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The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s Board of Water Commissioners Wednesday approved Gary Brown as the water department’s top administrator.

The seven-member board voted unanimously to approve Mayor Mike Duggan’s appointment of Brown at a special meeting at the Water Board Building on Randolph in downtown Detroit.

James Fausone, chairman of the Board of Water Commissioners, said Brown’s appointment is part of the transition of control over the region’s water system from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Great Lakes Water Authority.

“This isn’t a coup or a takeover,” he said. “It’s a transition that we all anticipated and expected. It’s a natural transition.”

The board also approved his appointment of Palencia Mobley, an expert on water infrastructure and environmental engineering, as the department’s deputy director/chief engineer.

Its approval of Brown and Mobley’s appointment comes a little more than a day after Duggan announced he was nominating Brown, his group executive of operations, and Mobley to the posts at the water department.

Sue McCormick currently serves as the water department’s director and joined the utility in 2012. She earns $195,000 a year.

She also serves as interim director of the Great Lakes Water Authority and is a candidate to take over the authority’s top job full-time.

Earlier this year, the authority and the water department entered into a 40-year lease of Detroit’s water and sewer system at an annual cost of $50 million.

Under the deal’s terms, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will become one of the authority’s wholesale customers and provide service to Detroit’s residents. The authority will provide service to about 3 million customers in the suburbs.

The authority is up and running, but isn’t expected to take control of Detroit’s water and sewer system until at least Jan. 1, 2016.

Brown told Detroit water commissioners Wednesday he plans to work with McCormick to make day-to-day decisions for the department.

Brown also told commissioners he plans to make customer service at the department his No. 1 priority. He said affordability will also be a top priority.

City spokesman Dan Austin said Brown will earn a salary of $175,000 in his new job.

A six-member board oversees the authority. The State of Michigan as well as Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties each has a representative on the board. The city of Detroit has two, Brown and Deputy Mayor Isaiah McKinnon.

Austin said officials conducted a legal review of Brown’s appointment to the water department and found no conflict of interest with him staying on the authority’s board.

“However, we are looking at replacing him on the board at the beginning of next year,” Austin said. “We aren’t at the point where we are ready to name candidates.”

cramirez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2058

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