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Sonoma County supervisors appoint interim Water Agency general manager

Mike Thompson, a longtime Sonoma County Water Agency employee, was named by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday as the agency’s interim general manager while a national search begins for a permanent leader of the organization that provides drinking water to more than ?600,000 North Bay residents.

Thompson, previously an assistant general manager, will temporarily replace Grant Davis, who was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month to become the director of the California Department of Water Resources. Thompson, 59, has said he is not interested in being the long-term general manager, a statement that was received well by county supervisors, who also serve as directors of the Water Agency.

Supervisors feel Thompson’s intention not to fill the long-term post will help provide a more equal opportunity for all prospective candidates during the national search, a process the county expects will last four to six months.

“I think Mike will do a great job,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Shirlee Zane said. “He has great people skills, he knows the operations and he’s been in leadership there for a long time.”

Thompson has worked for the water agency for 22 years, including the last four years in which he has been an assistant general manager. In that role, he has been in charge of managing various budgets for the agency, directing its infrastructure maintenance program and leading its strategic planning work.

Now, Thompson will be temporarily in charge of the approximately ?$214.6 million agency and its nearly 230 staff members. His new job comes with a salary of $213,768, according to the county, up from his total pay of $198,812 last year.

Thompson said he was “honored” to fill the interim general manager position, a role he sought because of his experience operating and maintaining the agency’s various systems. He was clear that his intent is only to stay in the job temporarily, though he plans to stay and support whoever fulfills the post long term.

“I believe that the next general manager is someone that they would want to have on here for many years to come,” he said. “I’m not at the point in my career where I would want a long-term position like that.”

In a long-term general manager, Zane said, supervisors are looking for “somebody who can navigate some of the political waters” of state water policy and someone who had “true vision” that could help the county remain “innovative and on the cutting edge.”

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337. On Twitter @thejdmorris.

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