Superintendent Karen Dettmer, P.E.
Karen Dettmer, P.E. is the superintendent of the Milwaukee Water Works.
As superintendent, Karen oversees all aspects of the largest public utility operation in Wisconsin. She leads a team of over 300 professionals with an annual budget exceeding $100 million. Annual revenues of $95 million support a net utility plant in service of $645 million. The utility treats and supplies over 28.9 billion gallons of water annually to over 860,000 people in 16 communities in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Waukesha Counties.
Karen previously served as Public Works Coordination Manager for the City of Milwaukee, the first woman to do so. She oversaw public works permitting and managed public works aspects of special projects. Most notable among them were the Lakefront Gateway and the Milwaukee Bucks Arena Development, now home of the Fiserv Forum and an entertainment district. In the DPW role, she served as liaison to Business Improvement Districts and other city departments.
A licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Wisconsin, Karen serves on the American Water Works Association’s Water Utility Council, which oversees the Association's government affairs program to ensure it represents the sector effectively to benefit water consumers. She also serves on the Board of Directors for The Water Council and the Menomonee Valley Partners. Through a partnership with the US Water Alliance, Karen led Milwaukee Water Works through a collaborative effort to create "An Equitable Water Future: Milwaukee," a roadmap to build an equitable, inclusive, and diverse water workforce.
Milwaukee Pridefest honored Karen with a 2019 Pride Award. She was presented the Ally Award for advocating for the Rainbow Crosswalks Initiative, overcoming bureaucractic red tape and roadblocks to ultimately implement the city’s first permanent, visible monument for LGBTQ people.
Karen was appointed by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and approved by the Common Council in February 2019. On a historical note, she is the 12th superintendent of the Milwaukee water utility since the position of superintendent was created in 1912 when the superintendent took over water works management from the city engineer.