Former school superintendent joins Public Utility Board

By Bob Freund

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Retired Rochester Public Schools superintendent Jerry Williams returns to government today.

Williams joins the city’s Public Utility Board at its meeting this afternoon, starting a term lasting until January 2012. The five-member citizen board oversees Rochester Public Utilities, which operates municipal electricity and water systems.

Williams, 64, will replace eight-year member Richard Landwehr, whose final term formally expired in January, but was extended briefly. Landwehr had served as board president for more than six years, but that position now likely will go to an experienced board member after an internal election at today’s meeting.


Williams, who retired from Rochester’s school system June 30, was superintendent from 2003 to 2007, managing a work force of about 2,000 educators and staff. He previously served as the director of human resources for nine of his 20 years with the school district.

Overall, Williams worked 41 years in education, including a nine-year stint as a principal in Lewiston schools.

Williams cited his years in the public eye, community knowledge and management credentials in the application for the board seat. Among them, "I have extensive experience with very large budgets and the importance of proper oversight," he wrote.

This morning, Williams said he views RPU as "extremely well" managed. He also said he comes to the board as a generalist — knowledgeable about the community but without any engineering background.

Williams said he is aware of utilities trying to "lessen their carbon footprint(s)," such as with RPU’s anti-pollution project at Silver Lake power plant.

Why join now, after retiring from a demanding, public job? "It’s my way of giving back to the community," he said.

RPU’s current issues include the $37 million Silver Lake emissions project, expansion of the city’s electrical network into nearby rural areas, participation in construction of a major power line and a lawsuit over future obligations to its major electricity supplier, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency.

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