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California

Garcetti taps public utility veteran to succeed departing LADWP chief

David Wright, chief operating officer at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, has been tapped to lead the agency.
David Wright, chief operating officer at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, has been tapped to lead the agency.
(Los Angeles Department of Water and Power)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday that he has chosen Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Chief Operating Officer David Wright to lead the agency.

If confirmed by the City Council, Wright — who has worked at the DWP for two years and before that had worked for decades at other public utilities in California and Nevada — would replace Marcie Edwards, who is stepping down after less than three years on the job.

Earlier Tuesday, the utility’s board of commissioners backed Wright for the new job, in which he would earn $350,000 a year. Garcetti announced earlier this month that Wright would serve as interim general manager after Edwards’ departure. 

“As I talk with David and review his impressive track record, it’s clear to me that he isn’t just a proven customer service specialist — he’s the ideal candidate to lead LADWP into its next era,” Garcetti said in a statement.

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Garcetti did not interview any other candidates for the job of leading the nation’s largest municipal utility, said Naomi Seligman, the mayor’s communications director. She said Wright was “highly recommended” by Edwards and was interviewed “a number of times” for the job by Garcetti, as well as mayoral Chief of Staff Ana Guerrero and DWP Commission President Mel Levine.

Wright would be the department’s eighth general manager in 10 years. Over that time the agency has weathered a succession of scandals that included the botched deployment of a computerized billing system and questionable spending by two nonprofits affiliated with the DWP employees’ union.

The utility has also been persistently unpopular with ratepayers. This year it ranked dead last in customer satisfaction for the fifth year in a row in a survey of large Western power providers by research group J.D. Power & Associates.

Garcetti, who campaigned on promises to reform the DWP, celebrated Edwards’ hiring in early 2014, describing her as a leader who would bring “real, lasting change” to a bureaucracy stuck in the past. 

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Edwards, who on Tuesday was serving her last day as general manager, will stay on at the agency through the end of the year at her full salary in an “advisory role” to Wright.

peter.jamison@latimes.com

Follow @petejamison on Twitter

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