Erquiaga reflects on his years as a commissioner
Collaboration, good staff at center of Commission’s successes
As he leaves the Churchill County Board of Commissioners, Carl Erquiaga notes that it was a well-planned plot by family and friends that saw him appointed to the board in the first place back in 2008.
“I had no intention of ever running for office, but when (former Commissioner) Lynn Pearce got caught up in the new term limits regulations, his wife and mine started joking that I should run,” Erquiaga said.
“Lynn and my brother Dale convinced me to run and, after consulting with my family about the time commitment away from the family farming business, I decided to try for it,” he said. “After all, how much time could it really require? The Commission only meets twice a month, right? Yeah right!”
Turns out the County Republican Central Committee agreed with those around Erquiaga and placed him on the ballot following an interview process among several other candidates.
Erquiaga shadowed Pearce in his final months in office to “get my feet wet and know what to expect” before being elected in 2008.
Erquiaga points to the good relationships he’s had with current and former commissioners including Pete Olsen, Bus Scharmann, Norm Frey, Pearce and Gwen Washburn, for the successes of the board over the last 12 years.
The construction of several new facilities in the county are at the top of Erquiaga’s list of proudest accomplishments: the Juvenile Probation Office, the Law Enforcement Center and the Pennington Life Center all occurred while he served on the board.
“We had good collaboration with the city of Fallon on building the City-County Gym and the county played a smaller part in funding of the new Youth Center on Venturacci Lane,” he said. The county was able to also move the District Attorney’s Office from South Maine Street to a newer, fresher building on North Ada Street in the last decade and begin plans to build a Civic Center at the fairgrounds. Erquiaga is also excited about construction of a new building to house CC Communications on whose board he is currently chairman.
“It seemed to me that this community had a need for all of these facilities and we did a lot without having to go into deep debt thanks to the Pennington Foundation stepping up for the Life Center and the Youth Center,” Erquiaga said.
Erquiaga said early on in his tenure on the board, he was able to visit the various county departments and hear what employees were saying. He then worked to help them resolve any issues because he believes the employees are the backbone of any organization.
That included conducting an initial salary study at the road department which led to a county-wide salary study to more evenly align employee salaries by comparing them with neighboring counties and private industry. In many cases, that meant a salary raise for staff.
While Erquiaga served as commissioner, the board had to select a road supervisor, two county managers, a comptroller and a phone company general manager. “I have never been in a position to hire staff so this was a challenge for me. You don’t get a do-over on that stuff,” said Erquiaga, who believes they did well in all those hires.
He also pointed to the phone calls he received from residents asking for help or directions to this or that issue and said he was always happy to point them in the right direction.
“You can’t always fix what those people are calling about, but you can listen. I took all of those calls and contacts seriously,” he said.
THANKS AND APPRECIATION
Erquiaga said county staff and departments were very welcoming to him and he is very appreciative of their effort to guide him.
“Every department head helped me out or offered to do so,” he pointed out.
He added that the county, as well as the phone company, currently have really good staff who are “top notch.”
“I quickly found that it is very easy to think you know exactly what to do when one is on the outside as a private citizen, but until one is in the position and learns the processes we have to follow, they don’t realize that everything we do, we do for a certain reason. We can’t do one thing and not have it affect other areas of the county and have an impact,” he explained.
COMMITTEES AND BOARDS
Erquiaga’s role as a commissioner allowed him to serve on several committees and boards including CC Communications, Carson Water Subconservancy District, the Cemetery Board, Fire Board, Debt Management Commission, Highway Commission, Lahontan Conservation District, Library Board, Liquor Board, Audit Committee, Museum Board and the Regional Transportation Commission.
“Not much of a time commitment, eh?” Erquiaga quipped. “There are some really great people on these boards who are smart, experienced and do a great job for the community.”
As he steps away from the Board of Commissioners, Erquiaga plans to continue working from home as he has since 2015, serving as Nevada Field Representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. He strongly supports that organization’s goal of guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.
“Hunting is a passion for me,” Erquiaga said. “I always made a point to share my various hunting escapades during our Commissioner reports because I feel it is part of our custom and culture here in Nevada and I wanted the record to reflect that.”
He will also continue his volunteer work with Nevada Bighorns Unlimited, spend time with his family and enjoy the outdoors.
Anne McMillin is public information officer with Churchill County.