Former Las Vegas Deputy City Manager James Nichols was the top choice to take over as the new Douglas County manager.
“That last candidate broke the mold for me,” Commission Chairman Doug Johnson said of Nichols.
“It seems like he’s been around a lot of blocks,” County Commissioner Greg Lynn said. “He gave the best right answers.”
Nichols was the top candidate for all five commissioners followed by Elko City Manager Curtis Calder.
Commissioner Nancy McDermid said Nichols’ sense of humor helped make her decision.
“Bringing a little bit of humor to difficult times is always helpful,” she said.
Nichols was asked how he would defend Douglas County’s continued status as a recipient of sales tax raised in Clark and Washoe counties.
“When I was in Las Vegas, I hated it,” he said. “On this side of the line I can tell you, I’m all in favor of it.”
He said he felt the law could be explained by the rural character of the county.
“You’re just not in the position to compete with the 500-pound gorilla in Southern Nevada,” he said.
When asked about the recent flooding emergency, Nichols said being proactive is important.
“You will never be prepared for every single emergency that will ever happen,” he said. “Best way is to talk to people affected by it. They’re the best ones to know historically what problems we’ve had and those that will eventually manifest themselves again.”
Nichols said he is not a micromanager, though that doesn’t mean he’s giving up control.
He hasn’t had experience with priority based budgeting, but he worked with something similar in Las Vegas.
“We went through a similar process in Las Vegas called a fundamental service review,” he said.
“We couldn’t say we were going to cut 30 percent across the board. We had to look at all kinds of creative ways to address citizens’ needs. We had to cut the budget by $50 million and that wasn’t nearly enough.”
Nichols reassured commissioners if he was named county manager he would stick around.
“I’m not looking to Douglas County as a stepping stone of any kind,” he said. “If hired then it will be the final stop in my career.”
Nichols was a finalist for Carson City manager and was in the running for a city manager’s job in Englewood, Colo., along with candidates Mary Lou Brown and Timothy Hacker. Brown said she was no longer in contention for the Englewood job.
Commissioners stopped asking the question, but Nichols and Hacker were also reportedly out of the running.
Englewood is scheduled to announce its pick on Friday.
Commissioners interviewed all four candidates on Monday in an open format.
County Human Resources Director Norma Santoyo said she would contact the four candidates to let them know the commissioners’ decision.
Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the selection on Sept. 4 after staff and Nichols have had an opportunity to meet and work out the details.