Mayor Duggan Taps Gary Brown to Head Beleaguered Water Department


Gary Brown, a former police officer who entered politics after winning part of an $8.4 million whistleblower lawsuit against Detroit and former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, will likely lead the city’s beleaguered Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD).

Gary Brown
Gary Brown

Mayor Mike Duggan nominated Brown to serve as DWSD director, a little more than two years after the second-ranking Detroit City councilman resigned to take a job as the city’s group executive of operations in the summer of 2013. Brown continues to serve in that role, a position that pays him $225,000 a year.

The Board of Water Commissioners is expected to approve the nomination on Wednesday.

“I have four primary goals for the Water Department,” Brown said. “We are going to improve customer service, support economic development in the city, create jobs through rebuilding infrastructure, and focus that infrastructure in areas to make them better places to live.”

Brown was selected for his current role by then-Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. Since then, Brown:

  • Managed the switch over to private trash collection (ordered by the emergency manager)
  • Implemented a DPW team of 40 workers dedicated to removing illegal dumping
  • Led the upgrade of the city’s Public Works vehicle fleet, as well as its maintenance and repair program
  • Implemented a new citywide parking system – ParkDetroit – that allows customers to use a mobile app to pay and to contest parking tickets online.
  • Instituted citywide curbside recycling
  • Has coordinated the transfer of public lighting department services to DTE.
Palencia Mobley
Palencia Mobley

Duggan also nominated Palencia Mobley as DWSD’s deputy director and chief engineer.

“This team will bring balanced leadership and expertise to the city’s water operations,” Mayor Duggan said. “Gary is an outstanding administrator who has helped modernize many city services and generate significant cost savings.  Palencia is a brilliant engineer and the type of young talent that will rebuild our Water Department’s infrastructure for future generations.”

The move comes ahead of the regionalization of the water system, which involves splitting the department into the Great Lakes Water Authority and DWSD on Jan. 1. As part of the deal, the city will receive $50 million from the suburbs over the next 40 years as the Great Lakes Water Authority takes over the suburban portion of the system.

DWSD Interim Director Sue McCormick will maintain that position for the Great Lakes Water Authority and is a candidate for the full-time post.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Stephen Paraski

    The City of Detroit, DWSD told me morn July 6, 2015 that they were bringing me back to DWSD to turn Department around make sure they followed State Law, I was sent home 7 hours later. I was not interviewed for Directors Job though more than qualified.

  • Leroy James

    An opportunist who puts his career over the wants, and needs of the people of Detroit. We’ll never get rid of him now, he’ll always turn up somewhere like a bad penny.

  • kathy

    Gary Brown has failed to service the city of Detroit employees with appropriate safety supplies and equipment, identify city of Detroit department financial budgets problems, etc., Gary Brown needs to service the voters who elected him to reinstate the every 3 months water bill like other city of Detroit customers out side of Detroit especially to the few middle income customers which reside in Detroit. Middle income Detroit water customers should not be penalize for others failure to pay their water bill. Gary Brown should offer reasonable payment plans for the middle income residents. They should not be liable for others failure to pay their water bill.