New public safety director wants department to show results | NevadaAppeal.com
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New public safety director wants department to show results

On paper, Nevada’s new public safety director is a scary dude: a Harley-riding, ex-Navy pilot who ran the FBI’s organized-crime unit in Las Vegas.

But George Togliatti has been anything but since Gov. Kenny Guinn appointed him Jan. 8. He’s spent the past three months meeting with his own division heads, other state officials, local law enforcement and civic groups. He even joined the Carson Area Chamber of Commerce.

His message: Agencies need to work together to give the public “value” for its money.

Togliatti, 58, said task one is getting the dozen or so divisions and 1,500 employees that make up Public Safety working together – heading off problems instead of reacting to them, and showing both the public and lawmakers results.

“We have to look at ourselves – in essence, reinvent ourselves, take more control over what we’re doing. We need to take a more proactive approach.”

Togliatti said that means breaking down the barriers between his own divisions so they’re using resources better, cooperating, and supporting each other.

“Our programs have to have value, and you have to show that value to the communities,” he said. “People want to support government, but they want to know what you’re doing. They want to see value.”

Togliatti said it’s also the way to convince the governor and Legislature to help out where it’s needed – by showing them what will get done.

He said one example may be using the state Division of Investigations to look at diversion of legal pharmaceuticals into the illegal drug market.

“I foresee the investigations division being a detective bureau within the department for each division,” he said.

He said bringing all those divisions in Public Safety closer together will also help make the place more attractive for career development, by not only allowing but encouraging employees to move from one division to another to find jobs they enjoy and are good at.

“If someone has a burning desire to be an arson investigator, but started as a trooper, we have to make that opportunity,” he said.

That way, he said, even if they can’t match pay scales at some other state agencies, they can at least ensure Public Safety is a good place to work.

Togliatti practices what he preaches when it comes to working with all sides toward a goal. In his office, for example, are pictures of him over the years alongside people with points of view as diverse as Hillary Clinton and Oliver North.

Especially since the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, the importance of working with local and other outside agencies has grown. That’s why he’s spending a lot of time meeting with local emergency services and law enforcement officials. After working in Las Vegas beginning in 1979 and heading, among other efforts, the FBI organized=crime and drug enforcement units, he has a solid knowledge of Southern Nevada, its agencies and issues. He’s still working on the north, he said.

Immediately after Thursday’s interview, Togliatti left for a meeting with Carson City Fire Department officials to do just that.

“Good government is working together,” he said. “I’ve got to build bridges to these folks.”

He said it’s especially important his department help rural counties that have far fewer resources than Clark and Washoe.

“Without us, the rurals are toast,” he said.

Togliatti grew up in New York and graduated from New York City College before becoming a Navy pilot in Vietnam. After his discharge, he was working toward a master’s degree in business administration in San Francisco when the FBI signed him up. He finished a 23-year career with the FBI in Las Vegas, then worked for both Harrah’s Entertainment and Caesars World as a vice president of security, government and community relations. The Harley-Davidson motorcycle is Togliatti’s way of relaxing.

He said he has “a lot of ideas – some of them good,” but that he’s counting on his employees at Public Safety to help sort out the ones that aren’t so good. He said he needs them to participate, not feel as though they have to shut up and just follow orders.

“At this point in my career, I don’t need the job. I don’t need the title. I want to accomplish something.

“But, at the end of the day, they’re the ones who are going to accomplish something, not me.”

Contact Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.