MSD board names Sprague interim executive director

The Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District has announced that Jonathon Sprague will be interim executive director, effective with Jeff Theerman’s retirement on Jan. 11.

Theerman has been executive director since May 2004 and announced his retirement earlier in December.

The Board of Trustees will begin a national search for a permanent executive director in early 2013, according to a news release.

Sprague has more than 23 years of engineering and management experience, with the majority of his career spent in the water/wastewater utility sector. He joined MSD in 2005 and has served as director of operations for the past five years.

In his current role, Sprague is responsible for management of the 577 employees who maintain and operate MSD’s wastewater collection and treatment system. During his tenure, the operations department keenly focused on preventative maintenance and increased efficiencies.

Notable accomplishments include: a 67 percent reduction in basement backups during dry weather; a 50 percent drop in the number of dry weather sewer overflows that result in a sewage discharge to area waterways; and the insourcing of various contracted services, resulting in a savings of more $5 million annually, according to the release.

Sprague holds a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Akron, a master of business administration degree from the College of William and Mary, and is a licensed professional engineer in Missouri and Virginia.

In making the announcement, Robert Berry and James Buford — chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Board of Trustees — issued the following statement:

“Jeff Theerman will be missed at MSD, both personally and professionally. His efforts and achievements over the past nine years have helped make MSD what it is today — a government utility that is keenly focused on responsibly providing wastewater services and stormwater management, while using the most cost-effective means possible.

“Additionally, Jeff understood the continual need for transparency and accountability in all areas of MSD’s operations — particularly when dealing with fiscal matters — to earn and keep the public’s trust. While Jeff will be missed, the board of trustees is confident that this change in leadership will have a negligible impact on MSD’s day-to-day operations and not impact the utility’s longer-term responsibilities, such as execution of the consent decree that MSD entered into earlier this year with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. One of Jeff’s legacies at MSD is the installation of a highly proficient and accountable management team, whose knowledge and skill in running a wastewater utility is second to none. With Jeff’s departure, this management team remains, which brings reassurance to the Board of Trustees.

“The board believes that Jon Sprague’s background makes him well suited to serve as interim executive director. In his role as director of operations, Jon has had management responsibility for over 60 percent of MSD’s workforce, overseen the day-to-day maintenance and operation of MSD’s 9,700-plus miles of sewers and 7 wastewater treatment plants, and been a key part of all strategic decisions made by MSD. Additionally, and of particular note, Jon was deeply involved in negotiations that led to the consent decree and is intimately aware of the requirements and obligations the agreement places on MSD. Jon is well-qualified to fulfill these interim duties.

“After the first of the year, the Board of Trustees will turn its focus to a national search to find a permanent replacement for this key position. With Jon serving as interim executive director, the board knows it has the time to conduct a thorough and deliberative search for the unique skill sets and experience that are necessary to fill this position.”