To Our Customers, Employees and Valued Stakeholders:
There is nothing more critical to our lives than water. Clean, drinkable water and the proper processing of wastewater are our first line of defense against disease. Water utilities provide fire protection and enable economic development. Without water, the relatively comfortable lifestyle we enjoy would not be possible.
As the new General Manager/CEO of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), I return to an agency I left ten years ago. In that period I worked in key positions for the two county executive offices we serve in Montgomery and Prince George’s County. I bring back a new perspective, but I never lost sight of the importance of WSSC and our customers. For me, it is a dream job. I am energized and I bring that energy back to WSSC.
As I pass the 100-day mark I want to update our 1.8 million customers on what I’ve been doing. I came to this position with a plan and have wasted no time moving ahead.
My first order of business was to get out and talk to my employees – the dedicated men and women of WSSC who on the front lines, running our plants, repairing broken mains and replacing old ones. In my first months here I have taken part in 25 employee “Lakeside Chats” and on-site visits, listening to their suggestions about how to proceed. Their input has been invaluable as I continue to carry out my strategic priorities.
And they aren’t the only ones I’ve been listening to. I have given close to a dozen speeches to groups ranging from chambers of commerce to builders associations to women’s groups. I have met individually with many of our elected officials, hearing the concerns of their constituents…our customers, and have attended several county and state legislative briefings and hearings, explaining my plans and goals. Let me say emphatically that I am empathetic to the concerns of counties and their experiences with WSSC.
This fact finding and listening tour has reinforced my view of the priorities we need to set for WSSC.
Infrastructure is key, not only now but for the future. We have moved from replacing 5 miles of water mains per year to more than 55 miles per year. And we have completed over 100 projects rehabbing our sewer system. Yes, this has increased rates for our customers. Maintaining services and planning for the future comes at a cost. But we have embarked on a rate study to determine if there is a rate structure that would better serve our customers.
Customer Service at many levels may be our biggest challenge, whether it’s paving or paying the bill. The ratepayers deserve accurate, prompt and courteous resolution to any of the variety of complaints we receive. We may be the only game in town…the only water provider…but we can’t act that way. Our customers deserve service that is extraordinary on all levels.
We will simplify, focus and connect. I have reorganized our leadership team, hiring three deputy general managers who left WSSC years ago to work in either the public or private sectors. They bring back to WSSC business and government practices that WSSC can take to the future. And I created a Director of WSSCStat…to establish metrics for WSSC, similar to how CountyStat is used in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties and CityStat is used in Baltimore.
Above all, I insist on excellence. Our customers deserve nothing less. Our partners deserve nothing less. Our employees deserve nothing less.
It’s only been 100 days. We’re just getting going.
Carla A. Reid