After a challenging 2014, Seattle City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco announced he is retiring effective May 8.
Seattle City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco is stepping down after more than a decade at the utility, Mayor Ed Murray announced Friday.
“ ‘Retiring’ is how he expressed it to the mayor,” said Murray spokesman Viet Shelton. “My understanding is that he thought it was the right time for him personally and professionally to retire.”
Carrasco’s decision comes several months after a series of well-publicized missteps led Murray to cancel a big pay raise for the utility chief.
Scott Thomsen, a City Light spokesman, said Carrasco will remain in the area and active in the community “and perhaps active in the industry as well.”
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In a brief statement issued from the mayor’s office, Carrasco said he “wanted to thank our dedicated employees who work tirelessly each and every day to provide exceptional service to our customers.
“My family and I feel blessed to be part of such a dynamic, progressive and compassionate city, and we look forward to continuing to serve the greater community,” he said.
Murray thanked Carrasco for his service.
“Jorge brought renewed financial sustainability to City Light,” the mayor said. “Under his leadership, the utility stabilized electricity rates, cut workplace accidents in half and became the first carbon-neutral utility in the nation.”
But Carrasco, who earned $245,000 a year, had a particularly challenging 2014.
In June, The Seattle Times revealed Carrasco had authorized $47,500 in contracts with an image-management firm, Brand.com, to improve search results for those Googling his name and the utility online.
The Seattle City Council had authorized a pay increase of up to $119,000 for Carrasco, and Murray previously had said he was considering raising Carrasco’s pay by $60,000.
But Murray said he was upset about the deal with Brand.com, where the utility spend $17,500 before canceling the contract.
Carrasco also was criticized for getting duped by a pair of con men who said they were trying to help Native-American children learn how to make jewelry and needed copper. Carrasco gave them access to a maintenance yard and they made off with 20 tons of copper wire, worth $120,000, according to reports.
The metal later was recovered and two suspects arrested.
The seemingly final straw was when Carrasco told a KIRO radio host that he had not asked the mayor for the raise. Murray called Carrasco’s comments “a misrepresentation” and publicly canceled the planned pay increase.
Murray, at the time, said the issues raised questions of “judgment and trust” with his utility chief. The mayor said he wasn’t looking to replace Carrasco, but told reporters that the City Light chief “may choose to stay or leave.”
When Carrasco came to the utility in 2004, City Light was in deep financial trouble, the result of the West Coast energy crisis of 2000-2001. The utility had raised rates 58 percent, still showed a loss of $8.1 million and was deeply in debt, according to a Seattle City Light “progress report” issued Friday, coinciding with Carrasco’s retirement announcement.
By December 2013, according to the report, the utility had repaid $732 million in long-term debt and was posting record income. Last year, Seattle City Light ranked as the 10th-largest of the nation’s 2,200 publicly owned utilities, according to the report, and has the lowest rates among the 25 largest U.S. cities. It is also among the greenest public utilities in the U.S.
City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, a member of the council’s Energy Committee that oversees City Light finances, praised Carrasco’s tenure as director.
“I want to thank Jorge Carrasco for his years of service to our city, and the role he has played in navigating one of our largest assets and leaving City Light in a good place going forward,” O’Brien said. “In my time on the council I’ve observed his steady hand on a complicated portfolio. Finding a successor will be challenging, but doable. We wish him well in his next endeavor.”