Departures spell change for Tahoe utility |

Departures spell change for Tahoe utility

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunGeneral Manager Bob Lourey and Assistant Manager Cindy Gustafson discuss plans for the Lakeside Bike Trail Phase 7 at the Tahoe City Public Utility District meeting Wednesday. Lourey will retire next spring and Gustafson will be promoted to his position.

Over the next two years, several Tahoe City Public Utility District senior managers will retire, an exodus that will include General Manager Bob Lourey.

Yet, despite what might be a cause for alarm, district staff and board directors are working on a succession plan and say they are confident that operations will continue to run smoothly.

“With seven people retiring before the end of 2009, and most of them being supervisors or higher, we had to be out in front of it,” Lourey said.

Lourey joined the district in 1978 in maintenance and worked his way up the chain of command until promoted to general manager in 2000. He said he never intended to stay so many years, and credited interesting projects and great colleagues for many of his accomplishments during his tenure.

Lourey has been involved with several technical projects, including the implementation of the district’s first telemetry system, as well as a handful of community projects like the Lakeside Trail and other bike paths, the Commons Beach enhancement project and boat ramp improvements in Lake Forest.

He plans to retire next March, when he hopes to travel and spend time with his wife and grandchildren. Lourey said he wouldn’t have made his departure public this early, but did so because of the spate of other expected retirements among district staff.

“There is so much turnover happening in the next two years that I felt it appropriate that I not only be very candid with the board, but also start working on the planning for the rest of the positions that are going to be vacated either before I leave or after,” Lourey said.

In the wake of Lourey’s departure, Assistant General Manager Cindy Gustafson will take the district’s helm ” the first female general manager to serve the Tahoe City utility.

Gustafson, too, would have preferred to hold off broadcasting the promotion the board of directors gave her in early summer, but felt the district should make succession planning a priority.

“We’re very proud of Cindy because she’s a very talented young lady and we think she’ll do an excellent job. It was a unanimous vote, 5-0, to appoint her,” said board president Lou Reinkens. “It’s kind of unique to have a female in the general manager position.”

Gustafson started with the district in August 1991 as a director of resource development and community relations. She was promoted to her current position in 2001.

“It was never my goal or aspiration to have a particular title here at the district, everything just evolved,” Gustafson said. “I’m going to work really hard to meet the community’s need in the [general manager] position.”

Six employees in the district’s management, professional and supervisory ranks are planning to leave by the end of 2009, including the Director of Public Works, Construction Project Manager, Technical Services Supervisor, District Clerk and Senior Accountant.

The district employs 40 full-time staff.

With the departures, the public agency will lose more than 100 years of experience in the next two years, Gustafson said, which is why the district began planning for the retirements as early as last fall.

“It’s taken quite a bit of resources. We’ve had to plan carefully, and we’re going to bring in some additional people to replace the people that are moving up,” Reinkens said. “The feeling is in six months to a year of running people in parallel so they can move into these positions.

“It’s one of those things ” people are going to move on. We’re very fortunate we haven’t had a high turnover rate. To have this type of change I think we’ve prepared pretty well for it,” he added.

Changes include the re-organization of a few job titles and duties. The district will likely not hire or promote an assistant general manager, but create a new position called Planning and Public Works Administrator, who will pick up some of Gustafson’s current duties.

A transition team made up of department heads has been meeting weekly to discuss individual department needs as well as overall district needs to help in planning organization structure.

The utility’s board has not yet approved a revised organization chart.

While both staff and board directors anticipate a fairly seamless transition as individuals retire, the district may still face some obstacles in hiring new people to fill the vacancies.

“One of the challenges we’re going to be faced with is bringing people into this high cost-of-living area, and where are they going to live? We haven’t really faced that problem yet; we’ve got some challenges there,” Reinkens said.

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