Published on June 2nd, 2016 |0
Reed names Jackson, Miss., official Watershed Management commissioner
Powell has more than 17 years of experience in sustainable infrastructure management and utility operations in Jackson has been overseeing operation for eight city divisions since July 2014, including administration, engineering, infrastructure management, facilities management, fleet management, solid waste, water and wastewater operations and the water and sewer business administration.
“I am pleased to have Kishia L. Powell join the Administration as Commissioner of our Department of Watershed Management,” said Mayor Reed in a news release posted June 1 on the city’s website.
“She brings to us a wealth of senior leadership and operating experience in water and wastewater utilities and I am confident she will enhance the department’s focus on efficiency and improving customer service,” Reed added.
“I am honored to have been appointed as Commissioner and look forward to leading the agency as we establish a culture of effective utility management and improved service delivery,” said Powell.
Powell’s last day at work in Jackson reportedly will be Tuesday, June 7. She will begin her service to the city on June 13. The Atlanta City Council must confirm Powell before her appointment is final.
Powell’s responsibilities in Jackson for the past two years have included managing the strategic direction for Jackson’s Municipal Special Sales Tax-funded infrastructure improvements program, oversight of a $90 million performance contract and the city’s wastewater consent decree program, and developing a new customer care and billing system.
Most notably, Powell developed revenue recovery strategies for the water and sewer enterprise, created a plan to tackle water theft including eliminating more than 1,700 illegal water connections
and established a “Greening the Gateways” initiative to win a $16.5 million TIGER Grant in October 2015, according to the official Atlanta press release.
Prior to joining the City of Atlanta, Powell held a number of leadership positions in cities across the U.S. including Gary, Indiana; Richmond, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland. She also served as lead engineer on a major wastewater infrastructure program in London, England.
Previously, she served as Bureau Head for the City of Baltimore, Maryland. In that position, she was responsible for managing the city’s water and wastewater utility serving 1.8 million customers in the Baltimore metropolitan region. In addition, she managed the Bureau’s $2.2 billion, six-year capital improvement plan.
An interesting side note to Powell being named DWM commissioner, is that the interim commissioner that Reed put in charge of DWM when he fired Macrina May 20 is the city’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer William Johnson, who joined the Reed Administration in May from serving as the Director of the Department of Transportation for the city of Baltimore.
Another coincidental side note to Powell becoming head of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management from her Mississippi position is that Heather McTeer Toney, who President Obama recently named Regional Administrator for Environmental Protection Agency’s Southeast Region (Region 4 that services Atlanta) is from Mississippi.
Prior to coming to EPARegion 4, Toney served as the first African-American, and first female, to serve as Mayor of Greenville, Mississippi from 2004-2012. Most recently she served as executive director of the Center for Excellence in Student Learning and TRIO programs at Mississippi Valley State University.
“Director Powell has rendered amazing service to the City of Jackson since her arrival in 2014. We celebrate her as she transitions to the next phase of her career,” Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber said in a news release that was reported by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger news organization.
Yarber appointed Powell, Jackson’s first female Public Works director, in July 2014, and made her the highest-paid city employee with a $150,000 salary, according to the Clarion-Ledger. The Jackson Public Works Department has 300 employees.
“Powell inherited a department facing a $400 million federal consent decree, which mandates the city make upgrades to its wastewater treatment facilities to prevent the discharge of untreated wastewater into the Pearl River,” the Clarion-Ledger story reports.
The story continues “Powell joined a department engaged in a $90 million contract with Siemens to update the city’s water meters, leading to greater headaches within the water billing department. Powell said she would not have approved the contract had she been in her position at the time.”
In recent months, Powell has been instrumental in recommending Public Works contracts be awarded to companies like Partridge Sibley Industrial Services Inc. and GA Transport, Trilogy Engineering Services and AECOM, the Clarion-Ledger reported in announcing her resignation.
Socrates Garrett, a local businessman who has acquired contracts with Public Works but failed to get a $15 million contract in the last year, told the Clarion-Ledger that “allegations of Powell’s wrongdoing, like steering contracts, have no basis in fact but do jeopardize her reputation.”
Garrett told the news organization, “If she didn’t get out of here, it was going to destroy her professional career.”
Powell holds a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Morgan State University. There is no indication whether or not she is a certified Professional Engineer.