Robert R. Puente named new leader at SAWS
SAWS Trustees announced a permanent selection for the organization’s president/chief executive officer. Robert R. Puente, who has served as the interim president/CEO for the past seven months, will assume the permanent responsibilities immediately.
Robert R. Puente, center, is congratulated by SAWS Chairman Alex Briseño, left, and San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger, on his selection as the utility's president/CEO.
During his final year in the House, Puente successfully sponsored Senate Bill 3, which advanced a comprehensive statewide water management strategy, leveraging the proven strengths of the regional planning model. The bill also solidified Edwards Aquifer pumping permits, saving San Antonio and the region hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Robert Puente proved to be the ideal candidate when you consider the fact that water supply is the number one water priority facing this community. His policy background and statewide relationships will benefit SAWS, its ratepayers, San Antonio, and our region,” stated SAWS Chairman Alex Briseño.
Chairman Briseño noted the recent successes of the City’s municipal utility, citing accomplishments such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Water Efficiency Leader Award, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies Peak Performance Awards, and a recent bond rating upgrade to “AA” from Standard & Poor’s.
“Robert joins a great team of executives and employees successfully operating our utility every day. He’s also capable of being the face of SAWS at City Hall in San Antonio, with other local officials throughout the region, or in the halls of the State Capitol,” added Briseño.
“I have worked on behalf of SAWS ratepayers for many years in the Texas House, and I’m honored to continue my hard work on their behalf in this important capacity, especially right here in my home town,” Puente said following the announcement of his selection.
“I’ve always considered myself a member of the SAWS team, from the days of its infancy and through the uncertain times of Edwards Aquifer regulation, so I have every confidence in my ability to lead this organization through any challenges that lie ahead,” added Puente. “This is a job that will require proving myself every day, so I appreciate the confidence that the SAWS Board of Trustees has shown in me through my selection.”
"Robert has been at the forefront of water issues for many years in this state. He served our community well as interim leader at SAWS and I'm happy to watch him take the helm as our permanent leader today," said Mayor Phil Hardberger.
Puente was selected from a group of over 50 applicants recruited by a national search firm. Nineteen individuals were evaluated further by the Board of Trustees, with valuable input provided by a community stakeholder committee. Five candidates were interviewed by the Board and the committee, resulting in three finalists from whom Puente was selected.
“It was important to the Board of Trustee to have input from the community on such an important position. Our goal was to select the best candidate who could effectively lead SAWS in achieving its mission, so we are grateful for the committee’s role,” added Chairman Briseño.
Puente received a bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Mary’s University in 1979 after graduating from Highlands High School on the city’s southeast side. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from The University of Texas School of Law in 1982. Prior to joining SAWS, he practiced law as a private attorney and managed his own firm since 1983.
He is active in several San Antonio community organizations and has received numerous awards, including Legislator of the Year from American Water Works Association-Texas Section in 2006 and Water Environment Association of Texas Public Official Award in 2008.
As president/CEO of one of the nation’s largest utilities, Puente will provide leadership in delivering water and wastewater services to more than 1.3 million consumers, developing new water resources, continuing infrastructure upgrades throughout the community, and building regional partnerships. He will continue earning an annual salary of $275,000, which he also earned in his interim role.
Robert Puente and his wife Carmen have three children: Alec, 16; Liana, 14; and Luke, 10.
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