City’s Water Leader Is Out

Jim Barrett, San Diego’s public utilities director, has resigned to take a job with the Coachella Valley Water District. His last day is March 26, according to a memo the Mayor’s Office sent today to City Council members.

Barrett, who’d been with the city nearly four years and made $175,000 annually, will be replaced on an interim basis by Alex Ruiz, currently Barrett’s assistant director.

As head of the city’s water department, Barrett oversaw city water operations and sat on the Metropolitan Water District and San Diego County Water Authority boards.

He’s known for his thorough understanding of policy issues — but also a prickly personality and occasional clashes with City Council members.

He and Ruiz both drew criticism for misrepresenting the city’s intentions to consider a water-rate structure that would financially penalize heavy use and reward those who conserve.

When San Diego faced potentially severe water supply cutbacks last year, Ruiz — not Barrett — served as the public face of the city effort. Ruiz subsequently misrepresented the challenges of implementing that type of water rate structure — most notably used in the Irvine Ranch Water District. Barrett was similarly criticized for misrepresenting the city’s ongoing evaluation of the plan.

Update: Barrett will earn $220,264 annually with the Coachella Valley Water District, its spokesman said Monday.

– ROB DAVIS

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