Phil Wilson, the Texas Department of Transportation's executive director, will become the new general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority, LCRA's board decided Wednesday. Wilson will replace Becky Motal, who is stepping down at the end of the year.
The decision came less than a month after the agency had named an interim general manager — Ross Phillips, who is Motal's deputy — to take over after her departure, while continuing to search for a permanent replacement. The Tribune reported Tuesday that Wilson was being seriously considered for the position; now that he's named, Phillips will never assume the post. A TxDOT spokesman said no transition plan is yet in place for his impending departure.
Wilson has led TxDOT for about two years, helping direct the agency toward outsourcing and other cost-cutting measures. He has been widely praised by lawmakers and TxDOT officials for helping make the agency more efficient, though some projects under his leadership, such as a plan to convert some badly damaged paved roads to gravel, have drawn criticism.
He previously served as Texas secretary of state and played various roles in Gov. Rick Perry's administration, including director of communications and deputy chief of staff. He is also a former senior vice president of public affairs for Luminant, the largest electric generator in Texas.
Wilson will take the helm at the LCRA, a nonprofit state agency that is a hybrid wholesale water supplier and electric retailer, at one of the most tumultuous times in its history. The agency voted last month on a controversial drought management plan that is almost sure to cut off water for Gulf Coast-area rice farmers in 2014, for the third straight year in a row. But it has also received harsh criticism for failing to do so even sooner from Austin-area lakeside interests, who contend the agency is partly responsible for the dwindling of Austin's reservoirs. At the same time, the LCRA is set to lose a large portion of its power customers in 2016, which will have a major impact on its revenues.
Aman Batheja also contributed to this story.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/12/18/phil-wilson-named-new-lcra-general-manager/.