationships and building new ones.
When asked what her most challenging project was she selected the Pismo Heights Booster Station project
. “It was like a puzzle trying to fit lots of facilities on a small property. It all had to fit perfectly to be successful.” It all began about 10 years ago, beginning with the master plan, through project design and then final construction. With the help of an awesome team, this project came to a successful completion just a few months ago. “It’s very exciting to see it up and running” Kari stated, “it was stressful, but fun.”
The Wagner Family
Outside of work Kari focuses on her family. Taking a page from her own parent’s book, Kari and her husband of 15 years, Chuck, make it a point to be there for their kids. (Fun fact: Kari and her brother grew up with the typical sibling rancor; however, it would be her brother’s best friend that became Kari’s high school sweetheart and future husband, so it seems fences were mended!) Their son Hayden, 11, has been racing go-karts since he was 5 years old and competes with 20-40 kids on the track at speeds of 65 mph. Hayden also plays soccer and is a phenomenal student. Their daughter Kaci, 8, who Kari calls a “flower child” also races go-karts but not competitively. Her interests lie in dance (ballet, jazz and hip hop), softball and she is also a very good student. The Wagner family enjoys traveling; Hawaii, Tahoe for skiing, camping (both RV and tent camping) and most recently a once in a lifetime trip to Italy! Hayden was entered into a Go-Kart race (like the Olympics for go-karting) and they made an entire family vacation of it…including parents and in-laws! They also have quite the pet menagerie: Three dogs (Cody—a Basset Hound, Chow, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Lab mix who is 14 years old; Diesel—an Australian Shepherd, Border Collie mix who is 18 months old; and Teddy, a Yorkie, Shih Tzu mix who is 14 months old. They also have two cats: Blackjack and Sparky. Miraculously, they ALL get along!
Kari's son Hayden, tearing up the track!
Kari and her husband also own Wagner’s Import Service Center in San Luis Obispo. celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Kari was very involved with the business at start-up, even giving rides to customers. Over the years her role has tapered off with Chuck doing the day to day running of the business but she still does the books.
And since a full time job, activities with the kids, and a family business don’t fill the day (ahem!), Kari is also in her second year as President of Paso Robles Girls Softball League
, which her daughter Kaci plays in. Imagine coordinating and overseeing 270 girls aged 5-18, totaling 22 teams!! She is also very involved in Kaci’s Girl Scout
troop, in charge of the nut and cookie sales.
Kari addressing the Paso Robles Girls Softball League
Kari is still an athlete at heart. Setting a great example for her kids, she focuses on her own health and lives a healthy lifestyle. She works out almost every day at CrossFit DIY
—which focuses on strength, mobility, and conditioning through various movements including olympic lifting, box jumps, ring dips, and Kettle bell swings. In addition, Kari just ran her third half marathon
and “if” she has any free time, she plays in adult softball and volleyball leagues.
Kari at the Tinkerbell Half Marathon
We love the answers we’ve been getting to these questions so much, no longer outtakes, just part of the fun!
WG: What is your favorite guilty pleasure TV show?
KEW: Big Bang Theory
WG: Superhero you most relate to?
KEW: Superwoman/Wonder Woman (Note: the interviewer basically assigned this to her).
WG: What foods do you refuse to eat?
KEW: Olives and fishy fish.
WG: If you could only eat three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?
KEW: French fries, avocado, chocolate or caramel dipped strawberries.
WG: An item on your bucket list?
KEW: A family trip to Disney World!