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Breed nominates City Attorney Dennis Herrera to head up SFPUC

Mayor London Breed Monday nominated a familiar face in local politics as the next San Francisco Public Utilities Commission general manager: City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

Herrera was first elected as the city attorney in 2001 and won the following five unopposed elections. He ran for mayor in 2011 against former Mayor Ed Lee and placed third in the ranked-choice voting system.

Breed said Herrera has been a “great champion” in a number of issues from civil rights to the environment:

“By bringing his experience in office and his commitment to public service to this new position, I am confident the SFPUC will be able to deliver the high-quality services our residents deserve while continuing to advance nationally-recognized programs like CleanPowerSF and pursue ambitious efforts like public power.”

Herrera expressed in a statement that he is ready to take on the new role ensuring San Francisco residents have sustainable and affordable power and water, adding:

“I want to thank Mayor Breed for this unique opportunity to stand up for ratepayers and usher in a new era of clean leadership at the top of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.”

The Mayor’s Office said Herrera played a critical role in power, water and sewer issues across The City, including complex legal battles with Pacific Gas & Electric, closure of the Potrero Power Plant and defeating a plan to drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

Herrera will next be interviewed by the five-member commission that oversees the SFPUC, which will then forward a formal recommendation to the mayor. If a contract is successfully negotiated, the mayor would then officially appoint Herrera to the position, the Mayor’s Office said. The process will take several weeks to complete.

The change at the top of the SFPUC comes at a consequential time — former General Manager Harlan Kelly resigned last November after federal prosecutors accused him of accepted contractor bribes. His wife, former City Administrator Noami Kelly, denied the allegations and also resigned from her position in January.

The City Attorney’s Office and the Controller’s Office played an important role in the local investigation of the City Hall scandal that first involved former Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru.

Both offices have been combing through city contracts to find any discrepancies that violate city laws. Herrrera’s office has issued a number of subpoenas to several nonprofits and other private companies as part of the ongoing investigation.

As for his successor, Breed will be positioned to appoint Herrera’s interim replacement and The City will choose someone to complete his term at an election not less than 120 days after the vacancy, according to the City Charter.

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