Tish Berge, former director of finance and administration at the Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District, is the Sweetwater Authority’s new general manager.
As part of her job, Berge will carry out the seven-member board’s policies to the 190,000 water customers in western and central Chula Vista, National City and Bonita.
Berge comes to the Authority with a foundation already in place. The board recently passed a new $51 million budget, a new work plan has already been approved and the strategic plan has been updated, and for the second consecutive year Sweetwater customers will not see a rate increase.
She said the foundation is a reason why she applied for the general manager job, succeeding outgoing general manager Jim Smyth, who is retiring after seven years as general manager and nearly 37 years with Sweetwater Authority.
“I’ve been aware of Sweetwater Authority for some time now,” Berge said. “I think Sweetwater Authority is very innovative, I also like how they follow best management practices and lastly they have an excellent reputation in the industry. So those three things really attracted me (to the job).”
With her hiring Berge becomes the first woman to lead the Sweetwater Authority in its 40-year history. She started June 26.
But she insists that being a woman will not affect the way the agency operates.
“All I know is how to be me,” she said. “All I know is what it’s been like to be a female engineer, to be a female manager and now to be a female general manager. I’m excited that the board didn’t see that as an impediment, some individuals and groups do.”
Berge holds a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Harvey Mudd College and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of California, Irvine. She also has a professional engineering license in chemical engineering.
Berge’s annual salary is $220,032. Smyth’s annual salary was $218,388.