Shauna Lorance. Photo courtesy LinkedIn

The city of San Diego Thursday announced the hiring of a new director for the Public Utilities Department, which has been without a permanent director since last summer.

Shauna Lorance will assume the position from interim PUD Director Matt Vespi, who took over for former Director Vic Baines after he announced his retirement last August.

Lorance is the interim general manager at the Monterey County Water Resources Agency and will remain in that position through the end of June, according to the city.

Baines served as the department’s director for less than a year and oversaw the department as a series of problems with improper water billing, slow maintenance times and employees working fewer hours than they reported became public through a series of audits issued by former City Auditor Eduardo Luna.

The audits found that PUD employees worked fewer than four hours per day on average and took more than three times longer than the department’s stated goal of six months to replace water meter boxes. In a separate report, Luna’s office found that PUD sent out more than 2,750 incorrect bills in 2017 and forgot to bill another 2,500 residents for months last spring and summer.

While the department is in the process of implementing recommendations from the city auditor’s office to reform its billing and maintenance processes, Lorence acknowledged there is still much to do.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to lead the Public Utilities Department and intend to continue transforming the agency to better serve the public,” she said. “Our job is to earn back the trust of San Diego’s communities, and I am looking forward to getting started.”

The department provides water service and wastewater treatment and collection to residents throughout the city and has more than 1,600 employees. Lorence will take over as director of the department Aug. 1.

“Ms. Lorance brings the skills, discipline and experience at reforming agencies that Public Utilities needs,” said city COO Kris Michell. “We’re committed to getting this department right for the public, and she’s the person to make that happen.”

— City News Service