Austin’s City Manager Fired Over Widespread Power Outages

February 15, 2023

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk was fired Wednesday in the fallout over a recent winter storm that left thousands without power for a week or longer.

The Dallas Federal Reserve had warned in mid-January that the Texas power grid was still vulnerable to severe weather despite safeguards put in place after a February 2021 deep freeze that had caused widespread outages.

The Fed had called for increased enforcement of the state’s electrical system standards and more incentives to boost thermal power generation, as well as Texas’ so-called enhanced demand-response programs, which could include paying large power customers to curtail electricity use during peak demand.

Just a few weeks later, a deadly ice storm crippled Austin, topping trees and power lines across the city with a population of more than 1 million residents. Slow restoration efforts caused nearly 20,000 customers to remain without power from roughly January 31 to February 12.

Cronk had apologized for “any shortcomings in our response” and vowed that the city would implement changes to better respond to future disasters.

He is the first executive to lose his job over the power outages. First hired to the position of City Manager in 2018, he’ll receive about $463,000 in severance.

In his third inaugural address in January, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had pitched a focus on infrastructure that included the power grid.

“We all know that increased demand is going to be placed on the grid as Texas continues to grow,” Abbott said. “So this session, we will build a grid that powers our state—not for the next four years, but for the next 40 years.”

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