Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Looking from the outside, it might be fair to wonder what is going on at City Hall, after the Fernley City Council declined to hire one of the two candidates it interviewed Wednesday afternoon for the vacant city manager position.
But like most issues, a deeper look is needed to understand, and in this case, the council was right to pump the brakes.
After a search led by Mayor Neal McIntyre, with the job posed on primarily on a city administrator website, Fernley received 10 applications for the position that was vacated after the council approved a settlement agreement with Patrick Marsh. Marsh himself had only been hired as city manager in September, replacing Daphne Hooper, who resigned last May to take a position in the president’s office at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Before hiring Marsh, the council originally hired a search firm, Management Partners, but partway through the process, the firm withdrew its services. At that time, Council member Albert Torres said Management Partners withdrew because of interference from then-mayor Roy Edgington and the council.
The council then started the search process over again, and directed Human Resources Director Jackie Moxley to direct the search, which resulted in seven applicants, from which Marsh was chosen.
That makes this the third time in the last 10 months that the City has started a search for a new city manager.
Given all that, it might be fair to wonder what’s going on, to question whether the City is a directionless ship floating unmoored toward an oncoming hurricane.
For sure, the City is directly in the path of an oncoming hurricane, in the form of industrial development that is going to transform what this city is going to be in the next 10, 20, 30 years and more. On top of that, the City is already facing a shortage of housing for the people working jobs that are already here, much less the ones that will be coming.
Fernley may be a relatively small city of a little more than 20,000 residents, but it’s a city facing issues more often aligned with much bigger cities. The Mark IV development of the Victory Logistics District is already well underway, and plans are being proposed for a second Tahoe Reno Industrial Center south of town. If all of that comes to fruition, there will be hundreds of millions of dollars of development over the next couple of decades.
This, in a city that doesn’t have a police department or a hospital, that is several years behind in road repairs and gets next to nothing in Consolidated Tax funding that pays for most municipal services that other cities in Nevada provide.
Wednesday, after interviewing two candidates, George Zoukee, and Dawn Collins (after another candidate, Michael Toombs had previously withdrawn), McIntyre proposed Collins as his appointee.
Collins is the Town Administrator/Clerk of the Town of Palmer Lake, Colo., a town located between Denver and Colorado Springs with a population of 2,654 as of 2021. She came across well in her interview and was clearly the more impressive of the two candidates interviewed.
However, the motion to approve the appointment of Collins failed, with two council members in favor and three opposed.
The biggest concern about Collins was whether, as the administrator of a small town, she is qualified to deal with the bigger issues Fernley is currently faced with and those coming down the pike.
For a candidate like Collins, the job surely seemed like the next logical career step, from a small town to a smallish city. She moved to Palmer Lake after being an administrator in other small towns in Wisconsin.
Collins might have been a perfectly fine selection as Fernley’s new city manager, but that’s precisely the problem the City Council faces. With all of the issues it faces and the development yet to come, Fernley can’t afford maybes.
Fernley needs a city manager tough enough to deal with demanding developers, and who commands respect in the legislature and the Governor’s Office. Someone who can say no when it’s necessary, but do it in a way that isn’t divisive and doesn’t destroy relationships.
Fernley has to get this city manager hire right, because Fernley has to get the next decade-plus right.