Panel chooses Ramon as LR utility's CEO

Management experience cited by sewer committee

Posted: August 6, 2014 at 4:47 a.m.

The Sanitary Sewer Committee chose Gregorio Ramon of Arizona to become Little Rock Wastewater's next chief executive officer during a specially called meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The committee, which oversees certain operations and finances of the wastewater utility, announced its unanimous selection after a two and a half hour executive session in which committee members deliberated behind closed doors. Ramon, who has 26 years of experience in the water and wastewater industry, vied for the position against a second finalist, Charles Logue of Greenville, S.C., who had 34 years of experience.

Ultimately, it was Ramon's executive-level management experience that resulted in his selection, sewer committee Vice Chairman Richard Mays Jr. said.

"We looked at where this agency wants to go as far as the future is considered about transparency and communication. We want to develop a partnership with the city -- we are a partnership -- and that's where we want to take this agency. When you think of a CEO, you think of a large communicator. They both probably had the expertise, but I think Mr. Ramon probably shined much brighter in that area. Not to slight Mr. Logue, because both candidates were very strong."

If Ramon accepts the job offer, he will start Oct. 6 with a $180,000 salary, and a performance review will take place in six months. His resume states that he makes more than $200,000 now as assistant general manager of the Central Arizona Project in Phoenix, which provides water to about 80 percent of the state's population.

The sewer committee announced that Ramon will receive a $1,500 per month housing allowance for up to three months, $5,000 in reimbursed moving costs and a yearly auto allowance of $6,000. The position comes with 30 days of paid time off per year, a 5 percent contribution toward a retirement fund and other benefits.

The hiring decision came after two days of town hall-style meetings with the two finalists. Both Ramon and Logue initially interviewed for the job in June. Ramon had his second interview with the sewer committee Monday before he gave a short presentation before three members of the Little Rock Board of Directors, the sewer committee and other individuals at a meet-and-greet hosted downtown.

Logue had his second interview and meet-and-greet Tuesday. During his speech, he focused on his nationwide experience, noting his work in Florida, Oregon and South Carolina, as well as his 12 years serving as a board member of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

Logue's qualifications didn't go unnoticed, and the committee had a tough decision between Logue and Ramon, Mays said before announcing the selection.

"As you can see, it was a tough decision. We stayed in here a little while, but we think we chose the right person to run this agency in the direction we think it needs to go," Mays said.

In Phoenix, Ramon manages six departments totaling 246 employees. He touted leadership as his greatest strength during his speech Monday. He's held a variety of management roles throughout a career that began in 1988 as the chief of water distribution and sewer divisions for Evanston, Ill.

He then spent 10 years working in water distribution and wastewater collection for Phoenix before becoming the assistant general manager at the Central Arizona Project in 2010.

Ramon noted the need to run the utility with transparency and ethics in the forefront, as well as the responsibility of being conscious of the ratepayers in all decisions. He said the toughest part of becoming the head of the agency will be guiding it through the consent decree order that mandates millions of dollars of capital improvements to correct sewer overflow issues by 2018.

"The whole reason for the consent order is to correct something. So then, what is that something, what is it we need to do to correct this and what are the time frames? That's how we will have to go about it. I think my strongest point is that of a leader and a manager and I think this is a solid organization, and I think what they are looking for is someone to help them guide their way through it," Ramon said Monday.

Metro on 08/06/2014