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Hilgers takes post as Deputy General Manager at PEC

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Paul Hilgers, who has worked for more than 10 years as a passionate advocate for affordable housing, is leaving his job as director of Neighborhood Housing and Community Development for the City of Austin to become deputy general manager of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative.

 

He will join Juan Garza, who took over duties as general manager of the PEC on Monday. Garza was general manager of Austin Energy before assuming leadership of the troubled co-op.

 

“I’ve got several things I’d like to do before I go,” Hilgers said. Included among those things are completion of some work on the Stoneridge Apartments and finding a facility for respite care and psychiatric beds for MH-MR outside of the homeless shelters. “There’s also a Mobile Loaves and Fishes development that we’ve been trying to get going for a long time and I think we have some opportunities to explore that that we want to bring up before we’re done.”

 

While crediting his own employees, city management and the City Council, Hilgers lists the following as his proudest accomplishments:

 

  • Establishing the Housing Continuum as a framework for investment in housing;
  • Creation of the S.M.A.R.T. Housing Initiative recognized as an international “Best Practice” for reducing regulatory barriers to affordable housing;
  • Locating housing for the Katrina evacuees;
  • The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, Lyons Gardens, Oak Springs Villas, Villas on Sixth Street, all of Foundation Communities SROs (single-room occupancy), Montopolis Subdivision, Vista de Guadalupe;
  • Implementation of the Voluntary Compliance Agreement and enforcing accessibility requirements in multi-family developments; and
  • Revitalization of East 11th and 12th Street.

 

As for the future, he said, “I’m very excited about going to work with Juan–to join him and be a part of this team is a very exciting opportunity. I’m also very excited about working to restore integrity to the PEC,” he said. ” It’s a historic and very important corporation.”

Pedernales is a nonprofit, member-owned utility, with 220,000 members and $500 million in revenues. Headquartered in Johnson City, it is the largest member-owned utility in the country.

However, beginning in 2006, some of its members began criticizing the way the cooperative was being run. A group of those members sued Pedernales in 2007, seeking to halt what they said were extravagant spending habits, including high salaries and expensive travel for top officials, and governance by a board of directors that was closed to all but a few.

State Rep. Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) and State Sen. Troy Frasier (R-Horseshoe Bay) have called for a state audit of the utility’s books, but the PEC board has refused, saying it would hire its own auditing firm. District Attorney Sam Oatman, whose region includes Johnson City, has opened a preliminary investigation of the co-op. Both the lawsuit and Oatman’s investigation are pending.

 

Hilgers announced his resignation in a memo to City Manager Toby Futrell Monday. He will leave the city on March 7 and begin at the PEC on March 17.

 

Hilgers began working for the city in August 1997 after three years with the Lower Colorado River Authority and more than nine years with then Congressman J.J. Jake Pickle.

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