Seattle City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco got a tongue lashing this morning during City Council's generally genteel weekly briefing session. On the agenda today, the results of city light's employee survey-- and the upshot was not good. While a handful of indicators have improved since Carrasco came on board in 2004, there are two glaring categories in which employee perception of the agency came back dismal: communication and executive leadership.
"It seems like the employees are liking their work, but it looks like they feel they aren't getting good direction from management, that the decision making and communication are limited to the upper ranks," said council president Nick Licata. "It appears to be a top-heavy structure."
Carrasco, while acknowledging the problem, said he needs more time. "The executive leadership has been in place a year and a half. It takes time to build relationships and implement the changes this council wanted."
City council chose Carrasco, a former city manager from Austin, Texas following a nationwide search to replace Gary Zarker, who stepped down in 2003 after 24 years with the agency amid concern over mismanagement and the debt incurred by city light during the energy crisis of 2000-2001.
But Carrasco told city council he doesn't start counting his progress from the day he arrived on the job, causing at least one person at the table to audibly grumble. "I do," shot back councilman Richard McIver.
"Well you can have your opinion or you can wait and listen to mine," Carrasco replied in a tone not often heard in the airy chamber. "It took me one year to get a feel for the organization and to get people here. It will take at least five years for the transformation to occur."
Licata wasn't going to let him off that easy. "It's hard when you don't have the best news, but the underlying message seems to be a real disconnect between your executive team and not just the rank and file, but middle managers as well," he said. "You need to bite the bullet, figure out how to get in the trenches and turn this ship around. It's not that the ship is sinking, but it appears to be rudderless."