Long-time Carson City Senior Planner Juan Guzman will become the city's first open-space manager.
Guzman, who has worked in the city's Community Development Department for 11 years, will be moving to the city's Parks and Recreation Department Jan. 26.
"I've been in love with the program since day one, so this is like a dream come true," Guzman said.
Guzman has been involved in the open space planning effort since it began in 1995 and has been one of the four city staff members who has been advising the open space committee.
"I think it's just incredible, exciting," Guzman said. "It will be great to facilitate areas to be permanently open versuses developed, particularly those areas that our residents have identified. It adds to the ability of residents to be happy and have a better life in our community. This is something I really want to do, and I'm looking forward to it."
A Gardnerville resident and native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Guzman worked as a planner in Douglas County for five years before coming to Carson City. The open space position, at a $61,000 salary, comes with a pay cut for Guzman, but he said the most important thing is that "I will be working in something I enjoy."
"My wife is relieved because she hopes the position will bring less night meetings," Guzman said. "My daughter is less excited, because it comes with a pay cut, and my son thinks it's the right thing to do because he will have a less-stressed dad."
The responsibilities for administering the open space program have been in the hands of Guzman, Parks and Recreation Director Steve Kastens, Community Development Director Walt Sullivan and Parks Planner Vern Krahn. All have other full-time responsibilities and are advisors to multiple city committees. The open space committee members requested a full-time staff members to relieve the four and also to relieve committee members who were also doing open space overtime. Kastens said previously that other city committees suffered because of the time the four spent on open space.
"It should relieve both departments of some of the workload they've had to carry over the last three years," Kastens said.
Sullivan said he and Guzman figured they've spent 1,200 hours working on just open space in the last three years. Sullivan is glad to see a drop in some of those hours, but he said Guzman's leaving is "bittersweet."
"It gives him new opportunities, new things to pursue and a chance to recharge his professional batteries," Sullivan said. "At the same time, we're going to miss him around here. Everyone here will miss his character, his wit, his humor and his crazy ties. It's a good thing he's still working for Carson City."
Kastens said 23 people applied for the position to oversee the entire open space program.
"There were several different reasons Juan came out as the top candidate," Kastens said. "The committee felt Juan was familiar with the community, familiar with the property owners. Also, he is familiar with the program. We're looking forward to him coming on board."
Kastens said he and Sullivan have agreed to share Guzman for a while as the two departments adjust to the transfer. Sullivan said he expects to fill Guzman's position in about a month. Because Guzman has been an integral part of several projects such as the city's noise element to the master plan, he will float between departments during the transition.
The open space program was funded under the Quality of Life initiative in 1996. Question 18 authorized a quarter of 1 percent sales tax increase to fund open space, parks and trails. The tax raises about $1.7 million a year with 40 percent going towards open space, 40 percent towards parks and 20 percent for maintenance of new park projects.
Open space receives about $700,000 a year, and the ballot question did allow for a portion of the money to be used for administrative services.
The open space manager will negotiate with landowners for open space and will be help manage open space among other duties.