Larry Weis, the new head of Seattle City Light.
Larry Weis, the new head of Seattle City Light. Seattle Channel

Seattle, meet your city government's new highest paid employee: An experienced but uninspiring bureaucrat who previously ran the city utility in Austin, Texas, and is already on environmentalists' bad side.

After being nominated by Mayor Ed Murray, Larry Weis, a Seattle area native, was approved by the Seattle City Council in a 7-2 vote today to be the next CEO of Seattle City Light.

As I've explained here and here, environmentalists have raised concerns about Weis's past support of natural gas and lukewarm stance on solar energy. Weis and his supporters defended his record, saying he helped Austin reduce its overall dependence on fossil fuels.

Today, Council Member Debora Juarez praised Weis's management experience and his recent announcement that he plans to create a high-level position within City Light focused on environmental issues. "This position signifies a prioritization of environmental concerns at the most senior level of Seattle City Light," Juarez said. Council Member Tim Burgess said he was "delighted" to support Weis's nomination and praised Weis's support from local labor unions.

Council Member Kshama Sawant opposed Weis's nomination, saying he wasn't enough of a champion on climate change, municipal broadband, or making "big business pay their fair share in utility rates."

Mike O'Brien, the only other council member to oppose Weis, said he believed Weis would be a competent manager, but "what I haven't seen is a clearly articulated vision for how his leadership at this utility will take Seattle City Light to a new level of environmental a way that is racially and socially just."

Weis will make $340,000 a year, making him the city's highest paid employee. According to Council Member Lisa Herbold, Weis may also be eligible for bonuses on top of that salary. Herbold supported Weis's nomination, but was skeptical of the bonuses and pledged to look into the process by which his bonuses will be awarded.

After his confirmation, Weis thanked council members and offered a vague pledge to work on City Light's "multiple challenges ahead—locally, regionally, and nationally."