Longtime Tahoe City utility chief retires
Surrounded by 40 employees and a bit of barbecue smoke wafting in from outside the open door of the board room, Bob Lourey is having his last lunch as the general manager of the Tahoe basin’s oldest government agency.
Lourey officially stepped down Friday after 30 years of service with the Tahoe City Public Utility District, a job that became his home away from home and that employed his “family.”
“[It’s] kind of surreal,” said Lourey of his last day at the district. “I’ve been here so long it’s like home to me. The people are family ” to me this is the greatest staff in the world.”
The utility has 40 employees and hires about 30 more during the summer months to keep up with public works and parks and recreation projects, he said.
Lourey worked his way up through the district and his management style reflected that blue collar ascendancy.
“He was very professional and driven and went up through the ranks and made it to the top,” said 18-year utility veteran Kevin Ferrell. “It is inspirational.”
When Lourey took the controlling reins of the district in 2000 FerrelI said the “philosophical” climate at the utility changed.
“He came from the working class consequently he promoted that,” Ferrell said
FerrelI, an electrician with the district, said Lourey always fostered ongoing education for employees. That sentiment is something Lourey’s successor, Cindy Gustafson, echoed.
“He allowed everyone under him to grow professionally and he never took credit for [it]. What was accomplished he always [gave] credit to others, which I think is so important,” she said.
Gustafson learned from Lourey for years in the assistant general manager position that was created by district officials in 1989 to provide the succession training to up-and-coming personnel.
She said Lourey would always provide, “wise council” and was “willing to listen to all sides” of the complicated issues that the district faced with the management of the needs of 3,800 water customers, 7,300 sewer customers and over 500,000 parks and recreation customers.
Lourey came to the high mountain district with seven and a half years of experience in the water utility field in 1978. He was hired as a maintenance worker and four years later he moved into the utility superintendent job. In 1989 Lourey was promoted to director of engineering, a position he kept through the 90s while serving as assistant general manger from 1995 until be became the interim manager in 2000.
“There was tension between the employees and between management staff and the board at that time,” Gustafson said. “And he was able to rebuild the trust between the groups.”
Lourey plans on “taking his retirement one year at a time,” working on home improvement projects at his home in Sparks, Nev. He said he wants to travel with his wife and work on his golf game.
Outside of the utility district, neighboring agencies noted the departure of the long-time North Shore leader.
“His leadership will be missed,” said the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Julie Regan, communications and legislative affairs chief.
She said the TRPA has worked closely with the agency throughout the years.
“I think the Tahoe City Public Utility District has been a leader in the basin regarding excellent project management, stewardship and community service,” she said.
“When you look at the projects that they have been completing, you look at Commons Beach, Heritage Plaza and the bike trails, not to mention their utility work, they are just a very well managed agency and they are a pleasure to work with one on one.”
Gustafson became general manager on Saturday.