The Los Angeles City Council confirmed Marcie Edwards as the new general manager of the Department of Water and Power on Friday, tapping the Anaheim city manager to take the helm of the municipal utility as it grapples with multiple controversies.
Edwards, who was recommended for the $345,000-a-year job last month by Mayor Eric Garcetti, previously ran Anaheim’s utility and worked at the DWP for more than two decades before that -- beginning with the job of clerk typist, which she took at the age of 19.
She will be the first woman to head the agency, the largest municipally owned utility in the country.
At the council meeting, Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray praised Edwards for her steady leadership during a tumultuous time for Anaheim, saying she had made the Orange County city's public utility a model for the state.
Edwards will join the Los Angeles agency as it reels from the troubled rollout of a new billing system. Questions also remain over how two nonprofit trusts, funded by the utility and meant to improve relations between management and labor, have spent more than $40 million in ratepayer money.
"We are at a very critical point," Councilwoman Nury Martinez said at the Friday meeting. "Our ratepayers have completely lost faith in this department."
Garcetti had pushed for the last manager, Ron Nichols, to be more aggressive with the DWP union in uncovering how the trust money was used. Reforming the agency has been a focus for the mayor, making the selection of Edwards an especially important one for his administration.
At a meeting of the Energy and the Environment Committee on Wednesday, Councilman Paul Koretz told Edwards she was bound to “get a certain amount of abuse” in the job.
“I’m OK with getting knocked down,” Edwards replied. “But I can consistently get back up.”
Edwards told the committee she had the benefits of an insider, thanks to her history with the DWP, along with the perspective of an outsider. She said her top priority was a simple one -- “that phones get answered and accurate bills get out.”
"It's key to focus on the needs of the people who are paying the bills," Edwards said when asked how she would handle the department's controversies.
As Edwards takes the job, the agency is also beginning the process of moving away from coal power, focusing more heavily on renewable energy, boosting water conservation and seeking more water resources locally to cope with drought.
Faced with all those challenges, "we’re going to need a lot of expertise, which you clearly have, and ... a lot of luck," Councilman Felipe Fuentes said.