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Villaraigosa to nominate private energy consultant as his sixth general manager of DWP

December 14, 2010 | 11:56 am

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has selected a Seattle-based energy consultant to run the Department of Water and Power, offering him up as the sixth general manager to lead the agency since he took office.

Ron Nichols, managing director of the energy practice of Navigant Consulting Inc., was making the rounds of City Hall on Tuesday to discuss his nomination with City Council members, who will vote on the mayor’s choice.

Councilman Herb Wesson, who met Nichols shortly before 10 a.m., voiced confidence that he would serve as a “nonpolitical” executive for the DWP, which has been in turmoil as it attempts to meet the mayor’s renewable-energy goals. “He won’t try to play the politics, and that might be the breath of fresh air the department needs,” Wesson said.

If Nichols is approved by council members, he will take the post at a time of political tensions between the nation’s largest municipally owned utility and ratepayers, business leaders and various elected city officials.

The DWP had a bruising rate fight with the City Council earlier this year, one that nearly took the city to the financial brink. More recently, the utility took steps to back away from Villaraigosa’s promise to make renewable energy, such as wind and solar, 40% of its energy portfolio by 2020, drawing an outcry from the environmentalists that backed the mayor when he ran for office.

The department has had four commission presidents since 2006 and five general managers since 2007. DWP commission President Lee Kanon Alpert announced his resignation last week.

First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner, who has been the temporary head of the DWP since April, would not discuss Nichols but said he had been looking for an executive with “deep experience” in the utility industry. Nichols has worked 30 years in the water and electricity fields in such locations as New York, Nevada and California.


Villaraigosa vetoes measure that would give council power to fire DWP leadership

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall