CITY COUNCIL CONFIRMS CARRASCO
New City Light Superintendent praised for vision, work ethic
SEATTLE - The Seattle City Council today unanimously voted to approve the confirmation of mayoral nominee Jorge Carrasco as superintendent of City Light, the City-owned electric utility and the City's largest department.
"Mr. Carrasco has withstood intense public scrutiny and the Council's investigation into his background and ability to run City Light with composure and candor, and we felt confident that he was the right choice to move the utility forward," said Councilmember Jean Godden, who led the Council's confirmation process.
"The Council conducted a thorough due diligence process," said Council President Jan Drago. "We interviewed the candidate several times and gave the public opportunities for input and questioning beyond any typical process for selecting City department directors. We also contacted references and others who have worked with Mr. Carrasco in the past. We are very satisfied with this choice."
Before voting on Carrasco's confirmation, Council members detailed a list of
goals and expectations for the superintendent that Carrasco and the Mayor have agreed to. Among the Council's expectations:
· Customer Service -- Minimize distribution costs to serve customers, meet system load growth and maintain reliability at levels comparable to other utilities in the Northwest. Explore new strategies to enhance service and provide greater convenience to customers.
· Environmental Stewardship -- Develop the maximum amount of cost-effective renewable resources and conservation. Monitor and explore technological developments such as distributed generation and efficiency improvements.
· Competitive Strategy -- Reduce operating costs, pay down debt and build up cash reserves. Increase cash funding for capital expenditures to average of peer utilities. Strengthen integrated resource planning capabilities at City Light.
· Communication -- Provide open, honest and timely information to the Council for informed decisions. Improve the quality, clarity and level of communication with the Council and the public.
· Workforce -- Evaluate the current organizational structure and utility talent. Increase the level and range of electric utility expertise within City Light management and create a culture within City Light that promotes accountability and transparency.
"Mr. Carrasco, in response to a question I posed to him, described himself as a 'change agent.' That is a quality that will service Seattle City Light and the people of Seattle well," said Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck. "I congratulate Mr. Carrasco on his new task as superintendent. We have great confidence and high expectations."
Mayor Greg Nickels submitted Carrasco's name to the Council in December as his choice to lead the City's public power utility, following an extensive seven-month nationwide search. Carrasco served as president of New Jersey-based American Water Services, and was previously general manager of East Bay Municipal Utility District, a water and wastewater utility serving more than one million customers in the eastern San Francisco Bay area. He also served as city manager of Scottsdale, Arizona and Austin, Texas. As city manager of Austin he had oversight of an electric utility comparable in size to City Light.
The Council, which has authority to confirm or deny the nomination, spent the month of January holding meetings on the nomination, including a public hearing at which Carrasco took questions from citizens. Council members also submitted to Carrasco a list of 20 questions regarding his management experience and style that Carrasco responded to in writing. Both the questions and responses remain posted on the City Council's Web site at www.cityofseattle.net/council.
Seattle City Light is one of the largest municipally-owned utilities in terms of the number of customers served. City Light serves about 322,000 residential customers and approximately 30,000 business customers. More than 50 percent of City Light's power generation is supplied by city-owned hydroelectric plants. In years with heavy precipitation, those plants supply almost all of Seattle's power needs, but in dry years the utility must make up the difference by purchasing power from outside the region.
Unlike most public-owned utilities, City Light does not have a board of directors that is separate from city government. The superintendent for the utility is appointed by the Mayor. The Seattle City Council confirms the superintendent and oversees legislative policy related to the utility, including rate hikes or reductions.
Last year the Mayor and Council jointly appointed six citizens to a City Light Advisory Board. This board provides the Mayor, Council and superintendent with independent, outside expertise in the areas of risk management, finance and power markets. The City Light Advisory Board issued its first report last week. To view the report, visit www.seattle.gov/light/news/advisory/.
For the full list of the Council's goals and expectations for the City Light superintendent, please visit www.cityofseattle.net/council/SCLgoals.pdf.