Lyon manager hopefuls give their best in public interviews
Appeal Staff Writer
Four public administrators – two of them Nevadans – made their pitch to the Lyon County Commissioners to become the next county manager.
Jerry McKnight, of Fallon; Lionel “Lon” Bushey, of Wisconsin; Ron Stock, of Florida; and Jim Park, of Gardnerville; are seeking the job left open by the Feb. 15 firing of Donna Kristaponis.
They were interviewed in public at the commission meeting Thursday.
Stock, who was suspended April 23 from his job as city manager for Leesburg, Fla., got a chance to explain his situation.
“We went from a 4-1 commission that supported growth to a 3-2 commission that is no-growth,” he said. “I attempted to establish a working relationship with the new commission, and I was unable to do that. As a result, they are taking the first step to remove me from my office.”
He said he is on paid leave and negotiating terms of his resignation.
“This is a difficult time for me in that the personal effect of what’s going on, but I can take comfort in the fact that I am living my values,” he said. “It does not reflect adversely on my skills and ability or on how good a job I performed for the city. Or how good a job I can perform for you.”
Stock encouraged the commissioners to contact Leesburg’s mayor who, he said, called him the best city manager he ever had.
Stock said Leesburg had a budget of $175 million and 590 employees and was comparable to Lyon in terms of growth.
“The community has experienced significant growth,” he said. “Like Lyon County, Lake County is one of the top 10 fastest-growing counties in the nation.”
McKnight stressed his native roots and his experience as the Nye County manager for three years. He now serves as Washoe County’s finance and operations manager for the Department of Water Resources.
“When I was in Nye, Pahrump was experiencing rapid growth,” he said. “We were involved in working with developers and on development agreements and evaluating utility plans so that if a development does go forward, it has been looked at in all aspects.”
McKnight was born in Las Vegas and raised in Fallon. As Nye County manager, he said, he dealt not only with developers and surrounding counties, but also with the federal government dealing with the Yucca Mountain project.
McKnight said he works with a $345 million budget in Washoe County and stressed the importance of building a team among department heads.
He said development needs to be more than subdivisions.
“We can bring all the homes we want into town, but we have to have business here, we have to have commercial and industry,” he said. “As young people grow, they should have an opportunity to have jobs in the area so not everyone has to move to another location.”
Bushey described the area he serves as city administrator, Eagle River, Wis., as a tourist area, with more than 3,000 lakes that has suffered from what he called “growth by default.”
He said the area used to be a place for weekend retreats and summer vacations until “baby boomers all decided they want to retire on the lake.”
Now, he said, the infrastructure that handled the weekenders was straining under year-round use.
Bushey said that when development issues arise he believes in working with all parties, then going to the commissioners and “laying all the cards on the table.”
He admitted to not having all the answers to land-use planning and water issues, and suggested that legislation could be a solution to regional problems involving water and growth.
“In overall concept, I believe in smart growth and master planning,” he said.
The budgets he has to deal with as city administrator, also in charge of utilities, were a $3.5 million city budget, a $4 million operations maintenance budget a $10 million capital budget.
Jim Park, Gardnerville town manager, stressed his enthusiasm and creativity to the commissioners.
He said he would work hard to bring factions together when disputes over developments occurred and, like the other candidates, said he would keep in mind it was the commissioners that make the final decisions.
He said his current job was good training for Lyon County, in that Gardnerville has tripled its size in 61Ú2 years. He estimated his budget at $1.2 million.
“The planning department is relatively small, but if you can do it in a small department you can do it in a larger one,” he said.
He said his work in Douglas County was diverse, and he thought he would find the same thing in Lyon.
“We get to do a little bit of everything and it’s a blast, quite frankly,” he said. “I feel so fortunate to work in so many different areas and do so many different things.”
In planning, Park, like the others, stressed the importance of a master plan and holding visioning meetings to get comments from the community to define what they want.
“Once you define that and commit it to paper, it’s a no-brainer,” he said. “Everything you do is tied to what the community expects.”
The commissioners could make a decision at their May 17 meeting, or they could continue to search for more candidates, said Steve Englert, Lyon County human resources director.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.
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