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Our Opinion: Do a good job, get run out

September 16, 2001

It is interesting that more and more the public calls for its public employees to do a better and better job and not expect to be rewarded when their work is less than satisfactory.

That it comes as a shock to us that a senior manager at the Imperial Irrigation District would be forced out for doing a good job is incomprehensible.

Arn Lahde, former special assistant to the general manager's office, from all reports did more than just a good job. He was likely one of the few managers at the district that had any successful private business experience.

We knew Arn, and we know what he did, and what he was capable of doing. Somehow, we always thought he was being groomed to be the next general manager, because what the IID needs is someone with business savvy.

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We know we are right because if we were not the recently completed efficiency study would not point to $21 million in yearly savings there for the picking — and the study only covered big-ticket items.

That the district could possibly save that much money is a sign that resources are being wasted at an unprecedented pace at a district:

· reportedly inexperienced at using its multi-million dollar business applications

· where a meeting is called in the El Centro offices on Thursday and witnesses count 42 IID vehicles — all with decals — parked in the adjacent lot and almost all with one person traveling in it.

· that is top-heavy with supervisors

· that does not keep its employees working

· that when presented with the opportunity to make money by building customers infrastructure, it cannot respond.

To make matters worse, we've long known about the opposition to the efficiency report and the ongoing attempts to undermine its findings.

To a certain degree we can understand the feelings. Change is not easy, and the changes the district needs to undergo are going to be painful. Not surprisingly, district management does not want to be held accountable for the savings that will be identified in the study.

Nevertheless, let us remind the district that you exist to supply your ratepayers with electricity and water at the lowest prices possible and as efficiently as possible.

There is no other reason for you to exist.

Sadly, the best man to implement the tough changes at the district is no longer there. We know there has been an outpouring of empathy for Lahde, which managers supported his efforts and what efforts he gave.

He was instrumental in helping get the district's $15 million SAP computer up and running and led the district's efforts in sharing its fiber optics system with local schools and government — after rejecting IID management's excuses for why it could not be done.

He successfully influenced the district's focus on customer service, helped install a supervisory training program, helped with the restructure that created the position of chief financial officer, centralized project management and records management.

This is the man IID let go?

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