Cynthia McClain-Hill Steps Down as Board President of LADWP 

Elgin Nelson

Cynthia McClain-Hill, the first Black woman to lead the nation’s largest municipal utility, submitted her resignation to Mayor Karen Bass as President of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, effective Wednesday. Viewed as a game changer, McClain-Hill leaves a legacy of work surrounding climate justice, worker’s rights, and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at LADWP. 

“I am proud of the good governance reforms and forward-looking public policy initiatives that have been accomplished during my tenure as Board President, including the adoption of the strongest customer protections related to utility service access in our nation; securing and disbursing hundreds of millions of dollars in utility debt relief to our most financially vulnerable customers; and the launch of programs to help individual residents and working families withstand conditions of extreme heat made worse by climate change,” wrote McClain Hill in her letter to Bass.

McClain-Hill resigned amid ethics-related complaints and escalating tensions regarding the agency’s leadership. 

 She has consistently denied any wrongdoing regarding the allegations that have surfaced during the last six months. Her departure from the agency marks over 30 years of service to the city on multiple commissions.

“Cynthia leaves a long legacy of work in areas impacting climate justice, worker’s rights, and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at LADWP,” said De’Marcus Finnell, press secretary for Mayor Karen Bass. 

Those initiatives include LA100 Equity Strategies, a project McClain-Hill is most proud of that aimed to ensure the city of Los Angeles is on the path to 100% carbon-free energy, and Project Powerhouse, an initiative aimed to eliminate extreme costs for developers, determine power needs for affordable housing, and shorten the time frames for LADWP approvals of a development’s on-site electric service plans. 

“Cynthia McClain-Hill was a champion in making equity a reality for workers and customers. Because without union jobs and regular people in our community feeling the benefits of the transition to an equitable, clean energy future, it can’t be real,” said Lauren Ahkiam, co-director of Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. 

In her voluntary tenure as president of the board, McClain Hill ushered in a comprehensive effort to help hundreds of thousands of customers affected by mounting unpaid utility bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“McClain-Hill’s commitment to justice equity, the environment, and the city as a whole will be remembered because South LA residents are overburdened with shut-offs with high utility debt,” said Agustin Cabrera, policy director at Strategic Concepts in Organizing & Policy Education (SCOPE). 

The former board president also championed LADWP’s diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts through her Racial Equity Action Plan and the protection of LGBTQIA rights. 

“Cynthia recognized the importance of creating a safe and supportive space for LGBTQIA employees and colleagues, and through her dedication, she has helped lay a foundation for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace for generations to come,” said Jason Cleanthes, an employee of LADWP.

McClain-Hill was elected President of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners on July 28, 2020, after serving as Board Vice President since September 5, 2018. Former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Ms. McClain-Hill to a four-year term on the Board of Water and Power Commissioners. An attorney by trade, McClain-Hill who also served on the board of L.A. Police Commissioners, has been a trusted senior advisor to California’s powerful political figures and leading policymakers over the years.

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