Utility company’s top man stepping down
Robert Baer, the South Lake Tahoe Public Utility District general manager, will retire in March from the top post after 13 years, the district announced Wednesday.
Baer will stay in Tahoe with his wife, Justin, and son, Brian. The couple’s other two children, Kent and Kathryn, live in the Bay Area and Portland, respectively.
“It’s time. I’ve done a lot and accomplished a lot. It’s time for my wife and I to have flexibility,” Baer, 59, said Wednesday.
His last day is March 20.
He plans to put his feet up and relax at his cabin at Fallen Leaf Lake.
Other than that, he’s unsure what new project he plans to take on. He’s considering consulting work in the wastewater field and mediation.
Baer started working at the district in 1978 as a process engineer at a time when the plant was experiencing difficulties in meeting its wastewater discharge requirements. There were also conflicts between board members and former General Manager Jim Cofer, he recalled.
Baer moved up through the ranks, becoming assistant general manager in 1985 before taking the top job five years later.
Beyond receiving a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University in Washington, Baer earned a master’s in negotiation and conflict resolution from CSU Dominguez Hills.
Baer had put his education to work in developing a culture of cooperation at the district.
“He left the district in good shape and a legacy that fostered teamwork. You couldn’t ask for a better boss,” district spokesman Dennis Cocking said.
But Cocking acknowledged the need for a break in the action.
“The MTBE case took everything out of everybody here,” Cocking said, referring to the landmark legal battle that pitted the small water and sewer district against major oil companies over the additive that was contaminating water wells.
The district won $28 million in the August ruling.
“It continues to amaze me that a little water company in the mountains would pull this off,” Baer said, reflecting upon his most memorable time with the district.
Baer said he’ll miss the people he’s worked with through the years.
“I could recite the laundry list of Bob’s accomplishments for the last 25 years, but it would take too long. Simply put, Bob Baer is the complete package — intelligence, integrity and complete dedication to the community. We will be able to fill his position but never replace him,” said Jim Jones, the board president.
The district has begun the recruitment for a new general manager, which comes with a $120,000 annual salary.
When board member Mary Lou Mosbacher heard Baer was retiring, she told him: “Good for you. Enjoy it while you can.”
She said Baer did a good job for the district, but she understands the other callings in life.
“He’s getting to an age when he wants to kick back a bit,” she said.
— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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