The Development Of St. Petersburg’s Water Resources Department Succession Plan

By Dwight D. Wilson, City of St. Petersburg, FL | November 2012, Vol. 67, No. 11

Around 2005, many utilities across the country were aware of the statistical data indicating that as the baby boomer generation reached retirement, there would be a substantial number of employees with many years of experience and expertise departing the workforce.

The expected time frame varied with some believing the impact would begin to be felt within five to 10 years while others believed the impact would not occur for 10 to 20 years.

This forecast would create a competitive nature among utilities for technical staff and experienced personnel in unique positions. Everyone knew that this certainly was going to present challenges for the utilities. A strong focus and area of interest became apparent as how to recruit, train/develop and retain the necessary skill base needed to be a viable and productive utility for years to come. Thus, the energy shifted to succession planning. While some organizations consistently had succession planning as part of their business plan, the priority level, efforts and commitment were low. However, this would hopefully all change as we mobilized to address the concerns of lost talent and thus became better talent managers.

Succession planning had to become a high priority for utilities of all sizes and status (public and private). A comprehensive approach to understanding the impacts these changes would have upon the utility was crucial. Therefore the recognition of these changes coupled with planning and support were necessary. Utilities had to act – now and fast!

City with a mission
The city of St. Petersburg, FL, Water Resources Department is one of those utilities that has made it their mission to act now/fast by developing a comprehensive succession plan. To address the forecasted loss of experience and expertise, in 2007 we became very aggressive and developed a four-part plan. It was created to address the employee from a holistic perspective in the areas of education, staff development and training, health and wellness and financial education/wealth building.