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Jackie Sargent, general manager of Austin Energy, is retiring

Sargent has been at the center of public outcry after mass power outages left thousands of Austin Energy customers in the dark in February.

AUSTIN, Texas — The head of Austin Energy is stepping down.

Jackie Sargent, general manager for the local utility company, has retired, according to court documents obtained by KVUE Senior Reporter Tony Plohetski on Friday. Sargent's retirement is effective immediately. 

Plohetski said Mayor Kirk Watson and Austin City Council members got a two-page memo from the assistant city manager at 8 a.m. Friday, informing them of the news. In the memo, Interim City Manager Jesús Garza said, "Jackie has been recognized throughout her 40-year career as a visionary leader within the electric industry ... Leading Austin Energy through some challenging times, Jackie has been [a] consummate professional throughout her tenure."

Sargent joined Austin Energy in 2010 and became general manager in 2017. The City has named one of her top lieutenants, Stuart Reilly, to serve as interim Austin Energy general manager.

Sargent has been at the center of public outcry after mass power outages left thousands of Austin Energy customers in the dark during a February ice storm.

The storm caused weakened tree limbs to fall on power lines across the city. For some Austin Energy customers, getting the power back on took more than a week. Many first responders were also left in the dark, forcing them to work with limited capacity.

In late February, Sargent said the storm left destruction equivalent to hurricane damage and called the power restoration effort the largest in Austin Energy’s 127-year history.

In the wake of the power outages, the city council voted to fire then-City Manager Spencer Cronk following his response to the storm. Jesús Garza was named interim city manager.

At the time of Cronk's termination, the KVUE Defenders found that Cronk had been the second-highest paid City official – behind Sargent, who made more than $410,000 a year.

As for what local agencies are doing to improve infrastructure ahead of future ice storms, Sargent said she would welcome an audit of Austin Energy's vegetation management, or tree trimming, policies and procedures. 

The Austin City Council also recently passed a resolution tasking Garza and general manager of Austin Energy – Sargent, at the time – to conduct a feasibility study on both the cost of burying power lines throughout Austin and how it could be done. 

Sargent is just the latest top City executive to recently announce their departure. The executive director of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport recently resigned, and one of Austin's assistant city managers announced his retirement.

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