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Mayor Villaraigosa names new DWP commissioner

December 12, 2008 | 11:02 am

For three years, Nick Patsaouras was a, shall we say, cranky presence at the Department of Water and Power, berating managers for not being aggressive enough at cutting costs and chastising them for not moving fast enough on his favored initiatives.

In short, he was Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s pit bull at the utility, a flinty figure from the San Fernando Valley who could reassure crabby taxpayer types. Then Patsaouras was excluded from the DWP’s conversations about a new March 3 solar energy ballot measure, with the utility’s top executive talking to environmentalists before he told his own commissioners.

Patsaouras quit the five-member board and decided to run for city controller, challenging another Villaraigosa ally, Councilwoman Wendy Greuel. On Thursday, Villaraigosa selected Patsaouras’ replacement, going for someone who tends to be a bit more of a cheerleader for the mayor’s initiatives than Patsaouras, a critic of the solar ballot measure.

That person is Jonathan Parfrey, the director of Green LA, a group that has applauded Villaraigosa for advancing clean-air measures at the harbor and the DWP. Asked this morning if he will be a carrot guy or a stick guy, Parfrey promised that he too will be aggressive, by ensuring that the DWP gets 20% of its energy from renewable sources -– wind, solar, geothermal, etc. -– by December 2010. That happens to be one of Villaraigosa’s longstanding promises.

“I believe I’m going to bring some expertise to the commission and push the department to meet its goals,” said Parfrey, who works for the Liberty Hill Foundation, a nonprofit social justice group.

Parfrey, 50, lives in downtown Los Angeles. Aside from renewable energy, he is also keenly interested in clean water issues.

-- David Zahniser