The other day, I was surprised to hear that the mayor had decided to put one of his top managers in charge of both the city’s water and wastewater departments.

The mayor just lost his director of public works, Richard Haas. And Timothy Bertch, the current wastewater director, had also announced he was leaving.

Now one guy was going to take over both efforts. Seems like a lot of responsibility for one plate.

Not long ago, Sanders had shown a proclivity toward recognizing competent operatives on his team and then overwhelming them with responsibility. Take Jay Goldstone. The current chief operating officer for the city, Goldstone at one time had the title of chief financial officer, auditor and chief operating officer.

The guy seems to be uber-competent but also a bit overloaded. Is it the mayor’s MO to just find smart guys and make them do everything?

I decided to call Scott Tulloch, the current assistant city manager in Chula Vista. Tulloch ran the city of San Diego’s wastewater department for five years.

I asked him how hard it would be for one person to run both the wastewater department and the water department.

He said it shouldn’t be a big deal and here’s why:

The Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Facility

Tulloch said that many years ago, the city’s wastewater and water departments were one entity. But, beginning in 1994, the city embarked on an ambitious construction initiative for the two systems. It put together plans to build the South Bay Outfall, expand the Point Loma treatment plant and work on a new sewage reclamation plant.

With so many big projects in the pipeline for wastewater, former City Manager Jack McGrory decided to put one person in charge of that department and eventually split it off.

Tulloch told me the feeling at City Hall was that the departments would be joined again when these capital projects were completed, which they largely have been.

“Now is probably the time to consider putting them together. They have similar functions and they work under the same type of regulators,” Tulloch said.

Finally, Tulloch said, if anyone could handle the new job, it was Jim Barrett, whom the mayor named the new director for the city’s water and wastewater departments.

Barrett was one of the officials brought in originally by Ronne Froman, the mayor’s former COO. I had previously said that it appeared the mayor was running away from Froman’s initial directives and pushing out the people she brought in. If Barrett can handle this new liquid department, it’ll be proof she knew a thing or two about finding managers for a vast enterprise like the city.


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