Carson City’s Board of Supervisors did itself a favor when it established the process to choose the next city manager. The governing board also did whoever becomes the next city manager a huge favor. Most of all, it gives the entire community — supporters and detractors alike — credit for intelligence.
Only the uninformed could fail to see if Deputy City Manager Marena Works wants to be permanent city manager, she was and is well-positioned. But there are no guarantees either that she would get it or signals from her to date that she wants it. No overt signals have surfaced yet from any other top city staff people either. But one or more may be out there.
Signaling that Works or any others among top city staff is on a fast track by being interim could have proven a flagrant way, inadvertent or not, of telling outsiders who want the post an exercise in futility awaits.
By voting 4-1 to say anyone assuming the interim job won’t be considered for permanent selection, the board preserved integrity and wisely projected that members have open minds. Supervisor Karen Abowd, the negative vote on the motion banning an interim manager from securing the mantle of “maybe next,” let it be known she was aware of the stakes. She said she was torn.
Abowd’s no vote wasn’t wrong; it just would have been problematic had it helped craft a majority.
The board now seems objective and awaits a full look at all candidates rather than giving anyone a leg up. No one can be interim and in the candidate pool.
Works was chief nurse at the Carson City School District for six years during a period when both Mayor Robert Crowell and Supervisor John McKenna were on the school board. She worked for city government as the director of Health and Human Services from 2005 until this year, then became outgoing City Manager Larry Werner’s deputy. So the board knows her. Nothing untoward; all facts.
Being known can be a blessing or baggage. If she wants the job, she will have to carry any baggage past competitors to get it. Ditto for any other inside candidate who now sidesteps being interim and steps up. If someone from staff gets the top spot, the no-test drive for an interim means it won’t look like a coronation.
Now for the most important reason this process makes sense. More than a few in Carson City think it is run by insiders. They’re both right and wrong.
They’re right because every place is run by insiders, and insiders often take comfort in what they know. They’re wrong in that the mayor and supervisors demonstrated even if some of them do have a dog in this hunt — say any dog currently on staff — there also is still plenty of hunt among the bird dogs on the board.
John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at email@example.com.