Who he?

Posted on | December 14, 2010 | No Comments

He looks less like the father of LA’s water system William Mulholland (left) and more like ER’s Anthony Edwards, but according to the Los Angeles Times, energy consultant Ron Nichols, managing director of the Seattle-based Navigant, is the new nominee to become the next general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

More will become clear about Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s latest candidate for a post whose politics have chewed up and spat out nine water department GMs in the last ten years. All the Nichols bio page at Navigant offers is a nugget that makes him sound like a Wall Street version of Wen Jiabao. “Ron Nichols is a Managing Director in the Energy practice [sic] has over [sic] 30 years of experience in utility asset and enterprise financing, utility mergers and acquisition, and power supply portfolio planning and procurement. Mr. Nichols was the lead business and regulatory advisor on the two largest revenue bond issues ever completed and has advised public power, investor-owned utilities, governmental agencies and non-regulated energy suppliers on over $30 billion of value of transactions.”

If confirmed by the City Council, Nichols will replace interim general manager Austin Beutner, a financier who had precisely no experience managing water when appointed, who replaced interim director S. David Freeman, who had quite a lot of experience, but who last summer left the department, the mayor and the city council in a circular firing squad position over rate hikes.

The choice of an energy consultant to succeed Beutner shows that the mayor is again trending in favor of a candidate who can deal with the complicated transition of LA’s power from coal-fired to renewable sources. That LA also has a water conservation program crippled by budget cuts and lawn lovers at City Council, fractious relations with Inyo County (source of roughly one third of the city’s water), and aging pipes whose bursts took out the GM before Freeman, one can only hope that Nichols is a fast learner.

Over at Mayor Sam’s Sister City, a question being asked is will part of his job include paying dividends to Villaraigosa’s old boss and water speculator Keith Brackpool? Time will tell. Brackpool is like an oil slick. He gets in everyone’s feathers. In the meantime, good luck Mr Nichols (pictured left). You’ll be needing it.


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