Tag Archive for: San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl

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San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl Retires

San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl retired June 29, after more than 40 years of public service. Deputy General Manager Dan Denham is acting GM until the Water Authority Board of Directors permanently fills the position.

Kerl’s tenure at the Water Authority included 10 years as deputy general manager and four years as the agency’s top staff member during a period of unprecedented uncertainty regionally and nationally. Following her retirement announcement in April, Kerl was praised by state and local leaders for her steady hand and tireless efforts on behalf of San Diego County and the water industry.

‘Can-do spirit’

“Sandy’s vision and management skills have been crucial in successfully navigating the challenges of an extreme drought while ensuring stability through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mel Katz, chair of the Water Authority Board. “Her deep experience with water issues, collaborative management style, and can-do spirit guided the agency through an unprecedented period of change. Sandy’s dedication and work ethic on behalf of San Diego region will be missed. We are grateful for her service and wish her nothing but the best in retirement.”

During a June ceremony at the Water Authority’s Kearny Mesa headquarters, California Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins presented Kerl with a framed resolution recognizing her contributions to the region on behalf of the entire San Diego County delegation in the state Legislature. San Diego County Congressmen Scott Peters and Darrell Issa also provided proclamations celebrating Kerl’s service.

As general manager, Kerl launched an era of increased engagement with the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. She took a similar approach with staff, issuing the first agency-wide employee engagement survey and using the results to focus on areas of improvement. The Water Authority was named a Top Workplace in 2021 and 2022 by The San Diego Union-Tribune based on employee surveys by an independent organization.

Sandra L. Kerl retires after decades of public service

Career highlights for Kerl also include playing pivotal role in securing financing for the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant, which started commercial operations in Carlsbad in 2015 and produces approximately 50 million gallons of water a day for the San Diego region. Before joining the Water Authority, Kerl served as the city manager of La Mesa, Calif. Throughout Kerl’s career, she has been active in the International County Management Association and has served as chair of the San Diego City/County Managers Association and San Diego Regional Training Center.

Kerl served as Chair of California Urban Water Agencies (CUWA) for the last year, an organization that has shaped the conversation about drought with state leaders during her tenure. She also served on the Executive Board of the Southern California Water Coalition, chairing the Colorado River Task Force and Southern California Leadership Council Executive Committee.

“It has been my privilege to work with so many talented and dedicated people during my 14 years at the Water Authority,” said Kerl. “Enhancing our workplace culture, breaking down barriers to collaboration, and ensuring safe and reliable water supplies despite intense challenges would not have been possible without the dedication of staff, member agencies, and the Board of Directors. I have complete confidence that they will carry on our mission without skipping a beat.”

In a farewell email to Water Authority staff, Kerl wrote: “So, the time has come for me to depart.  I do so with great respect and admiration for the work that each and every one of you do for the Water Authority to ensure safe and reliable water to the region 24/7/365.  It has been my honor to work alongside you to carry out the mission of the organization.”

Acting General Manager Dan Denham

The Water Authority Board formed a work group to lead the general manager selection process. During the interim, Denham will work closely with staff and the Board to ensure continued execution of Water Authority priorities. The transition team also includes Assistant General Manager Tish Berge, who will serve as acting deputy general manager, and Water Resources Director Kelley Gage, who was appointed acting assistant general manager.

Denham has served in several leadership capacities with the Water Authority over the past 17 years, including deputy general manager. In that role, he oversaw the MWD and Colorado River programs, along with the Engineering, Water Resources, and Operations & Maintenance departments. Denham also oversees the implementation of long-term agricultural-to-urban conserved water transfers that are among the largest in the United States. As a commissioner on the Quantification Settlement Agreement Joint Powers Authority, he leads the Water Authority’s fulfillment of environmental mitigation obligations and legislative advocacy efforts at the Salton Sea.

Before joining the Water Authority in 2006, Denham served in various capacities at the City of San Diego’s Metropolitan Wastewater Department, Financial Management Department and Mayor’s Office. Denham holds undergraduate degrees in public administration and economics, and a graduate degree in public administration – all from San Diego State University.

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Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl Celebrated for 40 Year Public Service Career

California Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins June 16 recognized the accomplishments of San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl, who is retiring later this month after a 41-year career in public service.

During a ceremony at the Water Authority’s Kearny Mesa headquarters, Atkins presented Kerl with a framed plaque of the resolution on behalf of the entire San Diego County delegation in the state Legislature. The resolution honors Kerl’s long career, highlighting many of her accomplishments, including her work the past 14 years at the Water Authority.

The resolution, in part, reads:

“Sandy Kerl was named General Manager in 2019, and having helped the Water Authority overcome numerous obstacles during her tenure, which was dominated by drought and countless other high profile issues, she has consistently expressed her gratitude for the dedication and determination of her Water Authority colleagues and Board members who have ensured the continuity of safe and reliable water supplies regardless of the challenges, including those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time the operations and maintenance staff consistently showed up every day in the field while the entirety of the office staff was moved to remote work in just one week to continue providing water around the clock.”

Atkins highlighted many of Kerl’s accomplishments, leadership and her success in meeting numerous challenges during the past four years as Water Authority general manager.

“I am incredibly honored by this recognition,” said Kerl. “I have the most incredibly talented people to work with, including the Board of Directors. We have done the hard work to secure the reliability of our water supply in San Diego and that is an accomplishment we all share.”

Dedicated to public service

Kerl joined the Water Authority as deputy general manager in November 2009 and served as acting general manager from March through November 2019 before being appointed by the Board of Directors to her current post.

As general manager, Kerl’s priorities include enhancing relations with the Water Authority’s member agencies, minimizing rate increases, concluding the long-running litigation with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and ensuring long-term water supplies for the semi-arid San Diego region.

One of Kerl’s first challenges as general manager was leading the transition to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic for about three-quarters of the Water Authority’s 250 employees. She also commissioned the first employee survey in the agency’s history as part of a larger effort to integrate different generations of employees, embrace the diversity of the agency’s workforce and empower all employees to reach their full potential.

Kerl’s career highlights in the water industry include leading the effort to secure financing for the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant, a public-private partnership that was hailed as a model for other large-scale water works around the country.

Kerl has more than 35 years of progressively responsible experience in all aspects of municipal management. She served as city manager of La Mesa, California, and has broad experience with city management, extensive knowledge of organizational issues, and a pragmatic understanding of capital project management and delivery.

General Manager Issues Statement Urging Region to Stay WaterSmart

Aug. 6, 2021 – San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl today issued a statement in response to deteriorating water supplies across the West, highlighted by state officials taking the powerplant offline at Lake Oroville due to low reservoir levels and regulators restricting farmers’ access to Central Valley rivers.

“These developments are sobering reminders of the serious conditions facing residents, farms and businesses across the West. In support of regions where water supplies are severely strained, I urge San Diegans to do their part by voluntarily reducing use of our most precious natural resource by 15%, as called for by the governor.

“We have collectively done a great job developing new water supplies and reducing water use across the county – and we should remain vigilant in our efficient use of water. Some examples of actions people are taking to do their part include fixing leaks in irrigation systems and plumbing fixtures; irrigating in the morning or evening when temperatures and winds abate; washing only full loads of laundry and dishes; patronizing car washes that recycle water; using hoses with automatic shut-off valves; and using pool covers and garden mulch to reduce evaporation. Water-use efficiency information and incentives are at www.watersmartsd.org.

“By doing our part to stay WaterSmart, we will help California weather this extremely dry year and prepare for the uncertainties of the future.”

— Sandra L. Kerl, General Manager, San Diego County Water Authority