Today marks the first official day of newly installed Imperial Irrigation District General Manager Henry Martinez’s three-year contract with the district.
The most immediate difference in general manager contracts between Martinez and his predecessor Kevin Kelley is pay: Kelley’s base salary for the position was $256,000 a year; Martinez’s is $328,000 a year.
“The contract is pretty generic; it follows along with what Kevin’s contract was. It does contain higher pay then what Kevin was getting. That, as you know, is the significance of the market,” said IID board Vice President Norma Sierra Galindo.
“We’re trying to recruit people who are not only qualified and capable, but who want to come down here,” she said. “Salary is one of the major negotiation points. … It is by far not a high salary for a lot of districts.”
The board voted 5-0 on the contract Wednesday. Later that day, Martinez signed on the dotted line.
The compensation package includes typical employee benefits such as 9 percent of his base salary being contributed into the 401(a) retirement plan, and typical health and vacation benefits, according to the district.
The contract does not contain a renewal clause, but it does have a severance package. According to the district, if he is terminated without cause, he will be compensated for what time is left on his contract (up to a maximum of 12 months).
“It’s a fair contract and I’m looking forward to deploying in the position,” said Martinez when contacted Monday. “I’m optimistic. It’s going to allow me to bring in some past skills I have had in before in my other positions.”
Galindo said while dealing with overall general manager duties, Martinez will continue to oversee the power department until his replacement can be found in that capacity. Martinez was hired at the district to oversee IID power less than six months ago.
“He is a very seasoned, experienced person,” Galindo said, “and once he comes up to par with the water issues as they pertain to the uniqueness of Imperial County, I think he is going to fill Kevin’s shoes.”
Martinez said he’s got about a two-month learning curve ahead of him in catching up with water issues before he feels comfortable. Just last week, Martinez said he did a lot catching up with documents and contracts with water department officials and water department staff took him on a tour of water infrastructure, including Imperial Dam, the All-American Canal and the system’s series of drops and laterals.
“The system is well designed,” he said. “There’s a lot of flexibility.”
As far as having any insight yet into Martinez’s style or approach, Galindo said it’s too early to tell. “I cannot tell you a style of management because I haven’t worked with him long enough, but I have every bit of confidence in him,” she said.
Still, Galindo said, “he is also well received by staff and that is a really important element. That is one of the things we looked at in relationship to whatever he’s going to be doing.”
Martinez brings more than 40 years of experience in the utility sector, holding key management roles in both energy and water areas. He has worked for Southern California Edison, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Prior to IID, he worked for engineering firm Cordoba Corp., where he managed several public projects. He was executive/principal-in-charge on the City of Industry Public Utilities Commission project and capital improvement program and led efforts on projects sponsored by the City of Los Angeles Department of Sanitation, according to IID. He also oversaw work in support of the LADWP’s Owens Lake dust-monitoring and compliance program.
He served six months as interim general manager of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and was chief operating officer there as well.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from California State University, Fullerton, and has completed executive training programs at Pepperdine University and the University of Virginia.
Galindo added that there is a stable team at IID right now insofar as department heads and lead staff, especially on the water side on the organization. “It’s going to helpful to Henry,” Galindo said.
Martinez takes the helm at a time when there are many big issues in the air such as the drought contingency plans being hammered out between the seven Colorado River Basin states. IID has so far made its participation in the drought contingency effort conditional on the federal government’s willingness to step up and fund Salton Sea restoration efforts one to one with the state.
There is also an incredible amount of litigation the IID is going through at the moment, most of it initiated against the district, Galindo said.