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New TRPA chief defines goals

Greg Crofton

STATELINE – John Singlaub has a great view of Lake Tahoe from his new office. It will serve as a daily reminder of what he has been hired to protect.

He’ll need the window to take his mind off the stress of running an agency charged with keeping Tahoe’s water clear and blue. And he’ll need it after he and his staff work tirelessly on projects only to watch a slew of lawsuits be filed against them.

Singlaub, 52, spoke Friday about his first week as executive director the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. He spent most of the week with his 70 or so employees, learning what they do, what they are proud of or frustrated with, and what they think he can do to make their jobs better.

Singlaub said the talks opened his eyes to just how difficult it is to regulate building in the basin and to how much work is going to be required to produce the agency’s 20-year Regional Plan by 2007.

Singlaub says that’s what the TRPA Governing Board hired him hired to do – figure out better methods for the TRPA to accomplish its main goal: create a balance between the basin’s environment and economy.

“The consensus I hear from the board is that they see me as an agent of change,” Singlaub said. “They want to see some changes (and) not have it be business as usual.”

The staff has so many No. 1 priorities it doesn’t know which to work on first, Singlaub said. He will create a common vision that clarifies the agency’s top priority: To do what’s best for the lake by reaching what he called “radical middle” ground.

Right now the agency’s top priority is to find ways to facilitate the thinning of the basin’s overgrown forests. If a catastrophic wildlife swept through, soil and ash dumped in the lake could negate years of environmental improvement, Singlaub said.

Singlaub and his wife, Katy, Washoe County’s manager, have kept their home in Reno so their daughter can finish high school. But, as he promised as a candidate for the job, Singlaub will live in the basin, at Skyland, so he will be subject to TRPA regulations.

Singlaub was district manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s Carson City Field Office, managing more than 5 million acres, which involved issues such as mining, grazing and water rights.

A key to being a good land manager is building relationships, Singlaub said. So he plans to spend this week reaching out to other agencies in the basin. He also aims to make TRPA have more of a presence in the community.

“To tell you how many hours you spend in meetings – it’s unbelievable,” said Jim Baetge, executive director at the TRPA from 1994 to 2000.

“I don’t know if (work) ever ended. Home life is difficult in order for you do to what you have to do. You’re the first one in and the last to leave, and you do it on the weekend. It’s a continuous thing,” Baetge said.

Singlaub said the ends are what will keep him going.

“Being able to see the results of your efforts,” he said of his goals. “To continue to see improvement in lake clarity and scenic quality in the communities around the lake. That’s a real legacy.”

Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com.