City appoints new Water and Light director

Thursday, June 12, 2008 | 6:19 p.m. CDT; updated 12:50 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
J. Kraig Kahler. Missourian file photo.

Toni Messina's name was incorrectly spelled in an earlier version of this story.

COLUMBIA— City Manager Bill Watkins announced the appointment of J. Kraig Kahler as director of Columbia Water and Light Department today. The appointment will be effective July 14.

The position has been open since December, when former director Dan Dasho resigned to take a job in Michigan. Public Works Director John Glascock has held the interim position since Dec. 4, 2007, said Toni Messina, director of public communications for Columbia.

Kahler’s appointment comes after a June 2 City Council decision that raised the salary cap for department heads. On June 4, the Missourian reported that salaries were previously capped at $129,000, a number that Watkins told the council was too low to attract a qualified person to the position.

Kahler will receive an annual salary of $150,000 plus a car allowance and other authorized employee benefits such as health insurance and retirement benefits, Messina said.

Kahler, 45, is currently the director of utilities in Weatherford, Texas, located 25 miles west of Fort Worth. He said he decided to apply for the position after being contacted by a recruiter.

“I was looking for bigger systems with more challenges and larger opportunities for me and my family,” Kahler said. Kahler and his wife, Karen, have 3 children: Emily, 17, Lauren, 15, and Sean, 9.

The move is a good professional step for Kahler, Watkins said. Kahler will be responsible for Columbia’s largest department in terms of budget. Kahler’s responsibilities will include water and electric utilities as well as the railroad.

Kahler was chosen after a 10-member community advisory committee interviewed two candidates. The candidates were at the top of a list of about a dozen semifinalists identified by consultant MyCoff, Fry & Prouse LLC.

Watkins said he admired Kahler’s planning and strategic thinking, as well as his customer service orientation. Utilities are deregulated in Texas, so municipal utilities have to compete with both co-ops and private utility companies.

“One of the things I noticed when I was in Weatherford was that he had positioned the utilities very well in terms of future capacity and service,” Watkins said.

Kahler has worked for more than 20 years in both the public and private sectors in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri. He has worked in Weatherford since 1999. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in business administration and finance from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

“He brought the right combination of experience and enthusiasm,” Watkins said. “He understands the finance and management ends of a large organization as well as operations engineering. Kraig is a very level-headed individual, a good problem solver, and he brings a host of operational experience in both water and light that will serve this community well.”

Kahler said he hopes his background will serve him well in Columbia.

“I hope to meet and/or exceed Mr. Watkins’ expectations,” Kahler said. “I look forward to moving the family to Columbia and becoming a part of the community.”

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