Glenwood attorney named new Denver Water CEO
Summit County Correspondent
SUMMIT COUNTY – Denver Water, the state’s largest water utility, has tapped the Western Slope for new leadership.
The agency announced Monday that Glenwood Springs resident Jim Lochhead will serve as its new CEO and manager, beginning in June.
Lochhead is currently a lead shareholder at law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, where he has negotiated many complex transactions regarding water and other natural resources in the Rocky Mountain West. He has a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology and a law degree from the University of Colorado.
Lochhead began his career practicing water law in Glenwood Springs in the early 1980s. He served as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Roy Romer from 1994 to 1998.
“We think it’s great,” Colorado River Water Conservation District spokesman Jim Pokrandt said of the appointment. “Jim brings a well-rounded view to the complicated world of water. What a big, thoughtful, statewide decision by Denver Water.”
Denver Water obtains much of its water supply by pumping the precious resource from the Colorado River Basin across the Continental Divide to growing Front Range cities and suburbs. Those transbasin water diversions have often been a source of tension between West Slope and Front Range communities.
“Jim brings deep experience and expertise in Colorado water issues and the political process, as well as outstanding leadership, strategic visioning and management skills,” said Penfield Tate, president of the Board of Water Commissioners. “We believe he has the necessary ability to maintain and build relationships with the myriad external stakeholders that work with Denver Water, and also the ability to be a dynamic, visionary leader for our staff and internal operations.”
For the past 20 years, Lochhead has represented the state of Colorado and a coalition of major water utilities and districts – including Denver Water – with regard to interstate Colorado River operations and issues. He was Colorado’s commissioner for and vice-chairman of the Upper Colorado River Commission.
“I’m excited to lead the premier water utility in Colorado,” Lochhead said. “Denver Water is a solid, well-run utility. At the same time, we will face a number of challenges in the future, and I look forward to bringing my experience to bear and work with the employees to meet those challenges.”
According to Tate, the agency found Lochhead to be the most experienced among the 100-plus candidates it considered.
Conservationists, including Boulder-based environmental law group Western Resource Advocates, welcomed the decision.
“His wealth of experience working to diplomatically resolve contentious water disputes makes him uniquely qualified for his new post,” WRA water program director Bart Miller said. “He will bring a steady hand and level head to this important position.
“By selecting a current West Slope resident to head its agency, Denver Water chose a leader who understands the statewide repercussions of Denver Water’s decisions. WRA looks forward to working with Mr. Lochhead as Denver Water continues to improve its conservation programs, water supply planning, and role as a leader to help resolve water issues statewide,” Miller added.
Lochhead will replace current CEO Chips Barry, who announced his retirement plans in January.