The Los Angeles City Council Friday unanimously confirmed Martin Adams as the new general manager and chief engineer of the Department of Water and Power.
Adams, who has worked for the department for more than 35 years, is assuming its highest position even as it is under an FBI investigation, but said he’s ready to take on the challenges it’s facing.
“Nothing is more near and dear to me than seeing the department grow and succeed and to follow the changing times and make new strides in how we provide water and power to the residents of the city,” Adams said. “I know we have a lot of challenges ahead… but we have a fantastic staff. We have a great workforce and great capabilities.”
The council voted unanimously for his appointment, 11-0. He will earn about $400,000 annually.
City Councilman Joe Buscaino said he was confident that Adams has the integrity to lead the department going forward.
“Every time we’ve had an issue with DWP, whether it was a small business owner waiting for a (utility) hook up or a housing development that was being challenged by a delay in bringing power… you were able to find a way to get to (us) and do so in a quick way,” Buscaino said. “You value customer service, and I know with full confidence that you will send that message down to your entire department that customer service comes first.”
Some city council members said being the DWP general manager is like going through a gauntlet, alluding to some prior managers who have not lasted long and were subjected to harsh criticism. Those members said they didn’t want to lose Adams and the institutional knowledge he possesses.
Adams said transitioning the city to more renewable energy is a top priority of his.
“It’s a very important issue, and one of the things that gives me confidence is I’ve seen a lot of change in the department over the years, and we are absolutely good at changing course,” Adams said. “We know where the future is leading us. We know we have to… rely less on fossil fuel over the years and get down to where we have no fossil fuel in our system. And we also need to focus on local water supplies.”
Adams was the DWP’s chief operating officer before becoming general manager, and the senior assistant general manager of its water system prior to that.
One day after the FBI served a search warrant at the downtown offices of the DWP and City Hall East over a botched billing system, the utility’s former general manager was replaced months ahead of his previously announced departure.
David Wright, who served as the agency’s general manager since 2016, announced in June that he would be stepping down Oct. 1. But instead, he left July 23, following the previous day’s FBI search, and the Board of Water and Power Commissioners voted unanimously to appoint Adams as the new general manager.
The sudden shift came at the behest of Mayor Eric Garcetti.
On Thursday, Garcetti said an Office of Inspector General will be created within the DWP’s senior leadership team, providing continuous review and oversight of contracting matters, whistleblower complaints, ethics and other internal policies. The office will have the power to initiate investigations and oversee the department’s Internal Audit Division, Special Investigations Unit and ethics compliance staff.
The DWP will be advised on the creation of the OIG by Dan Schnur, who formerly served as chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He will conduct a 90-day review of DWP’s internal processes.