Robert Potts

A water conservation expert whose nomination for the San Antonio Water System board raised racial issues has withdrawn from consideration.

In an email to City Council members Sunday, Robert Potts, CEO of the Dixon Water Foundation and a former general manager of the Edwards Aquifer Authority, said he no longer wished to be considered for a place on the board representing the southern half of SAWS’ service territory.

A motion to confirm Potts last week failed in a 5-5 split after Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) urged colleagues to vote no out of concern that Potts, a white man, could not adequately address the issues of the majority Hispanic South Side. The vote came after remarks from the current trustee representing SAWS’ southern sector, Pat Jasso, that a white man should not take her place on the board of the municipally owned water and sewer utility.

“I am sorry that my candidacy has divided the City Council and parts of our community,” Potts said in his email. “This division is the last thing I want, particularly at this difficult time.”

Potts went on to say that he remains “very committed to this community” and offered his assistance helping officials understand and address water issues.

“For instance, I think there are some solutions to the water rate issue that enhance affordability, transparency, and sustainability,” Potts said. “I would be more than happy to discuss these ideas with you at your convenience.”

On Monday, a spokesman for Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s office said the City Council’s Governance Committee would review four finalists of the six who had been previously vetted.

Earlier this month, City Council confirmed Jelynne LeBlanc Burley and Leticia Ozuna to the SAWS board. After Potts’ withdrawal, the remaining finalists are auto manufacturing executive Fernando Reyes, former assistant city manager Edward Belmares, risk management consultant Olufemi Osidele, and James Smyle, a former natural resources program manager for the World Bank.

Jasso’s term expired in May.

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.