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An Interview With Our New General Manager

David Gadis meets DC Water employees
June 18, 2018

On May 3, 2018, the DC Water Board of Directors announced that David L. Gadis has been selected to serve as the new CEO and General Manager of the Authority. Mr. Gadis has had a distinguished career as a utility executive, most recently serving as Executive Vice President of Veolia North America and prior to that, as CEO and President of Veolia Water Indianapolis. Mr. Gadis formally joined DC Water on June 4.

We interviewed him by phone shortly before he came on board about his vision for DC Water, and his unique link to the District’s sports history.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: Tommy Wells (Chairman / DC Water Board of Directors) indicated in his message to staff on your hiring that you believe DC Water is the premiere utility in the country.  What do you think has given DC Water such stature within the industry?

DG: Within the industry, DC Water commands respect. People think of excellence, problem solving and innovation when they think of DC Water.  The Authority is widely seen within the industry as a talented team that implements creative solutions to problems. In particular, I’ve always admired the Authority’s reputation for innovation, process improvement, benchmarking, sustainability and fiscal responsibility.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: What are you most looking forward to as you begin your new role with the Authority?

DG: I’m a people person.  I’m looking forward to getting to know our team and working with them to understand the issues we face and tackle them together. Collective problem solving will continue to be something important for DC Water, as it is with water utilities across the nation. The key question that we should always factor in to our problem solving is ‘Do we have what is needed to address our challenges in the future?’. We should always be planning ahead and, to the extent possible, anticipate our needs and challenges and prepare accordingly.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: Can you tell customers and staff about your management philosophy and what your initial goals are as CEO and General Manager?

DG: I believe a good manager thrives on feedback from those they manage. It’s about open communication and aligning our work to the Authority’s Strategic Plan. I totally believe in teamwork, transparency, inclusion and trust.

So, I want to get to know my team and our customers. That will help me establish and execute a 90-day action plan to move the organization forward. I don’t believe in change for change’s sake.  It is important for me to learn about and understand the issues facing the Authority to determine what, if any, changes are needed. I have a special interest in our operations, customer service and finances.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: Coming from the private sector, do you anticipate any differences or challenges in leading a public-sector organization?

DG: No.  While Veolia was technically a private-sector business, we didn’t own assets so there were some differences from the traditional concept of a private business. In nearly every role I’ve held during my career, I’ve worked for organizations that were either public or board governed entities.  So, in that sense, my experience has been working on behalf of stakeholders as opposed to shareholders.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: As you know, utilities around the country are facing competing demands between the nation’s growing infrastructure needs, technology initiatives and rising business costs. How can we best meet those needs while also keeping water and wastewater services affordable for low-income families?

DG: I acknowledge that rates are high and pose a challenge for some families.  I will make it a priority to work with the Board, the executive team and the community to identify cost saving opportunities.  We have some significant infrastructure challenges, as do many older, east coast cities.  Framed by the 20x20x20 initiative ($20 million in savings, $20 million in new non-ratepayer revenue, by 2020), we will find ways to address these issues.  That being said, we will never compromise on delivering safe, clean water for our ratepayers.  The goal is to improve efficiency, but to continue to deliver the outstanding and reliable service that DC Water has built its reputation on.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: As an Indiana Basketball Hall-of-Famer, we know you like basketball.  Are you interested in other sports, and most importantly, will you adopt the local teams as your favorites now that you serve the Greater Washington area?

DG: I’m a sports guy.  I love competition and competitive team sports; it made me who I am. And yes, I’ll adopt all local teams and will celebrate them with our staff because they are part of the same community we are. I’ll even cheer for the Hoyas, even though they ended my basketball career.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: Tell us about that.  You played against Georgetown?

DG: In the 1984 NCAA tournament, which Georgetown eventually won, my team (Southern Methodist University) lost to the Hoyas in the second round of the Western Regionals in Pullman, Washington. As a senior, this was my last collegiate game.  Losing by one point was tough, especially when the Hoyas went on to beat Houston in the championship game, a team led by Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler that we beat earlier in the year. So we had the talent and came close.  It’s a good reminder that the margin between winning and losing can be very slim. The margin is small in business too, and I want to win.