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Garza named General Manager of Pedernales Electric Co-Op

Thursday, January 3, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The Pedernales Electric Co-Op today hired Austin Energy General Manager Juan Garza as its new General Manager.  Garza, 63, was one of three internal candidates vying to be City Manager upon the retirement of City Manager Toby Futrell.

 

Garza told In Fact Daily tonight that the 17-member co-op board voted unanimously to offer him the position after interviewing him for several hours.

 

Garza said his most important job at the co-op would be “continuing the tradition of great customer service and moving into a tradition of accountability and openness, moving to the future.”

 

He pointed out that the PEC has the highest customer satisfaction rating for an electric co-op within the U.S. and the fifth highest for a public power company, “So they’ve been doing a lot of things right. And I think I can bring the style of management that I believe in…I’ll take that over to the PEC and I think it will serve me well.”

 

Garza said working for the co-op would not require him and his family to leave Austin. “That’s the beauty of it . . . I could commute from Austin to Johnson City…it’s exactly 40 miles from my driveway,” he said.

 

Garza said he would consult with Futrell before deciding his exact start date with the PEC but he expects to begin his new job in February. The PEC will pay him $350,000 annually plus $1500 a month in car expenses, plus a bonus to be determined at the end of the year.

 

Garza told the Austin City Council this morning that he would be interviewing for the job this afternoon. The Council named eight finalists for city manager, including Garza, before he concluded his talk with the PEC board.

 

In mid-November, the PEC Board announced that President W.W. “Bud” Burnett and General Manager Bennie Fuelberg were stepping down after more than three decades with the utility. Their management of the member-owned utility had been harshly criticized and a group of co-op members filed suit against PEC over its management policies in May.

Fuelberg walked away with more than $2 million in deferred compensation over five years, making his annual salary for the past few years almost $900,000, a figure many co-op members considered excessive.

 

Burnett was paid $191,000 a year in his capacity as Board Chair and as PEC’s “employee coordinator,” even though he did not have an office, desk or telephone in the utility’s offices.

 

The Nov. 9 announcement came after three members of the co-op’s board of directors and its general counsel met in Marble Falls with state Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), the most prominent of the critics.

 

In addition, the board members also announced several reforms that came out of complaints from co-op members, and reflected issues in the lawsuit.

 

Changes include the co-op paying back $7 million in capital credits to co-op members who joined before 1977. It will retire capital credits on a 30-year rotation to members who joined the co-op since then.

 

In addition, the election process will be changed to make it easier for challengers to campaign against the board-nominated slate. Candidates can now be placed on the ballot by a petition with at least 25 signatures. Board members must receive electric service from the co-op, and they may not benefit economically by providing services to the co-op.

 

Garza became General Manager of Austin Energy in January 2002 after serving as the city’s Human Resources Director for 14 months. His salary at Austin Energy, according to city staff, was more than $211,000.

Garza came to Austin after being a Corpus Christi-based consultant specializing in urban issues. He worked for the City of Corpus Christi beginning in 1983, and served as City Manager from March 1988 to May 1996. Prior to that, he worked for the cities of Moline, and Evanston, Illinois.

He received a Bachelors degree in 1972 and a Masters of Business Administration in 1977 from Loyola University in Chicago.

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