Tag Archives: public power

When Competitive Pay is Not Enough


images(Post written by Rick Dacri, March 28, 2016)

There are times when paying competitive wages is not enough. The General Manager of a public power utility called me recently. He was having difficulty in both recruiting and retaining electrical engineers and experienced line workers. The feedback he was receiving was that his pay program was out of line with other electrical utilities. I was ultimately engaged to conduct a market analysis of their wages. The results were startling to him and his board—their wages were competitive with other public utilities within their market. How could this be? They found this incredulous.

A new reality has entered the marketplace. In some situations, paying the market rate is insufficient. The unemployment rate is plummeting. It is Continue reading


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Something’s Happening in Local Government


5 Workforce Challenges in 2016

By Rick Dacri, Dacri & Associates, LLC

(originally published in ICMA’s Knowledge Network, 1/13/16)

“There’s something happening here; what it is ain’t exactly clear” are the opening lyrics to the Buffalo Springfield 60’s anti-war song. While protest is not our focus, something indeed is happening with today’s workforce and economy and town and city managers are being challenged to both make sense of it and address it. Local government is changing, our workforce is different, and citizens and elected officials have high expectations for results.

While there are many challenges facing town managers, workforce issues rise to the top. The Center for State & Local Government Excellence survey “State and Local Government Workforce: 2014 Trends” found that the majority of public sector managers cited their “top concerns are recruiting and retaining qualified personnel, staff development, succession planning, employee morale, competitive compensation packages, public perception of government workers, reducing employee health care costs and dealing with employee workload challenges.” Like a freight train screaming down the tracks, today’s manager must tackle these issues.

Let’s look at five of them:

  1. Aging workforce: the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) reported in their 2012 State of the Profession survey that 63% of municipal employees were 51 or older with nearly 24% 61 or older. A Black & Veatch’s strategic direction survey reported an aging workforce is among the top ten issues affecting the water industry. A 2013 Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) survey report that 62% of electric utility workers have the potential to retire or leave the workplace by 2020. Whether it is police, fire, librarians, or wastewater operators, aging baby boomers are beginning to exit the workplace in what some are calling the “silver tsunami” and the public sector, as a whole is ill prepared for the exodus. And to make matters worse, fewer young people are entering the profession. Volunteers are not joining the fire departments; electric engineers are choosing high tech over public power; and environmental professionals prefer consulting to wastewater treatment.
  2. Creating a performance based culture: The municipal, union mentality culture must end. Communities can no longer afford bloated workforces, crippling work rules, huge unfunded pensions, and pay plans based on length of service rather than performance. Today’s workplace culture must reward performance and productivity and encourage employee engagement resulting in worker retention and attracting the best external talent available. Union work rules that hamper operations must be replaced with those that support flexibility, and pay must be based on merit and include performance incentives. In addition, town managers should emphasize priorities and goal setting, measuring and monitoring performance and not just effort and activity. Employees must be flexible, customer centric, and engaged.
  3. Managing a multidimensional and changing workforce: Today’s workforce is changing and different. As boomers age out, we are seeing a different look than we have come to expect. Whether at town hall, public works, the water or fire department, we now find more women, individuals of color and youth. As the workforce becomes more diverse, managers must have the skills to lead this “different” workplace. Engaging a younger generation, with workers who have a different perspective and have distinct expectations of their boss and work, unlike other generations, will require significant adjustments, patience, tolerance and the skills to manage.
  4. Recruitment, retention and rewards: There is a new “3 R’s.” Finding individuals who want to work in public safety, public power, wastewater and any other aspect of local government have never been harder. Managers will have to find ways to make government careers more attractive to a younger generation, while competing with the private sector that may have deeper pockets and have shiner toys to dangle. Work/life balance, flexibility, career development and telecommuting will be needed to attract this new generation of worker. And to retain them, communities will have to reward workers with cash (merit pay, incentives, benefits) and non-cash (opportunities, training, titles). The lure of a job in government has faded. Competitive pay has become a minimum threshold to attract and retain talent. Money talks.
  5. A strategic approach to managing: Managers and elected officials must now make decisions about the direction of their business utilizing a strategic framework. No longer can they simply move from crisis to crisis, election to election. A big picture, business approach to government will be needed, discarding “how we’ve always done it this way” approach to a reinvention of government that addresses today and tomorrow’s realities. There will be a greater reliance on technology, creativity, innovation, best practices and benchmarking, and these require a new kind of leader to manage a new kind of workforce that can thrive in this new world. In the past, public utilities were lead by engineers, electrical engineers in power, environment engineers in water and wastewater. No longer. Today the need is likely for an MBA or MPA. Towns and their utilities are multimillion-dollar businesses and require a strong businessperson to run them. It is not a place for on-the-job training.


The 21st century leader and their elected officials must think differently. Successful leaders must have the skill to look around corners, while making bold decisions in addressing the changing market. Their mandate will be to:

  1. Develop a strong workforce that is energized, embraces change, is resident centric and strives for excellence.
  2. Create a workplace culture that sheds the municipal stereotypes of entitlement, bureaucracy and coldness with one that is productive, effective and efficient to one that is customer focused, friendly and helpful. Town hall must always be welcoming.
  3. Think long range and not just about today’s firefight. Managers and elected officials must understand the big picture and not just how it will affect this year’s budget. Maximum impact must be part of the new lexicon and that means taking a strategic approach to governing.
  4. Become a learning environment. Continuous education for all staff, elected officials and citizens are essential. Exposure to new and different ideas stimulates new thinking, creativity and innovation, challenging and questioning the previously accepted norms.
  5. Be passionate about government. Leading a municipality is a worthy profession. Show energy. Get excited. It’s contagious and it is essential in recruiting and retaining star performers; motivating staff; and engaging residents and ratepayers. But most importantly, it is crucial in moving people forward, persuading them and getting them to follow.


The challenges of the 21st century will be great. Managers and elected officials will have to discard old notions and embrace new thinking. Continuous change and experimentation will be the norm. Town halls must be incubators of management best practices.

There indeed is something happening here and that’s a good thing.

Rick Dacri is a management adviser, president of Dacri & Associates, and author of the book Uncomplicating Management: Focus on Your Stars and Your Company Will Soar (rick@dacri.com; http://www.dacri.com)

Other posts that you might like:

  1. Municipalities: Top 10 Tips to Ensure the Board and Manager Maintain a Strong & Effective Relationship
  2. Succession Plan in Municipalities Assure a Steady Flow of Talent
  3. Retaining Workers Over 50

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Recruitment: David White Named Executive Director

16cda61I am pleased to announce that David White has been named the Executive Director of the Northeast Public Power Association (NEPPA). Dacri & Associates conducted the executive search on NEPPA’s behalf.

David joins NEPPA after serving 8 years as Director of Governmental Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy for the Massachusetts Dental Society. He had previously worked for Sage Systems as the Director of Client Services.

David is graduate of Suffolk University Law School, has an MBA from the Suffolk University Sawyer School of Management and has a BS from Northeastern University. He is a registered lobbyist and a Certified Association Executive.

If you need assistance with your executive recruitment needs, contact Dacri & Associates.

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Executive Director Position Open, Northeast Public Power Association

help-wantedThe Northeast Public Power Association (NEPPA), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is seeking candidates for the position of Executive Director. Reporting to the Board of Directors, we are looking for a dynamic, forward thinking leader with demonstrated record of successful business, utility or association management. NEPPA, located in Littleton, MA, is a private, non-profit association representing over 70 consumer owned utilities in New England. NEPPA provides a variety of services to its members including education and training, legislative advocacy, publications, and member representation and communication to its members on the activities of ISO-New England.
NEPPA prefers candidates with 10 years senior management experience in business, utilities, or association management, ideally in public power. The successful candidate will have demonstrated financial, management, project management and legislative experience; and the ability to work effectively and with transparency with its board of directors, members, employees and elected officials. The right candidate should possess a Bachelors degree.

This is a unique and exciting opportunity for the career minded manager, who thinks strategically, works collaboratively, listens attentively, and who can make tough decisions. NEPPA is facing some unique challenges over the next five years: a need to upgrade its training to meet the ever changing requirements of our industry and to provide the highest safety standards for our members; continuous outreach to our members ensure their satisfaction; and advocacy and education on issues, legislation and regulations affecting our members and industry. NEPPA desires an Executive Director who can hit the ground running, lead a vibrant team of employees, in concert with the Board and to provide fresh leadership to this highly recognized association.
NEPPA’s offices and new training facility is located in Littleton, MA. Littleton is a bedroom community west of Boston. It has an excellent school system and is close to nationally recognized medical facilities and has easy access to major sports teams, theatre and the arts, and outdoor activities including beaches and skiing.
NEPPA offers an attractive salary and comprehensive benefit package along with the opportunity to grow your career. To learn more about this position, call Rick Dacri, Dacri & Associates Executive Search, at 207-229-5954 or rick@dacri.com.

To apply, email your resume, cover letter and salary history, in confidence, by August 3, 2015:

Rick Dacri
Dacri & Associates, LLC
Executive Search

NEPPA is an Equal Opportunity Employer

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Evaluating Your General Manager in a Public Utility

(This post was written by Rick Dacri, May 28, 2014)

The General Manager’s performance is critical to the success of any public power entity. The selection, development and retention of the right GM—the individual who can lead the organization toward achieving its strategic goals, becomes the primary responsibility of the Light Board. At the same time, the GM’s ability to work collaboratively with the Board is of paramount importance and will determine the success of the GM, the Board and the organization. It is for these reasons that an open dialogue, honest feedback, clear expectations and defined accountability standards must be in place.

Most GMs and Boards understand the value of performance management. Boards want to provide their GMs candid feedback on their performance, allowing the opportunity to address problem areas. They understand that the review process provides an ideal time to clarify roles, expectations, set goals, open communication and enhance the relationship between the Board and GM. The evaluation process ensures that both Board and the GM are in sync on the direction and goals of their organization.

Many organizations differ in their approach to evaluation. When the evaluation process is formalized, it often includes a GM self-evaluation, Board completion of an evaluation form, a review of goals, and an evaluation interview with the chair. Some organizations include a 360-degree review with input from department heads. Compensation decisions are sometimes part of the process, but are frequently handled separately as part of the GM’s contract.

Regardless of the approach, the review process works best when you have clear, agreed-upon purpose. All reviews should include:

  1. More conversation with less emphasis on the form
  2. Clear understanding of the GM’s role
  3. Well defined expectations and goals

Getting good performance from the GM takes more than the completion of an evaluation form. It requires clear job expectations and accountabilities and ongoing communication. While Boards may sometimes find it uncomfortable to discuss performance issues, it is critical to the process. But as with all open dialogue, it can only work when mutual trust and respect exists. When the relationship is positive, one can more easily work through conflicts, disagreements and challenges. Success begins when the GM establishes positive rapport with the Board. Disagreements and healthy debate will happen and frankly should be encouraged and embraced. The basis of most good ideas comes through these types of exchanges. However, it should never come at the expense of the relationship.

The evaluation form itself can often create stumbling blocks and it should never become focus of the appraisal. Asking Board members to complete a long form may not be a good idea and many members may not do it. A process I recommend is the use of an independent third party to interview each Board member and discuss the GM’s strengths, areas in need of development and goals for the up coming period. Each of the comments then can be summarized in a report and presented to the Board, which can then be incorporated into their evaluation, giving the GM candid, but anonymous feedback on performance.

Today, public power face tremendous challenges and Boards expect their GMs to be adept and savvy enough to meet them. Beyond the expected power and business acumen, GMs must have relational smarts. GMs have a lot of bosses. Like a doctor, GMs must be able to take the pulse of the Board, staff and customers and then prescribe the right course of action.

Successful GMs forge strong relations with their Board members, citizen groups and staff. But most of all, they must be clear about the Board’s expectations and mandates, carry them out, and ensure their success. Everyone must be on the same page with regard to the organization’s mission, vision, values, direction and strategy.

Evaluating the GM is integral to the success of the organization. It will provide the GM the essential knowledge they will need to drive the success of the business.

Like a well-rehearsed orchestra, when each comes together working in harmony, beautiful music emerges. Evaluating your GM is a key instrument in making this happen.

Rick Dacri works closely with Public Utility Boards, Commissioners and Trustees on board relations, governance, strategic planning, succession planning and recruitment and evaluation of their GM.

Other posts you might like to read:

  1. Succession Plan in Municipalities Assure Steady Flow
  2. CEO & Board of Directors: Forging An Effective Relationship
  3. Protection Against Fraud: Advice of Guarding the Public Purse

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Help Wanted Ad: General Manager, Public Power

help-wantedDacri & Associates, LLC has been exclusively retained by Littleton Electric Light & Water Departments (LELWD) to conduct a confidential search for a new General Manager/CEO. If you know of any qualified individuals who may be interested in the position, please refer them to me and feel free to forward this post.


Littleton (MA) Electric Light & Water Departments

Dacri & Associates, LLC has been exclusively retained by Littleton Electric Light & Water Departments (LELWD) to conduct a confidential search for a new General Manager/CEO. 

This search will replace the current General Manager who is retiring.

This is a unique opportunity for an experienced business oriented General Manager.  The right individual will be responsible for all aspects of leading this 38 employee department, serving over 6,500 residential and commercial customers in two communities, with electrical revenues in excess of $30 million and water revenues in excess of $1 million. To qualify, you must have strong financial, operational and management skills; understanding of public utilities; and the ability to work effectively and with transparency with town government, citizen groups, customers and employees.

This is a great moment for the career-minded manager who has a passion for leading. You will be responsible for developing and presenting an annual and capital budget, recommending utility rates, providing reliable delivery of electric power and water, ensuring a diversified energy portfolio including renewable energy sources, and developing short and long-term strategic plans. Operational oversight over all aspects of the business includes union negotiations, monitoring the power supply market and executing power supply purchases. Municipal experience is a critical. A Bachelors degree is required and a Masters degree is preferred.

Utilities today face many challenges. The perfect candidate will be experienced in working with regulatory agencies; addressing environmental issues; and formulating creative solutions, while maintaining a high level of service and low rates.

The next General Manager will enjoy the opportunity to work in an attractive community, with a supportive Board of Commissioners and town government as well as an experienced and engaged workforce. LELWD is a recognized leader in both the water and electric industries and remains focused on maintaining this position.

Littleton offers a very attractive salary and a comprehensive benefit package along with an opportunity to grow your career in a vibrant community. To learn more about this position, call Rick Dacri, Dacri & Associates Executive Search, at 207-967-0837 or send a resume and salary history, in confidence, to rick@dacri.com.

LELWD is an Equal Opportunity Employer 

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Help Wanted Ad: Manager of Public Power

help-wantedDacri & Associates is actively recruiting for an Electric Light Manager for Ipswich Massachusetts. If you know of any qualified individuals who may be interested in the position, please refer them to me.

Electric Light Manager

Ipswich Light Department


Ipswich (MA) Light Department has unique opportunity for a strong, experienced, business oriented Electric Light Manager.  The right individual will be responsible for all aspects of leading this 16 employee department serving 7,000 customers, with electrical revenues in excess of $13 million. To qualify, you must have strong operations, financial, and management skills; industry knowledge; the ability to work effectively and with transparency, with town government, citizen groups, customers and employees and ideally, an electrical engineering degree.

This is a unique opportunity for the career minded manager. You will have full responsibility for operations and management of the light department.  Significant experience in electric utility operations, private or municipal owned, is a must.  The ability to communicate to a number of diverse constituencies is essential.

The ideal candidates must have significant experience in leading an electrical utility with a minimum of 5 years experience at a senior management level. Industry experience should include technical knowledge of all aspects of an electrical utility. Municipal experience is a plus.

The new Electric Light Manager will enjoy the opportunity to work in an attractive, coastal community, close to downtown Boston, with a supportive town government and an experienced workforce.

Ipswich offers an attractive salary and a comprehensive benefit package along with an opportunity to grow your career in a vibrant community. To learn more about this position, call Rick Dacri, Dacri & Associates Executive Search, at 207-967-0837 or send a resume and salary history, in confidence, to rick@dacri.com.

Ipswich Light Department is an Equal Opportunity Employer 


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