By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
It takes someone steeped in the financial markets to understand that kind of equation at all.
Is that you?
I’ve had a decade on the executive committee of a bank, with very in-depth financial expertise. And more and more, this organization needs at its helm not a chief engineer, but a very savvy transactional lawyer who also understands the markets.
So, how do you answer the critics who say you’ve never handled an organization this big, and don’t know what you’re in for?
I had two critics, I’ll call them, of my management experience: One of them writes for CityBeat, and if you take a look at his latest entry in the latest editorial, it starts out saying, “Hand it to David Nahai,” and goes on to say that I know as much about the water side of things as Mulholland did. And my other critic is Marc Haefele, who later said he’d been far too critical of me, that his earlier critique was based on the black-and-white of my résumé. Having heard me, he went on to say that he thought I’d be the best G.M. in the place for decades. So I think I changed some minds. And that’s difficult for somebody to do — it takes something for someone to shift, and so I was happy about that.
But in response to the question, let me offer this: People who’ve observed me will say that I was just an extraordinarily involved commissioner. For two years as vice president and president, I was in the trenches, in the guts of this organization. I did much in the way of leadership and management. I had a hand in many of the remarkable changes that occurred in the agency over that period of time — both internally on personnel issues and the tripling of renewables in the energy mix.
As a result, now that I’m here, I feel I have the acceptance of the work force as well. That’s the first level I would offer about my experience. I have in-depth experience, management experience, of the utility itself.
Secondly, I spent 10 years on the regional water board: I’m an acknowledged water expert in the state. I was appointed by three very different governors with three very different philosophies. I was confirmed by the state Senate three times and served as chair four times, which is unprecedented. They actually honored me by naming the water-quality awards after me. They’re called the H. David Nahai Water Quality Awards.
Then you add to that my experience and leadership on the Santa Monica Bay Commission, in playing a leading role in helping to structure that commission.
And that’s just on the public-sector side. On the private-sector side, I’ve been a partner in an international law firm, a Wall Street law firm with offices as far afield as Budapest. So, large organizations and large deals and large numbers come as no surprise to me.
And I’ve actually realized the American Dream: I formed my own company, which started with me in a room and grew to seven lawyers and full staff. I met payroll every two weeks and in the bargain provided for my family quite well. I know how to run a business. And yes, this is a much larger business, but there have been many people who have sat behind that desk who have not personally had to meet a payroll. And there is no lesson like that.
So, in response to your question, I don’t feel daunted at all. I feel very comfortable.
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