Lyon manager gets mostly good grades

Lyon County manager Dennis Stark received a mostly positive performance evaluation and a 4 percent salary increase a year and a day after he was first hired.

Commissioners Bob Milz, LeRoy Goodman and Phyllis Hunewill all praised Stark.

Commissioner Larry McPherson and residents Betty Retzer and Noni Highley were critical.

"It's a difficult county to administer, but he jumped in head first, took on tough issues and overall he has done a very good job," Goodman said.

Goodman proposed the 4 percent salary increase even though it was less than the other county officials rate because of the bad economy.

Milz said he thinks Stark has done a fine job.

"I think you've handled situations that have come up and have kept us well informed with no surprises," he said.

Hunewill called Stark a calming force who works very well with the staff.

"I appreciate your open-door office because I had not enjoyed that in the past," she said. "I think you have listened to my concerns and tried to address them and find a solution."

But McPherson, admitting he was in the minority, was more critical of Stark's job performance.

He said he thinks the protocol manual, which has been tabled, gave the county manager too much power, and that residents have complained Stark has not responded to their phone calls and e-mails.

"I would like to see you make more of an effort to get out with the people or communicate with the people," he said. "Overall, I think you are doing a commendable job. I know it's thankless and you don't get all the cooperation you need."

Stark pledged to work with McPherson to try to address the issues he raised, but admitted that he doesn't like using the phone or e-mail, he would rather talk to people in person.

"It's not an excuse, but I do try to work through every call and e-mail," he said.

Betty Retzer of Stagecoach said Stark didn't return her phone calls and when she spoke with him at a Stagecoach Advisory Council meeting, he said he never got her message and then suggested she call his staff.

"Our county manager does not have a rapport with or interest in or concern for county residents," she said.

She read a long letter from Least Resistance Training Concepts president and Stagecoach resident Willis Lamm that criticized the protocol manual Stark pushed.

Lamm wrote that he felt some aspects of the manual would cause information to be filtered by the county manager before it got to the commissioners.

"It is OK to organize and clarify the chain of command, but some of language seems to an attempt to regulate communications," Lamm wrote. "It is not OK for a nonelected official to dictate to the commission on how to speak at meetings"

Stark responded by saying the protocol manual was created by staff, approved by the leadership team and put before the commissioners, where it was tabled. He said the commissioners still had the ultimate power to vote something they don't like down.

"I am not saying I can please everyone in a county of 56,000 people," he said. "You get one or two complaints."

Former animal control officer Noni Highley partially blamed Stark for her being terminated from her job, after a dispute with her supervisor over the proper care of an injured wild horse.

"He said the county commission was not to know what is going on in public," she said.

She said Stark told her that her contacting her county commissioner was the reason she was terminated.

When discussing Stark's proposed salary increase, Human Resources Director Steve Englert told the commission they could award anything from 0 percent to 8 percent. The commission voted 4-1 for the 4 percent increase, with Hunewill opposed because she wanted a 5 percent hike.

Stark said it had been an exciting year and he looked forward to goal and visioning sessions in January and February.

"This year was a lot of settling down the staff, creating a calming atmosphere and hopefully we made a difference," he said. "We've tried to address issues as situations arose."

- Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-7351.

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