Prison Director Bob Bayer has been replaced by Lovelock Warden Jackie Crawford.
Crawford, Nevada's second female warden, will become the first woman to head the state prison system. The job pays $92,914 a year.
Bayer has been director of Nevada's prison system since January 1995. He was acting director for 9 months before that and has worked for the prison system since 1975. Because prison officers are in the same category for retirement as other law enforcement, he can retire immediately even though only 51.
Both described the transfer of command as amicable, with Crawford saying she intends to rely on Bayer's knowledge of the system and expertise and Bayer making himself available for any questions or assistance she may require.
"I respect Bob Bayer totally," she said, pointing out that he hired her in 1996 and put her in charge at Lovelock in 1997.
She said she brought "a balanced approach with programs and security" to Lovelock and intends to expand that concept to the system of prisons.
But she made it clear she comes from a long correctional background: "It won't be warm and fuzzy."
Gov. Kenny Guinn said Crawford has received national recognition for developing and implementing prison literacy programs and in planning and designing correctional facilities. She will be succeeded by Associate Warden Craig Farwell at the Lovelock Correctional Center.
"I'm real pleased that Jackie Crawford is following me because she's very skilled," said Bayer. "I hired her as a warden. She knows corrections backwards and forwards."
Bayer said his first goal will be to finish the doctoral degree he put on hold when he was named prison director five years ago. He must complete his dissertation to get a Ph.D in public administration and policy.
Bayer said after he completes his dissertation, he would like to work on developing a "very good criminal justice program" for the state. He said he is interested in teaching.
Crawford said she has to concentrate on opening High Desert prison in Southern Nevada, which is planned to eventually hold 3,000 inmates. The first prisoners are supposed to arrive there in September.
She said those additional beds will give the system the flexibility to move some inmates around and make improvements at other facilities as well.
In addition to Crawford, Guinn announced the selection of Rich Wyett as chairman of the state Parole Board. He replaces Don Denison, who is retiring July 7.
Wyett is the former head of the state Parole and Probation Department.