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Greg Norby to leave water district

November 2, 2012

Greg Norby on Mammoth Rock trail last fall. Photo/Submitted

 

Cage: ‘He fit the mold perfectly’

When Greg Norby announced this week that he was resigning from his post as the Mammoth Community Water District to move closer to family, no one was clapping.

Without water, a town, a community is nothing. Norby has been at the helm of the small but critical government agency for almost four years.

Tom Cage, one of the district’s board of directors, wishes it were 20.

“He just fit the mold perfectly,” he said Wednesday. “It’s hard to find people that will adapt to a small town, that can deal with big winters, with no winters at all, and that can manage an agency with great competence, all at the same time.”

Norby announced he was leaving last week at a closed session board meeting, and went public with his decision this week.

Cage said there is nothing negative behind Norby’s leaving. Norby has performed all of his duties with excellence.

“He’s on great terms with the staff, he’s on good terms with other districts and agencies, he’s got a good working relationship with us,” Cage said. The lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power against the water district was not preventable, not by Norby, or anyone else at the district, Cage said.

“There was absolutely nothing we could have done to prevent that,” he said. He added that even in the case of the lawsuit, Norby has been able to work with LADWP during a series of mandated settlement talks, which Cage said are finally bearing fruit as of this month.

“I can’t reveal details, but I’ve been impressed with the ideas he has brought to the table and I’m more optimistic about this situation than I have been at any other time since they announced they would sue us,” he said.

Norby will stay with the district until the end of January. In the meantime, the district will begin a search for a new general manager.

Cage said the district has the luxury of waiting until the right person for the job is found, even if it takes months after Norby leaves.

“The district is in such good shape, we can afford to be picky,” he said. If Norby leaves before a new general manager is hired, any one of several senior managers at the district could fill the general manager position, Cage said, including John Pedersen, Karl Schnadt, Mark Busby or several others.

Mammoth Community Water District is considered a “special district” under California law. The agency operates with rules that look something like a hybrid of a private business and a governmental agency, providing a public good—water—but with paying customers, or ratepayers.

Special districts have to adhere to some of the restrictions all government agencies operate under, but they are also more nimble and can move more quickly to plan and implement projects than, say, the Town of Mammoth Lakes could.

This ability, and a long string of competent managers and employees, has made the water district one of the more innovative agencies in the Eastern Sierra when it comes to energy and water conservation projects.

For example, under Norby’s guidance, the district recently implemented a one megawatt-generating solar power facility on top of a beat-up, low-lying piece of ground that the district owns—a piece of land that can also be used in emergencies for waste water overflow.

The facility generates about 90 percent of the waste-water treatment plant’s power and is set to begin paying for itself in about six years, Norby said.

The district also took steps to move both of Mammoth’s golf courses to use  “recycled water”—water that is treated at the wastewater plant, then used to water lawns and other landscaping. Sierra Star is now irrigated with recycled water and Snow Creek Golf Course is poised to do the same. That means the district saves both water—and ratepayers pocketbooks, Norby said.

That’s just the beginning.

“We are looking at capturing some of the extra energy from our micro turbines and generating electricity with it,” he said. “We’re also looking at recovering some of the ‘waste heat’ from our wastewater plant, and using it to help heat our buildings, which we now use (expensive) propane for. That will save ratepayers money, too.”

All of these are projects Norby would love to be involved in, he said, and he said he regrets having to leave, but family and a long distance relationship are calling and it’s time to go.

“It’s nothing negative, it’s strictly personal,” he said. “I’ve had the great pleasure of working with a really great staff, a great board, and we work well together. I’m going to miss Mammoth deeply. It’s been an incredibly positive four years.”

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