PWSA Hires New Interim Executive Director
1 September 2016
By Don Hopey
According to his U.S. Army bio, retiring Col. Bernard R. Lindstrom
is “parachute qualified.”
That’s good, because, as the soon-to-be new interim director of
the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, he’ll be jumping into an
organizational landscape with more than its share of
administrative and performance issues, and where his landing
Mr. Lindstrom, 48, was named the new interim executive director of
the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority effective Sept. 12, at a
special meeting of the authority board Thursday morning.
He will join the PWSA after a much decorated military career and
serving as commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Pittsburgh District office from January 2013 until his retirement
from that post in July.
He has indicated he is a candidate for the permanent executive
director’s position, but because the authority is saddled with a
number of recent controversies and setbacks, it’s unclear what
that job and the authority itself will look like in the future.
Mr. Lindstrom will take the reins from interim director David L.
Donahoe, who was filling in for six months after the previous
executive director, Jim Good, resigned in March following
persistent billing complaints from customers.
In July, the state Department of Environmental Protection scolded
the authority for making an unauthorized change in the pipe
corrosion inhibitor chemical it used, and ordered the authority to
start replacing its lead water service lines following elevated
lead test results. Another misstep occurred at the end of July
when the authority board hired Kenneth Charles Griffin as its new
executive director, but he withdrew after questions were raised
about his forced departure from a previous job.
Against that backdrop, the city and its sewer and water authority
must make expensive, federally mandated fixes to the wet weather
sewage overflows that inundate the region’s rivers and streams.
At the same time the board was approving Mr. Lindstrom’s six-month
contract, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced the formation of
a task force to study the operations, financial condition and
organization of the authority, and recommend ways to improve its
storm water management, drinking water lead levels, efficiency and
other management issues.
A news release from the mayor’s office said the task force will be
chaired by the mayor’s chief of staff, Kevin Acklin. Its members
will include PWSA board chairman Alex Thomson, city Finance
Director Paul Leger, and a number of independent finance, law and
engineering experts, and be “aided by” Mr. Lindstrom.
In conjunction with the task force’s work, city Controller Michael
Lamb was asked to do a performance and financial audit of PWSA
“We are at an important turning point for the Pittsburgh region
and for its water, which is both a great resource and a tremendous
challenge. We need to make sure the city’s water and sewer
authority is organized and structured in the best way possible to
address these issues, which will impact water quality and public
safety for decades,” Mr. Peduto said.
At a briefing Thursday afternoon, Mr. Peduto said the authority
may be structurally incapable of dealing with the multitude of
issues it faces.
One option the task force will consider, Mr. Peduto said, is a
public-private partnership in which management of the authority
operations would be shifted to a private company that may be more
efficient and more economical, and could allow the city to sell
water to other municipalities.
“So instead of bringing someone in and promising them that they’ll
have a job for the next three years,” Mr. Peduto said, “we wanted
to bring someone in to help us put together this task force to
consider other options of what a different structure might look
Mr. Lindstrom did not attend the board meeting, or respond to
phone calls Thursday, but in a PWSA press release he is quoted as
saying that as a native of the area whose work has focused on the
region’s waterways, he’s aware of the value of those rivers and
also the importance of the public water and sewer infrastructure.
Mr. Thomson, speaking after the board voted 6-0 with one
abstention, praised Mr. Lindstrom’s engineering and administrative
expertise, and said his leadership will “assist the board in our
commitment to improve PWSA.”
Mr. Thomson said the board will restart a “robust” search for a
permanent executive director, and hopes to select a candidate by
the end of the year. Mr. Lindstrom, a resident of Upper St. Clair,
has indicated he will apply, but PWSA rules would require him to
become a city resident if he were offered the job.
As an interim executive director, Mr. Lindstrom is considered an
“independent contractor” and therefore is not required to live in
the city. He will receive a salary of $16,666.66 per month, or a
total of $99,999.96 for the life of the contract, about what a
permanent executive director would make. He will not receive
As commander of the Pittsburgh District corps office, Mr.
Lindstrom oversaw river operations in a 26,000-square-mile
watershed basin that included 328 miles of navigable waterways on
the Allegheny, Monongahela and upper Ohio rivers in Pennsylvania,
New York, Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio.
According to his Army biography, prior to his Pittsburgh post, Mr.
Lindstrom held a series of Army Corps command positions including
executive director of the Directorate of Civil Works in
Washington, D.C.; commander of the corps’ Nashville District in
Nashville, Tenn.; and overseas assignments.
Don Hopey: email@example.com, 412-263-1983, or on Twitter