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Weis would be city’s highest paid employee as GM of Austin Energy

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 by Austin Monitor

Two members of the Austin City Council say City Manager Marc Ott has indicated that he plans to hire Larry Weis, General Manager of the Turlock (CA) Irrigation District, to lead Austin Energy and is offering him a salary higher than what Ott makes. 


Weis was the sole remaining finalist and Ott indicated to Council that he was pleased with the results of a trip to California last week.


Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez told In Fact Daily that Ott left him a voice mail last night saying Weis would be the city’s highest paid employee. Ott currently makes around $240,000 as city manager but that is far below the market for managers of electric utilities such as Austin Energy.


Council Member Bill Spelman shared two text messages he received from Ott yesterday saying that he suggested a “fairly high compensation. Greater than CM.” Ott also said told Spelman he had received 10 favorable references on Weis.


As for the salary, Spelman said, “That’s more than fine; it’s absolutely necessary, I figured.”


Weis has 28 years of experience in the electric and water utility business and makes about $280,000 per year in his current position with a much smaller utility.

Environmentalists have been concerned about his lack of experience with promoting renewable energy.


Roger Duncan, who retired as General Manager at the end of February, was receiving $216,000 per year, but his predecessor, Juan Garza, left Austin Energy for a job at the Pedernales Electric Co-op for $350,000 per year. The PEC recently fired Garza, whose severance package guaranteed him more than $1 million.  


Austin Energy is under growing pressure to find ways to increase the use of affordable renewable energy and come up with a new business model that accounts for less energy use as a result of efficiency efforts.


More immediately, Austin Energy faces potential staffing issues — one-third of the management team is eligible to retire within five years — and is gearing up for a rate case before the Public Utility Commission of Texas in 2012.

Weis declined comment on Wednesday through his utility’s spokesperson.

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