neWen­ergY leaDer?

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Marty Toohey

City man­ager says ir­ri­ga­tion district boss is his choice to run util­ity

Larry Weis, head of the Tur­lock Ir­ri­ga­tion District in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, is City Man­ager Marc Ott’s choice to run Austin En­ergy, pend­ing a last set of in­ter­views in Cal­i­for­nia.

Writ­ing to the City Coun­cil, Ott said in a Fri­day e-mail that “I have con­cluded that Larry Weis … is the best fit for Austin.” Ott will fly to Cal­i­for­nia this af­ter­noon with an un­spec­i­fied con­tin­gent of Aus­tinites to “ver­ify the ‘fit’ that I spoke of ear­lier.”

Ott is sched­uled to re­turn Thurs­day. He took a sim­i­lar trip be­fore hir­ing Po­lice Chief Art Acevedo, and he has fi­nal say on whom to hire as Austin En­ergy’s chief..

“I don’t ex­pect that we’ll find any sur­prises in Tur­lock, but this level of due dili­gence is cer­tainly nec­es­sary for this crit­i­cal po­si­tion,” Ott wrote.

If he picks Weis, Ott will al­most cer­tainly up­set many of the city’s en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists, some of whom were granted a for­mal role in the hir­ing process and wanted the search re­opened.

Con­tin­ued from B Some mem­bers of the City Coun­cil have also said they would be open to start­ing the search over.

Austin En­ergy’s gen­eral man­ager is one of the most im­por­tant jobs in town, over­see­ing a util­ity with $2.3 bil­lion in as­sets, a na­tional rep­u­ta­tion for in­no­va­tion and the task of pro­vid­ing al­most all the city’s elec­tric­ity. Austin En­ergy rev­enues also fund nearly a quar­ter of the city’s spend­ing on parks, li­braries, po­lice and other “gen­eral fund” ser­vices.

But the util­ity is head­ing into un­cer­tain times. If it does not change its busi­ness prac­tices, by 2013 it will have blown through its re­serves and be $177 mil­lion in the red, ac­cord­ing to re­cently re­tired Gen­eral Man­ager Roger Dun­can.

The util­ity is plan­ning a ma­jor rate in­crease, pos­si­bly in 2012, to pay for the in­creas­ing cost of its poles-and-wires op­er­a­tion, and the next gen­eral man­ager will guide a po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive process that ul­ti­mately will de­ter­mine who pays what share of the city’s en­ergy costs. In ad­di­tion, the util­ity will have to nav­i­gate

If hired, Weis would be re­spon­si­ble for start­ing an ag­gres­sive shift to­ward re­new­able en­ergy while en­sur­ing that costs stay rea­son­able. Dur­ing in­ter­views in Austin, he said he could do so if green en­ergy pur­chases were care­fully timed to the city’s in­creas­ing en­ergy needs.

changes in the en­ergy in­dus­try as it in­creas­ingly re­lies on wind, so­lar and other sources of power that do not emit car­bon gases, which many sci­en­tists say con­trib­ute to global cli­mate change.

If hired, Weis would be re­spon­si­ble for start­ing an ag­gres­sive shift to­ward re­new­able en­ergy while en­sur­ing that costs stay rea­son­able. Dur­ing in­ter­views in Austin, he said he could do so if green en­ergy pur­chases were care­fully timed to the city’s in­creas­ing en­ergy needs.

Ott’s staff had said Weis and fel­low Cal­i­for­nia fi­nal­ists David Wright, gen­eral man­ager of the River­side Pub­lic Util­i­ties Depart­ment, and Ron­ald Davis, who took him­self out of con­tention af­ter be­ing of­fered a raise to stay as Bur­bank Wa­ter and Power gen­eral man­ager, were ap­peal­ing choices be­cause they had ex­pe­ri­ence sat­is­fy­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s ag­gres­sive statewide re­new­able en­ergy goals, which are sim­i­lar to Austin’s. Ott said he wanted can­di­dates with chief-ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

But the choices did not wow many of the city’s en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists. An in­ter­view panel of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and ad­vo­cates for the poor found flaws in all three fi­nal­ists, in­clud­ing their lack of na­tional stature and a con­cern that they would take too long get­ting up to speed on the Texas en­ergy mar­ket. Wright was par­tic­u­larly un­ap­peal­ing to the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, who were granted a for­mal in­ter­view panel as part of the hir­ing process, but they also said Weis is un­qual­i­fied.

They are push­ing for Karl Rábago, a semi­fi­nal­ist for the job who is in charge of Austin En­ergy’s re­new­able en­ergy ini­tia­tives.

Larry Weis runs wa­ter, power district in Cal­i­for­nia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.