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New head of L.A. DWP will make $750,000 a year — nearly twice as much as her predecessor

A smiling woman.
Janisse Qui?ones was approved Tuesday by the Board of Department of Water and Power Commissioners to be the utility’s next general manager.
(Elisa Cicinelli)
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Mayor Karen Bass’ pick to lead the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will earn $750,000 a year — nearly twice as much as her predecessor.

The Board of Water and Power Commissioners on Tuesday voted to approve a salary for Bass nominee Janisse Qui?ones that is significantly higher than the $447,082 currently earned by General Manager Marty Adams.

Qui?ones, former senior vice president of electric operations at Pacific Gas & Electric Co., was picked by Bass after a nationwide search. Adams is retiring in June after four decades at the head of the troubled agency, where turnover is particularly high in the top ranks.

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The City Council last year approved a new salary range — $435,034.80 to $751,011.84 — for the general managers of the city’s utility, port and airport, which went into effect in December after Adams announced his retirement.

Top executives at investor-owned utilities, such as PG&E, typically earn multimillion-dollar salaries, while those at public utilities take home much less.

Qui?ones’ salary is in line with top executives’ salaries at the Omaha Public Power District in Nebraska and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, according to public records.

Adams received a small series of backdated wage adjustments this year, which boosted his salary by about $50,000, according to the department. Before that, he hadn’t gotten a raise since he was hired as general manager in 2019, records show.

Qui?ones, in a brief appearance at Tuesday’s DWP board meeting, thanked the commissioners for supporting her nomination.

“The department has so many great things going for themselves and a lot of new challenges that we need to tackle,” she said, adding that “collaboration” with “stakeholders and the community and others in the industry” will be key.

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In addition to PG&E, Qui?ones worked at San Diego Gas & Electric and at Cobra Acquisitions, where she helped restore Puerto Rico’s electrical system after Hurricane Maria in 2017, according to Bass’ office.

Qui?ones is also a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve who spent five years on active duty, according to a 2021 interview that appeared in a PG&E publication.

“Very little rattles me,” Qui?ones told the publication, describing how her Coast Guard background helped her prepare for working in the energy industry.

Bass’ office, in a statement announcing Qui?ones’ nomination, said the executive “has the skill set and leadership experience to advance the department into 100% clean energy by 2035.”

The DWP’s next leader is expected to play a major role in reaching the climate-friendly energy goals laid out by city leaders and environmentalists.

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory say that such goals are possible to achieve but that city officials have big hurdles to overcome, such as making sure they can keep the lights on without burning natural gas, a fossil fuel, at four local power plants.

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Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents DWP workers, staff local gas plants and have fought to keep them open.

IBEW Local 18 declined last week to comment on Qui?ones’ nomination.

The union was widely seen as backing another candidate, DWP Chief Operating Officer Aram Benyamin, for the position.

The DWP board on Tuesday also approved $30,000 in relocation costs and a six-month housing allowance of $45,000 for Qui?ones.

Qui?ones is expected to be confirmed next month by the City Council.

The DWP’s general manager must answer to unions, the mayor, the City Council and the utility’s board. That creates tension, and several recent general managers have lasted only a few years.

Adams, the outgoing general manager, was promoted to the position five years ago — a relatively long tenure. Adams took over after then-manager David Wright stepped down amid a massive federal criminal investigation.

Wright later pleaded guilty to bribery and was sentenced to six years in prison.

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Onetime DWP board President Cynthia McClain-Hill stepped down in January following questions about a private phone call she had with a contractor and a lawsuit by four former and current DWP employees alleging that she retaliated against them. McClain-Hill denies wrongdoing.

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