The Seattle City Council’s energy committee voted 3-2 Tuesday to recommend that Larry Weis become City Light’s new CEO and general manager.
The Seattle City Council’s energy committee voted 3-2 Tuesday to recommend that Mayor Ed Murray’s nominee for City Light CEO and general manager be confirmed.
Councilmembers Debora Juarez, M. Lorena González and Rob Johnson supported Larry Weis while council members Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien opposed him.
Sawant chairs the committee, and Juarez and González are members. O’Brien and Johnson voted despite not being members, which is allowed. The full council will consider the confirmation on March 21 and Weis likely will have the votes he needs.
The Washington state native, who quit his job running Austin, Texas’ public electric utility to accept Murray’s nomination, has encountered opposition from some environmental activists over his record on renewable energy. He at one point sought to open a new natural-gas plant in Austin to balance the addition of more solar power.
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Weis has said he helped boost clean-energy generation in Texas’ capital city.
The nominee also has been questioned in Seattle over his recent, blunt remarks about the Austin City Council in a Texas newspaper. He said Austin Energy should be run by an independent board, not the council, and called some council members naive.
Sawant has criticized Weis’ proposed salary, saying $340,000 per year is too much for any city employee, even one responsible for a multibillion-dollar organization.
Before voting Tuesday, Sawant said Weis isn’t enthusiastic enough about launching a municipal broadband network in Seattle, something she’s pushed for unsuccessfully.
“I’m looking for someone who will lead on these issues, not for somebody to merely be a competent manager,” she said, mentioning clean energy and public broadband.
O’Brien spoke about Weis’ attitude toward the environment before opposing him.
“I do think there’s a distinction between being able to meet with constituents, hear their concerns and negotiate a middle ground that achieves appropriate environmental standards versus someone who gets up every morning and thinks, ‘What am I going to do to fight climate change today?’ ” O’Brien said, putting Weis in the former category.
González said she was voting in favor of Weis despite reservations about his record working with low-income people and non-English speakers in Austin. She cited his support from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 77 in Seattle.
Seattle’s green groups are split on Weis, Johnson noted, praising Weis’ vow last month to create a new leadership position at City Light devoted to the environment.
Representatives from the Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle spoke for Weis before Tuesday’s vote. The chair of the Sierra Club’s Seattle group spoke against him.
Weis has been leading City Light on a temporary contract so far.
The CEO and general manager position is open because Jorge Carrasco stepped down last year.