James F. Wickser
No funeral services have been announced for James F. Wickser, the former head of the water system and assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. He was 72.
Born March 22, 1938 in Los Angeles to Frank Tobe Wickser and Edith May Wickser, Jim died Sept. 22, 2010 in Los Angeles of congestive heart failure as a result of several strokes he had suffered since 2006.
Jim graduated from USC in early 1961 with a degree in civil engineering and was hired shortly after by DWP. He also obtained a Master’s degree and a certificate of administration from USC.
During his nearly 40-year career with the LADWP, Jim worked under such managers as Paul Lane, a Keeler native, and Bob Phillips, a former Bishop resident, both of whom were general managers of the LADWP. He worked on a large variety of water projects, including route alignment work on the second Los Angeles aqueduct in the mid-1960s, such as the Jawbone Canyon and Little Lake sections of steel pipeline.
After about 12 years with LADWP, Jim was selected to head up the Aqueduct Division in the Owens Valley. He and his wife, Mary, and their daughter, Sherry, and son, Steve (ages 6 and 4), moved into a city-owned house on Brockman Lane in August 1973. Prior to LADWP owning the house, it had belonged to an old Owens Valley settler named Alex Reeves. The house had been moved to Bishop from Tonopah, Nev. around 1900.
Jim’s tenure in the Owens Valley lasted 10 years, about double what was typical for a manager to stay. His family loved the Owens Valley, and even stayed one year beyond Jim’s transfer back to Los Angeles so Sherry could graduate with her class at Bishop Union High School.
He got involved in many civic activities in the Valley, including the Lions Club and the Boy Scouts, and always tried to communicate directly and fairly with people in the Ownes Valley regarding LADWP issues and activities. Some of the issues that he worked on included ranch leases, the Interagency Committee land assessment and taxation, sale of town properties, water metering, and the Inyo vs. Yorty CEQA lawsuit which eventually led to the Inyo-L.A. partnership and Long-Term Water Agreement.
Jim loved the time he spent in the Owens Valley. He enjoyed skiing and was one of the instructors during Bishop Schools’ ski trips to Mammoth Mountain. He also guest-lectured at Bishop Union High School’s Senior Problems class. He loved to fish at Crowley Lake and was instrumental in the expansion to 18 holes at the Bishop Golf Club.
Jim transferred back to Los Angeles in 1983 to work in the General Services Division. By March of 1990, he had advanced all the way to head the entire water system. He led the water system until his retirement in February 1998.
One of Jim’s accomplishments during this time was the adoption of total quality management methods throughout the water system. He always felt fortunate to have worked for the LADWP and with its many employees.
After he retired, Jim remained active in the water industry, consulting with the cities of Pasadena and Anaheim and with other agencies.
He is survived by his wife, Mary; daughter, Sherry Reyes; son and daughter-in-law, Steve and Julie; grandsons, Jonathan and Brandon Reyes; and his sister, Dorothy Flores.