Acting manager to become permanent at San Diego County Water Authority

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Sandy Kerl is expected to be selected as the next general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority when the board meets on Thursday.

The 36-member board announced Friday it is negotiating contract terms with Kerl to head the region’s wholesale water agency following a national search.

Kerl has served as acting general manager since March when Maureen Stapleton retired after 23 years at the helm of the water wholesaler.

“We are excited about what Sandy brings to the water authority – deep experience with water issues and her top-notch skills managing an agency that’s so critical to San Diego County,” said Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “Sandy has the knowledge, temperament and vision to begin a new, collaborative era of extraordinary achievements for our agency and our region.”

The public agency was created in 1944 and delivers wholesale water supplies to 24 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base.

Kerl has more than 25 years of progressively responsible experience in municipal management, including nine years as deputy general manager at the 250-employee strong water authority. Immediately prior to the water authority, Kerl served as city manager of La Mesa.

The board comprised of representatives of the water authority’s 24-member agencies selected Kerl out of field of 32 candidates. Executive search William Avery & Associates conducted the recruitment and selection process for the board.

“This was a thoughtful, exhaustive effort that attracted interest from across the country,” said Board Secretary Christy Guerin. “I’m confident that Sandy is the right person for the job and eager to begin working with her in her new role.”

Kerl led efforts to secure financing for the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant, which started commercial operations in Carlsbad in 2015 and produces up to 50 million gallons of water a day for the San Diego region, according to the board.

The water authority battled nearly 10 years to get environmental approvals and the right financing package to bring the $1 billion Carlsbad desalination plant online in December 2015.

The desalination plant was financed through a 30-year water purchase agreement between plant developer and owner Poseidon Water and the water authority for the production of up to 48,000 acre-feet of water per year.

Under the agreement, Poseidon secured funding for plant construction, most of which came from the December 2012 sale of $734 million of bonds through the California Pollution Control Financing Authority, of which $203 million were tax-exempt government bonds issued on behalf of the water authority for a pipeline and $530 million were tax-exempt private activity bonds of Poseidon.

The water authority’s board approved in October Aberdeen Standard Investment’s purchase of the desalination project, which was owned by Orion Water Partners LLC, a joint venture between Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners and Poseidon. Poseidon will continue to manage the project.

As acting general manager, Kerl has launched an era of increased engagement with the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies, according to the board.

Throughout Kerl’s career, she has been active in the International County Management Association, and has served as chair of the San Diego City/County Managers Association and San Diego Regional Training Center. Kerl received her bachelor of political science from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and her master of business administration from the University of Redlands.

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