Matthew Jordan will have a full plate when he moves from North Carolina this summer to become the new chief executive of Tampa Bay Water. The three-county public utility is repairing its reservoir, thinking through its water supply plan for the next five years and working to re-establish public confidence in its operation. Jordan should bring these efforts to an orderly landing and strengthen ties among local governments.
The agency is scheduled to approve Jordan's hiring today. He would replace Gerald Seeber, who is leaving after five years to become city manager in Temple Terrace. Jordan's training as a professional engineer and work experience with public utilities prepare him for a position that demands both technical know-how and diplomatic abilities.
Jordan comes in without any ties to the trouble with the reservoir or earlier problems with the agency's seawater desalination plant. But he is taking command of an agency that has reacted too slowly to problems and which at times has been more interested in playing the blame game than in taking responsibility for the water supply projects under its control. Officials estimate that repairs to cracks in the reservoir could be completed by 2014. That will require that Jordan explore a range of options both long- and short-term to reduce the region's need to pump groundwater and to operate the relatively costly desalination plant.
Jordan also should strengthen Tampa Bay Water's image among policymakers and the public. The utility has been at different times both a model for further regional collaboration and warning sign of the challenges in looking beyond parochialism. But it serves a vital function in protecting and managing the region's natural resources. And taking such a broad approach to water policy has a springboard effect beyond the environment, giving area governments a fuller appreciation for how growth can be accommodated in a delicate coastal environment. As chief executive, Jordan will play a key role in the region, and he should run the operation in ways that inspire further cooperation in job development, tourism and other regional priorities.