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Three Denver Water board members moving on

Commissioners Lucero, Austin and Herzmark oversaw big changes during their decade-plus service.

After years of service to Denver Water, the metro area and the state, three of the utility’s five-member board have moved on this summer — each having served more than a decade as a member of Denver’s Board of Water Commissioners. 

“It’s been an absolute pleasure for me and the rest of the staff to have you guiding us, leading us, pushing us and holding us accountable,” CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead told the three board members at a mid-June board meeting. 

Denver Water Commissioners Greg Austin (left), who served 2009-21, John Lucero, who served 2007-21, and Paula Herzmark, who served 2009-21, at a board meeting in 2018. Also pictured is Pat Williams, a Denver Water executive assistant for 25 years. Photo credit: Denver Water.

“You have led Denver Water through a historic, transformative time, building up this critical piece of the city’s infrastructure on what was created during our first 100 years and preparing this organization for its second century of service to the people of Denver and all our customers,” he said. 

The outgoing board members are: 

  • Commissioner John Lucero, the longest-serving member among the outgoing board members. He was appointed in 2007, and most recently reappointed in 2015. His term expires this year. 
  • Commissioner Greg Austin, who joined the Denver Board of Water Commissioners in 2009, then was reappointed in 2013. His term expired in 2020, but he continued to serve until the mayor identified a replacement in 2021. 
  • Commissioner Paula Herzmark, who joined the Denver Board of Water Commissioners in 2009, then was reappointed in 2013. Her term expired in 2019, but she continued to serve until the mayor identified a replacement in 2021. 

Mayor Michael Hancock has appointed Stephanie Donner, general counsel and head of government relations for Inspire Clean Energy, LLC, Dominique Gómez, the deputy director of the Colorado Energy Office, and Tyrone Gant, director of treasury management and commercial banking fee income manager for Vectra Bank Colorado, to replace Commissioners Austin, Herzmark and Lucero.

Denver Water Commissioner Greg Austin, who served from 2009-21, at a 2015 board meeting. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Continuing their service on the board are Gary Reiff, the chief legal officer of UCHealth, and Craig Jones, a managing director of The Colony Group’s Rocky Mountain Region and co-president of Colony Sports and Entertainment. Reiff and Jones were appointed in 2017 to terms that expire in 2023.

During their time on Denver Water’s board, Commissioners Lucero, Austin and Herzmark oversaw wide-ranging changes at Denver Water, from the utility’s approach to partnerships to its ability to plan in the face of uncertainties wrought by climate change, Lochhead said. 

Among the accomplishments highlighted by Lochhead — and the commissioners themselves — were: 

  • Achieving the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which became effective in 2013. The agreement ushered in a new era of cooperation between Denver Water and West Slope water providers, local governments and several ski areas. The overall goal of the agreement is to protect watersheds in the Colorado River Basin while allowing Denver Water to develop future water supplies.

The effort to negotiate the agreement was intense, Lucero recalled. 

“We were going back and forth to the meetings in the mountains and getting our arms around all the groups and their interests. Getting all of the principals to the table at the same time was key to getting the negotiations going,” he said. 

  • Signing the WISE agreement, with WISE short for Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency. (Watch this video on the award-winning partnership.) This regional partnership provides a way for Denver and Aurora to reuse water supplies and also creates a dependable supply for 10 water providers that serve the south metro region.
  • Resetting Denver Water’s relationship with its suburban distributors to be more focused on business and customer partnerships. 
  • Supporting efforts that achieved a 10-year goal of reducing water use by 22% compared to prior to the 2002 drought. 
Denver Water Commissioners Penfield Tate, who served 2005-17, and Paula Herzmark, who served 2009-21, at a 2015 board meeting. Photo credit: Denver Water.

“As climate change continues to impact Denver Water and the state, we worked hard to be a continuing advocate for water conservation and think entrepreneurially about how to better conserve and manage our resources,” Herzmark said. 

  • Pushing for Denver Water to do more strategic planning, including using a scenario planning format that can account for changes in population, climate change, the economy and government regulations. 
  • Focusing on the customer, operational efficiencies and strengthening the utility’s project management and delivery processes. 

In addition to those accomplishments Denver Water has achieved in the last several years, the three outgoing commissioners topped their list with the 2010 hiring of Lochhead as CEO/Manager. 

In mid-June, the three outgoing Denver Water Commissioners were given a photo of Cheesman Reservoir, seen on the screen on the left. Commissioners, left to right, are: Craig Jones, appointed 2017; Gary Reiff, appointed 2017; outgoing Commissioner Paula Herzmark, who served 2009-21; outgoing Commissioner Greg Austin, who served 2009-21; and John Lucero (on screen), who was appointed in 2007 and whose current term expires in 2021. Photo credit: Denver Water.

“What was key for us was hiring the right CEO. Jim Lochhead was the one and he was the right choice,” Lucero said. 

Herzmark agreed, saying “I think the most important thing we did during my tenure was to identify and recruit Jim Lochhead to be the CEO. Everything else derived from that essential decision.”

And over the years, Austin added, “Jim Lochhead and Denver Water staff have met and beautifully overcome many challenges.”

Looking back, they said, it was an honor to serve the people of Denver and Denver Water’s suburban customers via their participation on the board.