Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Water Utilities Chief Named: Dickson Official

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela never veered from his interim appointment of Ricky Dickson as Water Utilities Chief, officially making that position permanent in a press release.

Ricky Dickson and Shane Kelton have been appointed the directors of the City of San Angelo’s Water Utilities and Operations departments, respectively. Both had served as interim directors of their departments since November.

In announcing his decision, City Manager Daniel Valenzuela praised Dickson and Kelton’s performance, saying he is “quite pleased with their efforts and quick response to pressing issues. Further, they have brought stability and interdepartmental unity between Water Utilities, Operations and the other departments.

“It has always been a top priority for me to place the right people in the right positions,” the city manager added. “I feel very strongly that both Ricky and Shane will excel in the director positions and will continue being assets to the City.”

Water Utilities consists of eight divisions: Customer Service/Water Conservation, Twin Buttes, Utility Maintenance, Water Distribution/Waste Water Collection, Water Utilities Engineering, Water Reclamation, Water Production and Water Quality.

Dickson worked for former Water Chief Will Wilde for seventeen of his twenty two years with the City.  Was Dickson impacted by Wilde's repeated questionable ethics and dismissive management style? 

Prior to Daniel's appointment as City Manager the Public Works Director had to be a licensed engineer.  The minimum standard in the job description stated:

Must have a degree in Engineering and be able to become a registered engineer in the State of Texas 
Either this no longer exists or the minimum standard was waived.  Another standard stated:

Knowledge of methods and techniques of street, water and wastewater systems design, construction and operations.

Consider Dickson's statement in the press release on his permanent hiring.

“My aim has been and will be to ensure the Water Utilities Department is proactive,” Dickson said, “whether that be addressing customer service issues, promoting conservation, completing capital projects or working with City leadership to strengthen our water supply. Our department is keenly aware that water is San Angelo’s greatest priority.”
Consider his history, where a "proactive position" would be an about face for someone associated with San Angelo's water transmission lines and public streets for twenty two years of service.  The City has been decidedly reactive for much of the last two decades, doing repairs only after major water main or street surface failures.

Anyone listening to Carollo Engineering's Hutch Mussallam at the March 19 City Council meeting heard how the City's water treatment plant does not meet current standards, another ding in this supposed "proactive stance."

The City became more proactive in water line replacement several years ago, but progress on the promised schedule lags badly.  Ricky left street maintenance before the City considered a comprehensive street maintenance and replacement plan, a proposal made by City Engineer Clinton Bailey at the recent City Council Strategic Planning session.

Replacing Will Wilde with a former understudy is an underwhelming development for a City in the midst of the Hickory pipeline project, water treatment plant replacement and upgrade for radium removal.  Did City Manager Valenzuela settle for a "quick response and interdepartmental unity" when something much greater was required?

Update 3-22-13:  The Standard Times ran a story on the permanent appointments.  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela's comments on their interim appointment are interesting to read in hindsight.

Update 7-6-13:  City Council member Charlotte Farmer expressed her displeasure at Dickson's not preparing the information she requested in the June 18 council meeting.  A proactive leader would've been prepared.

Update 7-7-13:  City Council wanted South Pool pumping brought back to Council after 60 days of operation.  Dickson missed the deadline twice.   How is that proactive?

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