DWP Official Named to Head Agency, City’s Highest-Paying Job

Times Staff Writer

The man who now heads the power side of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will soon head management for the entire agency, the DWP board announced Friday.

Norman E. Nichols, assistant general manager for power for the last seven years, will succeed Paul H. Lane as DWP general manager and chief engineer when Lane retires early next year.

In doing so, Nichols may also succeed Lane as the city’s highest-paid employee.

The 53-year-old Nichols, who joined the DWP in 1957 as an electrical engineering assistant, now receives a $119,370 annual salary. His new salary, yet to be established, will be between $125,531 and $188,296 under a formula for management pay, officials said.


Easily the Highest

Lane, 66, receives a salary of $150,566. That is $50,000 more than Mayor Tom Bradley is paid and $6,000 more than Department of Airports General Manager Clifton Moore. Lane, who has been with the DWP for 40 years and has held the top job since 1983, will receive a $126,000-a-year pension.

As top executive of the DWP, Nichols will oversee the nation’s largest municipal utility, serving 3.4 million Los Angeles residents. The DWP has more than 11,000 employees and a budget of $2.6 billion. Among California’s public utilities, only Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison Co. are larger.

He assumes the top DWP job at a time when the utility is coping with drought conditions and is administering a water conservation program in which DWP customers are encouraged to install water-saving devices in homes and offices.


Engineering Background

A Nebraska native, Nichols received a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Denver in 1957 and joined the DWP the same year. In 1968, he earned a graduate degree in electrical engineering from USC. He was promoted through several positions before becoming assistant general manager for power in 1981.

Nichols played a prominent role in organizing the Southern California Public Power Authority and served as the authority’s executive director in 1981.

At a press conference, Rick J. Caruso, DWP board president, said the administrator’s chief function will be to assure efficiency within the agency, while also protecting water and air quality.

Nichols was selected from a field of nine “very qualified” in-house candidates, Caruso said. The board chose Nichols on a unanimous vote, Caruso said, over two other finalists: Duane Georgeson, assistant general manager for water, and Daniel Waters, assistant general manager for external and organizational services.