LA Mayor Villaraigosa picks deputy to head DWP

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Michael Buckner/Getty Images for WET

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, First Deputy Mayor and Chief Executive Officer for Economic and Business Policy Austin Beutner and WET CEO Mark Fuller, unveil WET's Idea Playground, a new complex dedicated to discovery and innovation featuring Los Angeles' first 'permeable' grass parking lot, on January 14, 2010 in Sun Valley, California.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will announce today that he is nominating First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner to be interim general manager of the Department of Water and Power.

The nomination will be reviewed by the Board of Water and Power Commissioners at Tuesday's commission meeting, according to the Mayor's Office.

"Villaraigosa will immediately charge Beutner with developing and executing reform initiatives to change the culture at DWP, clear out the bureaucracy and lead a new era of accountable management and transparency," according to a statement from the Mayor's Office.

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce issued a news release Sunday endorsing the selection.

"Austin brings to the table a unique combination of private and public sector experience, and has specifically worked in businesses that provided services to municipalities," said Mandy Denaux, the chamber's marketing and communications director.

Beutner, a former Wall Street trader and venture capitalist, has been working as Villaraigosa's deputy mayor in charge of economic development, and was the mayor's top deputy overseeing the DWP in recent months.

Beutner founded a private investment firm, Evercore Partners, and prior to that was a partner at the Blackstone Group, a large hedge fund and real estate investment firm headquartered in New York.

"The first job is finding a permanent general manager," Beutner told the Daily News. "You cannot expect to have an agency develop any stability when there is so much turnover at the top."

He will replace S. David Freeman, who was appointed the interim DWP general manager last October, following the resignation of H. David Nahai, who joined the Clinton Climate Initiative. Freeman had also served as DWP general manager in the past decade.

Beutner told Daily News columnist Rick Orlov he will keep his office at City Hall, near Villaraigosa's.

The City Council, mayor and independent city board that runs DWP have been squabbling over a rate hike – the utility sought to raise rates by an average of 6.5 percent, but that was vetoed by council members who felt it was too large an increase for residents during a deep recession.

Last week, the board voted unanimously to seek a lower increase of 4.8 percent starting July 1.

Until the council agrees to a rate hike, the city-owned utility has been withholding $73.5 million in funds that city officials want to use to reduce the city's budget deficit.

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