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Concerns and questions sprang up Wednesday surrounding Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski's appointment of Mike Reberg as director of the Department of Public Utilities.

That department oversees the city's water, sewage, stormwater and lighting systems.

City Council Chairman James Rogers said the position is a specialized one that requires years of education and training, and he questioned whether Reberg had the qualifications for the post.

Rogers made the comments on Trib Talk, The Salt Lake Tribune's online interview program.

"I don't want to embarrass anyone," Rogers said. "But when it comes to public health, you really should have a professional in that position."

Reberg has held several positions in Salt Lake County government, including deputy director of public works. He also served as district director for former Rep. Jim Matheson and held a post at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Reberg serves on the board of directors of Save Our Canyons.

Councilwoman Lisa Adams said she would not pass judgment on Reberg's qualifications until the council could interview him and consider his credentials in detail.

"We will have the opportunity to sit down with Mike," she said in a telephone interview. "And we will ask a lot of tough questions."

Adams said it is critical that Reberg bring expertise to the position that oversees the watershed and delivery system, and that he might have to deal with such things as an oil-pipeline leak into Red Butte Creek.

"In a crisis, you want somebody who knows what to do," she said. "I don't want to be another Flint, Michigan."

Michigan officials have declared an emergency in Flint after toxic amounts of lead were belatedly discovered in the water system that serves thousands.

The council has advise-and-consent authority to approve or reject mayoral selections for high-level posts.

The departing director, Jeff Niermeyer, held an engineer's degree and worked under the respected LeRoy Hooton for nine years before becoming director. Niermeyer was lauded for his quick action that significantly mitigated the Red Butte oil spill.

In contrast to Rogers, Councilman Charlie Luke said he has confidence in Reberg, whom he described as a first-rate manager.

"Mike is different in that he hasn't worked up through the ranks [at Public Utilities]," Luke said. "What Mike has is a very good managerial ability. Mike is a quick study, and I am very confident with his abilities."

The council has gotten to know Reberg through a number of meetings with him on animal issues, said Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall. Most recently he has been the director of Animal Services for Salt Lake County.

The council, she said, likes and respects Reberg. "We know him as someone with good character," she said.

But she lamented the departure of Niermeyer. "His leaving is a loss of serious importance in water policy and water law," she said. "And there are a lot of people who want to change the city's water policy."

Reberg referred questions to the mayor's office.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman for Biskupski said she is looking forward to hearing the council's concerns, but she remains confident in Reberg's appointment.

"In the end," said Matthew Rojas, "we think they will find that Mike is the right guy for the job."

The council's advise-and-consent hearing for Reberg has not yet been scheduled.