RENO - Washoe County Sheriff Richard Kirkland will resign to become head of the state Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety effective May 31.
Gov. Kenny Guinn said Kirkland has made the Washoe County Sheriff's Department "one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the country." He praised his organizational and management skills as well as his leadership.
Kirkland, 54, will earn $92,914 as head of DMV. His base salary as sheriff is $78,000 a year.
Kirkland has been sheriff since 1995 and is in his second term.
Before that, he worked more than 20 years with the Reno Police Department, rising through the ranks from patrolman to chief.
His name has been raised more than once as a possible candidate for political office ranging from the Legislature to U.S. Congress. But he never publicly acknowledged an interest in those positions.
"Gov. Guinn has given me a tremendous opportunity to make a difference for our entire state and I'm looking forward to creating a Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety that will be a source of pride for all Nevadans," said Kirkland.
He and Guinn said Kirkland has already begun studying DMV and working on plans to improve service both in the short term and long range.
"It is my goal to work with the Guinn administration to improve customer service rapidly and dramatically," he said.
In an open letter to employees, Kirkland said DMV's well-publicized troubles will be his first challenge but that he intends to review all the public safety agencies including Nevada Highway Patrol, Nevada Division of Investigation and the Parole and Probation Department.
"Gov. Guinn wants us to look into whether or not the state of Nevada should have a consolidated public safety agency that should be separated from the DMV and whether or not the state prison system should be included," he said.
"If consolidation of some agencies can occur with a clear improvement in service and in a more efficient manner than already exists, with appropriate checks and balances in place, then it only makes sense to do so," Kirkland said.
He said he will be making recommendations on the organizational structure, mission, staffing and functions of all the agencies in DMV and Public Safety.
Kirkland will replace John Drew, who has been acting director of the department for a year.