After serving for eight months as the acting general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), Sandra L. Kerl has been appointed as the new general manager of the water agency following a national search by the SDCWA’s Board of Directors (BOD). The water agency’s BOD approved Kerl’s contract last week during its regular monthly meeting.
“Sandy brings an ideal mix of leadership, experience and vision to guide the Water Authority into a new decade as the agency seeks innovative solutions that benefit San Diego County and the Southwest,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “Her creativity and collaborative approach ushers in a new era of partnerships and progress that has marked her work over the past eight months.”
Kerl has served in the interim position following the March retirement by longtime SDCWA General Manager Maureen Stapleton. Kerl has been employed by deputy general manager at SDCWA since November 2009. In her years with SDCWA, Kerl has played a key role in securing financing for the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant, which started commercial operations in Carlsbad in 2015; the plant produces approximately 50 million gallons of water a day for the San Diego region.
Prior to joining SDCWA, Kerl served as city manager of La Mesa. She earned a Bachelor of Political Science from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and her Master of Business Administration from the University of Redlands.
As SDCWA’s acting general manager Kerl has worked closely with the board to lead a staff of approximately 250 employees at offices in Kearny Mesa, Escondido, the Imperial Valley and Sacramento. She has worked actively to encourage increase engagement with the authority’s employees and undertook the first agency-wide employee survey to help identify areas of potential improvement. She has also initiated increased engagement with the water authority’s 24 member agencies.
“I’m honored to lead an innovative, forward-thinking organization with a talented staff that continually develops creative, pioneering solutions for improving our operations and service to our 24 member agencies and their ratepayers,” said Kerl.
“We’ve made great progress diversifying our water supply portfolio to sustain our thriving regional economy, but we have critical work ahead to ensure reliability in the face of climate change and other factors,” she said. “Increasing partnerships, maintaining efficient operations and ensuring fiscal sustainability will help us meet future challenges while benefitting the region’s ratepayers.”
The water authority’s BOD worked with an executive search firm to facilitate the nationwide search. Thirty-two applications were received and six candidates were interviewed by a panel of civic, business, and community stakeholders.