On May 21, I reported that the US Mint hired Andrew D. Burnhart as Deputy Director. I had noted that prior to this job, Mr. Burnhart was General Manager for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), a community owned utility providing water and sewer services to the Maryland’s suburbs of Washington, DC.
WSSC has been in the news this week following a major water main break on Sunday, June 15. The rupture of a 48-inch main in a remote area of Montgomery County caused a significant portion of the WSSC service area to be on usage restrictions until this evening. The sale of bottled water has skyrocketed over the last few days.
WSSC has blamed an aging infrastructure. But this 48-inch water main was put into service in 1969 and the county has older water mains that have been recently inspected was deemed safe. Further, inspection and warning systems put into place to notify the WSSC and the public of problems failed.
In a radio interview, Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett told reporters that the county had discussed making improvements to the system over the last five years while economic times have been better. WSSC had resisted discussions with Leggett, then Montgomery County Council President, to create a strategic plan to upgrade the system. Rather, WSSC officials continue to prevent Montgomery County from auditing the utility. Although Leggett did not mention names, he was clear that the issue rested directly with the reluctance of the WSSC General Manager.
Why am I discussing this in a coin collectors blog? Because the person responsible for keeping the system up to date and working, pipes inspected, and make recommendation to the governments who own WSSC was Andrew D. Burnhart, now Deputy Director of the US Mint.
“His expertise in organizational change will help the United States Mint achieve its strategic goals and become a more results-oriented organization,” reads the Mint’s press release announcing Burnhart’s hiring.
WSSC has underperformed financially. WSSC will not let their books be audited by one of the counties that own the utility. And WSSC’s performance during a water main break—which they should expect to happen at some point—shows that this hire by the US Mint may be a result of the spoils system and not one of competence.
I hope this does not negatively effect the Mint in the future.