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More changes for LCRA’s management structure

Thursday, April 11, 2013 by Michael Kanin

Officials with the Lower Colorado River Authority have once again rearranged the organization’s management structure. The new set-up comes with the departure of longtime executive Kyle Jensen.

 

Jensen retired from the organization earlier this month. When he left, Jensen was the organization’s Executive Manager of External Affairs. However, Jensen is also the former manager of Water Operations. He served in that capacity in 2011 when the utility released over 430,000 acre feet of water for downstream agricultural use during what would turn out to be an extremely hot and dry year for Central Texas.

 

On Tuesday, the chair of the LCRA’s board of directors, Tim Timmerman, admitted that release was a mistake. Timmerman made those remarks as he answered questions from State Senators Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, during a meeting of the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee.

 

As part of the meeting, Watson, Fraser, and six of their colleagues voted to send a bill that would issue a state mandate for LCRA to cut off downstream agricultural water supplies should Highland Lake levels drop below 850,000 acre feet – and before mandating any conservation measures from upstream municipal utility customers such as the City of Austin.

 

LCRA spokesperson Clara Tuma told In Fact Daily she could not comment directly on Jensen’s status other than to confirm that he retired on Friday. Tuma also said that LCRA leadership was at an out-of-town meeting Wednesday.

 

The organization’s management restructuring is its second in less than three years. In August 2011, General Manager Becky Motal issued an in-house communication that detailed her first high-level reorganization, one that squeezed out veteran LCRA hand Dan Kuehn, among others. “These managers have served LCRA well, and their existing functions, as you will see, will be integrated into other roles,” Motal wrote at the time. “I want to thank each of these managers for their service to LCRA and wish them only the best. Their departures are immediate and they are all eligible for a severance package.”

 

LCRA has further attempted to consolidate its workforce through a voluntary separation program that further contributed to what was seen by some as a mass exodus of veteran talent. As In Fact Daily reported in January of last year, LCRA had lost roughly 5,848 years of collective experience through retirement, force reduction, and voluntary separation since the beginning of 2011. (See In Fact Daily, January 24, 2012.)

 

At the time, LCRA officials insisted that Motal’s first reorganization did not represent the brain drain described by some.

 

The most recent reorganization creates two deputy general manager positions. The first slot belongs to Ross Phillips, most recently the organization’s Executive Manager for Transmission Services. Phillips is now directly in charge of three of LCRA’s key services – water, electric transmission, and generation – in addition to public safety and support services.

 

The second goes to former LCRA head of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs Henry Eby. Eby is now in charge of Environmental Affairs, Energy Services, Water Resources, Regulatory Affairs, and Cyber Security.

 

Phillips and Eby join LCRA general counsel John Rubottom, Executive Manager of Employee and Communication Services Jerry White, Chief Financial Officer Brady Edwards, and Executive Manager for Governmental Affairs Kathy Walt to form the new executive team.

 

In addition to the planned state mandate for agricultural cutoffs, there is other notable legislative action pending that is aimed squarely at the organization. This includes a Fraser bill that would send the state auditor in to examine how the organization runs and conducts its business.

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