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Mayor Duggan nominates Gary Brown and Palencia Mobley to lead Detroit Water & Sewerage Department

  •     New team blends administrative strength and water engineering expertise
  •     As Regional Water Authority comes online in January 2016, Brown & Mobley to focus on customer service and rebuilding aging water infrastructure 

DETROIT — Mayor Mike Duggan has nominated Gary Brown as director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and Palencia Mobley, P.E., as its deputy director and chief engineer.

The City Charter requires the mayor to make nominations for both positions. The Board of Water Commissioners is expected to vote on the mayor’s nominees Wednesday.

Brown, who currently serves as Group Executive of Operations for the City of Detroit, would run the administrative side of the operation; Mobley, who is an expert on water infrastructure and environmental engineering, would run the water side.

“This team will bring balanced leadership and expertise to the city’s water operations,” Mayor Duggan said. “Gary is an outstanding administrator who has helped modernize many city services and generate significant cost savings.  Palencia is a brilliant engineer and the type of young talent that will rebuild our Water Department’s infrastructure for future generations.”

The deal to regionalize the water system, splitting it into the Great Lakes Water Authority and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, will provide the City of Detroit with a $50 million annual lease payment for the next 40 years, which will be invested in upgrading Detroit’s water distribution and sewer collection system. Brown and Mobley would be in charge of overseeing that investment.

Brown has served the city and its people for nearly four decades. As Group Executive for Operations, Brown has brought significant change to the departments in his portfolio, which include the Department of Public Works, General Services Department, Municipal Parking, Public Lighting and others.

In less than two years, Brown:

  • Managed the switch over to private trash collection (ordered by the emergency manager)
  • Implemented a DPW team of 40 workers dedicated to removing illegal dumping
  • Led the upgrade of the city’s Public Works vehicle fleet, as well as its maintenance and repair program
  • Implemented a new citywide parking system – ParkDetroit – that allows customers to use a mobile app to pay and to contest parking tickets online.
  • Instituted citywide curbside recycling
  • Has coordinated the transfer of public lighting department services to DTE.

“I have four primary goals for the Water Department,” Brown said. “We are going to improve customer service, support economic development in the city, create jobs through rebuilding infrastructure, and focus that infrastructure in areas to make them better places to live.”

Mobley, currently serving the mayor as the transition manager for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, has more than 12 years of experience as a project engineer, providing planning, design and construction administration and management services for water and wastewater treatment facilities across metro Detroit. She has a master’s in civil/environmental engineering and a bachelor’s in chemical engineering.

At the age of 26, she was one of the youngest minority women to ever attain licensure as a professional engineer in the state of Michigan.  Mobley was the co-author of a proposal to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development that resulted in the City of Detroit receiving a special $8.9 million allocation green infrastructure planning and implementation and storm water resiliency.

The move of having the DWSD’s management team nominated marks another major step toward the transition on Jan. 1.

The Great Lakes Water Authority was finalized in June, establishing two independent entities. The Detroit Water Department will serve the city, and GLWA, which is run by a separate director and will lease and run what is not the DWSD’s system outside Detroit city limits in exchange for $50 million a year.

Sue McCormick, who is in the interim director of the DWSD, would stay on as interim director of GLWA and report to its board of directors if Brown and Mobley are approved by the Detroit water board. McCormick is a candidate for the full-time position at GLWA.

Mayor Duggan nominates Gary Brown and Palencia Mobley to lead DWSD was originally published on

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