City manager candidate Ritter "responsible, receptive and well-liked"
Sitting in her office in Elko, Nev., Linda Ritter closed her door Monday to take time out for a short interview, a move that is a bit out of the ordinary for her.
Usually, the personable and well-liked city manager keeps her door wide open for city staff, residents, businesses and reporters.
“She works very well with the community,” said Elaine Barkdull, executive director of the Elko Chamber of Commerce. “She’s available, and she’s very good. She’s responsible and receptive.”
Building relationships in her work is important, Ritter said.
“I’m fortunate to have a good relationship with the public, and that’s because I have an open-door policy,” Ritter, 44, told a group of 10 Carson City community members this month while interviewing for the city manager’s position.
Ritter was rated in the top two of the four finalists for the post and will return April 17 to interview with supervisors. Her understanding of state issues and familiarity with Carson were some of the reasons given by panelists for their choice.
Ritter moved to Elko in 1980 with her husband, Skip, a forester and safety officer for the Bureau of Land Management. Their son, William, 22, lives in Idaho with his wife, who is expecting their first child in July. Their daughter, Stephanie, 20, is a student at the University of Reno, Nevada.
Ritter grew up working in her family business, Industrial Wood Products, in Reno. She graduated in 1980 from UNR with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with an emphasis on economics.
After moving to Elko and having children, she took a job in 1983 as chief deputy treasurer for Elko County, staying five years.
“From there, I became quite interested in the public process and how taxes work,” Ritter said.
She became administrative assistant for the county, responsible for preparation and administration of its budget. In 1989, she became comptroller, or chief financial officer, overseeing all financial operations for two years.
She spent six years as assistant county manager then left to become city manager and chief financial officer in Elko in early 1997.
In her work there in the last five years, Ritter has dealt with the loss of retail business and a shift in economic landscape with a declining mining industry. She has been involved in regional discussions with surrounding governments, much like what Carson has participated in with Douglas County recently.
Like Carson, declining sales tax revenue in Elko has city officials scrambling to figure out how to cut spending and staffing costs this year.
This year, sales tax revenue income is nearly $500,000 less than five years ago, Ritter said. Sales tax revenue makes up 50 percent of the city’s $10 million-plus budget.
The city has made up for the loss without heavy staff cuts, but employs 30 fewer people than six years ago. So far, property tax hikes have been avoided.
Ritter has worked closely with local businesses, Barkdull said, supporting a “Shop Local” campaign. The city is made up of an even mix of mom-and-pop stores and chain outlets. “She believes in it, and she understands the value of shopping locally,” Barkdull said.
“It’s similar to Carson City, just a larger version,” she said of the city with an estimated 35,000 residents. Ritter has helped fund studies for local businesses and believes strongly in regionalism.
She is on the Committee on Local Government Tax and Finance and the Governor’s Task Force on Tax Policy in Nevada. Elko, like Carson, exports sales tax revenue dollars to smaller counties in the state. Since the 1980s, Ritter has participated at the state level to develop the current state tax distribution system.
Ritter spent the past few weeks studying Carson’s economy and master plans and has ideas for its future. Regionalism, finding ways to become less reliant on sales tax from retail and auto sales, and looking to strengths in industry and manufacturing are some of the ideas she would bring to the table, she said.
Carson “has one of the most diverse economies in the state,” she said. She said she would look into opportunities to work with Douglas County to combine retail and services to benefit both areas.
“Those kind of discussions are my passion,” Ritter said.
She earns $83,666 as city manager of Elko. Former Carson City manager John Berkich’s base pay was $99,000 when he left to become the assistant manager of Washoe County.