LA WATCHDOG--Saturday’s scoop by David Zahniser of the Los Angeles Times that Marcie Edwards (photo above), the respected General Manager of our Department of Water and Power, has been in discussions with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office about retiring, but only after an orderly transition. But what was not disclosed is that these discussions have been going on for several months and that Mayor and his office were unable to make a timely decision on how to transition from Edwards to a new General Manager.
As a result of Zahniser’s article, Mayor Garcetti reacted by announcing on Monday afternoon that Edwards will retire on August 16 and that David Wright, the Department’s Chief Operating Officer and Edwards’ choice as her successor, will be appointed as DWP’s Interim General Manager. (See the press release below.)
Edwards, who was appointed General Manager in February of 2014, has done a very credible job. Most importantly, she developed a strong management team that allowed the Department to address a number of politically sensitive controversies. These include the brouhaha over the Joint Training and Safety Institutes and the questionable use of $40 million of Ratepayer money and the flawed Customer Information System that resulted in a large number of highly publicized billing mistakes.
She also built on the legacy of Ron Nichols, the previous General Manger (January 2011 to January 2014), by establishing credible relationships with the Ratepayers, the environmental community, and the City Council. These relationships, coupled with numerous meetings throughout the City, allowed the Department to implement a five year, $1 billion rate increase without the usual controversy.
David Wright (left), the Interim General Manager, is a relatively new addition to the Department’s management ranks, but has had considerable utility experience, including as General Manager of Riverside Public Utilities. As the Chief Operating Officer, he also has an understanding of DWP, its management, its strengths and weaknesses, and its highly politicized environment.
He also has a strong working knowledge of the proposed charter amendment involving the partial reform of DWP’s governance and contracting and procurement policies as well as the follow up ordinances that have been considered by the City Council Rules Committee.
Over the next three months, Garcetti will need to focus on who will be the next General Manager of our Department of Water and Power. The new full time General Manager, which may well be Wright, must have considerable management experience in the utility industry and be able to develop a strong and deep management team and to establish strong relationships with the members of the City Council, Ratepayers, and other outside constituencies.
However, if the DWP Charter amendments are approved by the voters in November, the process for selecting the General Manager will be changed to follow the more elaborate process used in selecting the Police Chief.
In any case, the appointment of the General Manager is the most important decision that the Mayor makes involving our Department of Water and Power and that is why the Ratepayers need to be an integral part of the decision making process.
The following is Garcetti’s press release.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI
CITY OF LOS ANGELES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1, 2016
MAYOR GARCETTI ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT OF LADWP GENERAL MANAGER MARCIE EDWARDS, NAMES DAVID WRIGHT AS UTILITY’S INTERIM LEADER
LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) General Manager Marcie Edwards will step down after more than two decades of service to the utility, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today. She retires as the first woman ever to lead LADWP in its 114-year history.
Concurrently, Mayor Garcetti named the Department’s current Chief Operating Officer, David Wright, a 27-year public utility veteran with a strong background in reliability, infrastructure development and customer service, to serve as Interim General Manager.
During Edwards’ more than two years of service as LADWP’s General Manager, she guided and stabilized the utility through a critical moment in its history. As punishing drought conditions strained local water supplies, she led the push to cut LA water use by 20 percent in just one year.
At the same time, she effectively navigated LADWP through significant unforeseen issues with its billing system, and built widespread consensus for a sensible rate increase plan to enable critical future investments in sustainable water and power infrastructure, maintaining LADWP’s exemplary reliability track record and completely getting off coal.
“When I took office, LADWP was facing difficult challenges -- we needed a visionary leader to put our utility back on track, and that’s exactly what Marcie Edwards has done,” said Mayor Garcetti. “She has left an indelible mark on our city, and I am deeply grateful for her service.”
Wright has been at DWP since early 2015 focusing on fixing the billing system and improving customer service after spending nearly a decade as General Manager of Riverside Public Utilities, earning consistent praise for his success in improving service to his customers. He has also served as Chief Financial Officer for the Las Vegas Valley Water District, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Silver State Energy Association, overseeing a nearly $1 billion budget for the three water and electric organizations.
At Riverside Public Utilities, Wright led a complete overhaul of the customer service system, an upgrade that provided customer satisfaction levels that were at the top of the industry. The effort was so successful the City of Riverside later adopted the platform to handle all of its constituent services through their 311 call center. As one of his first tasks, Mayor Garcetti has asked Wright to develop and implement a “customer bill of rights” to provide specific service level guarantees for the utility’s ratepayers.
“LADWP exists to serve the people of Los Angeles -- its leader should be someone who has a proven customer service track record,” said Mayor Garcetti. “David Wright has spent his career making public utilities work better for the people they serve, and I’m proud to appoint him as LADWP’s next Interim General Manager.”
Edwards will step down as General Manager on August 16, 2016. She will assist with an orderly transition and serve as special advisor to the Mayor, LADWP Board and Mr. Wright, the interim General Manager, through Dec. 31.
“It’s been a privilege to lead LADWP through both difficult challenges and transformative efforts to build a sustainable future for Los Angeles,” Edwards said. “I am grateful to Mayor Garcetti for the opportunity to serve my city.”
“I am deeply honored that Mayor Garcetti has chosen me to lead LADWP during such an important period for the utility,” Wright said. “I will do everything I can to make LADWP a utility that not only focuses on infrastructure, reliability and sustainability, but that strongly focuses on improving service levels to our customers to significantly higher levels. It’s important that LADWP makes it easy to do business with us by working better and more efficiently for our customers than ever before.”