Flawed Portrait of a Gifted Manager

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It is time for The Post to restore balance to its reporting on Jerry Johnson, the retiring general manager of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), who was recently selected to serve in a similar capacity for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC). I was chairman of WASA's board of directors for seven years and felt privileged to work with Mr. Johnson. The WSSC is lucky to get him.

The June 19 Metro story "WSSC Picks Manager at D.C. Agency For Top Post" dredged up WASA's lead problem from more than five years ago, devoting much of its length to Mr. Johnson's role in that situation. The story omitted or did not give sufficient weight to important facts -- that county executives, mayors, water agency boards of directors and industry associations have supported him when they were under no compulsion to do so, that investigations (including one by Eric H. Holder Jr. before he became U.S. attorney general) exonerated him, and that his track record in guiding the newly formed D.C. Water and Sewer Authority through its first 12 years has been widely acclaimed.

There isn't space here to cite all of Mr. Johnson's accomplishments, which included turning the aging Blue Plains treatment plant into an award-winning facility and instilling a strong customer-service attitude at what had been a notoriously unfriendly utility.

The real story is that the WSSC dismissed the very criticisms that the article dwelled on and affirmatively chose Jerry Johnson as its leader to help steer the agency out of its difficulties. If The Post's goal is to deliver unbiased news about the leadership of the region's water utilities, it should set the record straight.



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