Paul Vojtek, the Erie Water Works’ chief executive since 2003, is calling it a career.
Vojtek, 63, has announced his retirement effective Jan. 6. Craig Palmer, 48, the water utility’s current senior manager of engineering services, will succeed Vojtek as CEO, Erie Water Works officials announced on Friday.
Vojtek, 63, grew up in Munhall, a Pittsburgh suburb. He worked as the accounting and office supervisor at the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County before moving to Erie in 1999 and taking a job as the Water Works’ director of finance and administration.
Vojtek was promoted to CEO when the utility’s longtime chief operating officer, James Rudy, retired in January 2003.
Erie Water Works has about 63,000 direct residential, commercial, industrial and institutional customers in Erie, Lawrence Park Township, Wesleyville and Millcreek Township, as well as parts of Harborcreek, McKean, Greene and Summit townships.
During his tenure, Vojtek oversaw fluoridation of the local water supply; the Water Works’ purchase of Millcreek Township’s water system; the extension of municipal water service into McKean Township and McKean Borough; and the  Water Works’ 2020 lease prepayment deal with the city of Erie, which provided the city nearly $97 million to stabilize its finances.
Previous coverage:City of Erie officials weigh financial impact of $96.7 million water lease deal
Erie Water Works operates the city’s water system via a long-term lease agreement that runs through 2060.
Vojtek also oversaw more than $350 million in improvements to the local water system.
Those projects include renovation of the Richard S. Wasielewski Water Treatment Plant and the installation of a state-of-the-art water filtration system there, as well as a current project to replace lead pipes and improve the quality of drinking water citywide, which is expected to take several years and cost up to $50 million.
More:Erie gives financial assist to citywide lead pipe replacement plan that could cost $50M
“When I reflect on all we’ve accomplished as an organization, I’m proud to have led this incredible team over the past 20 years,” Vojtek said.
Bryan Fife, chairman of the Erie Water Works’ board of directors, added: “Paul’s leadership over 20 plus years has helped transform the Erie Water Works into a world-class organization. We can’t thank him enough for his contributions.”
Palmer’s promotion was approved by the Erie Water Works board, which considered both internal and external candidates for the job.
Palmer’s board-approved CEO salary is $190,000 a year, according to Erie Water Works. Vojtek earned $262,080 annually as the Water Works’ chief executive and Palmer was paid a yearly salary of $163,404 as senior manager of engineering, according to salary information the utility is required to provide twice a year to Erie City Council.
Palmer worked as a consulting engineer for nine years before becoming senior manager of engineering at Erie Water Works, overseeing the utility’s $15 million annual capital improvements program. He is a Penn State University graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a Master’s degree in business administration.  
Palmer is also a licensed professional engineer.
Contact Kevin Flowers at Follow him on Twitter at @ETNflowers.