Leaving behind ‘heaven on earth’
April 2, 2014
Steve Mokrohisky is confident he is leaving Douglas County in good hands.
The county manager's final day is April 11.
County commissioners were to consider Thursday approval of an interim contract with Larry Werner, retired Carson City manager, Douglas County resident, and former county public works director.
"Larry will be a calming and stable presence," Mokrohisky said in an interview Wednesday. "He's a good person with a high degree of integrity. His presence will allow staff and the board continuity to continue the good work they're doing."
Having Werner available falls in line with Mokrohisky's belief that Douglas County is blessed with the right people in the right jobs.
"We have an unusually high level of talent for the size of this community," he said.
According to the contract, Werner would be paid $12,000 a month for six months while commissioners conduct a nationwide search for Mokrohisky's replacement.
"The task of the board will be to find a great leader to come in and continue the strong direction of the county," he said.
At the end of February, Mokrohisky, 36, announced he had accepted a position as county administrator in Lane County, Ore., after almost three years as Douglas County manager.
Mokrohisky said he is proud of how Douglas County has embraced the culture of transparency, collaboration and private-public partnerships.
"Building public trust takes openness and transparency," he said.
He cited the construction of the Douglas County Community & Senior Center, progress at the Minden-Tahoe Airport, development of the Tahoe regional development plan, consolidation of utility districts, and increased financial commitment to road maintenance as steps the county has taken to build that trust.
"It's like heaven on earth here," he said. "I love the idea of 'creating a community to match our scenery.' We have a great task ahead. Now we have created the visions and have to move forward into implementation."
Projects in development or recently completed by the Hellwinkel family, Christopher Bently, the Park family and Mike Pegram of Carson Valley Inn are indicators of the "snowball effect" of what's in play in Douglas County.
"We've understood that you have to collaborate to find a common ground, common interests. We did a lot of listening," he said.
Mokrohisky said he is excited by the challenges in Lane County, Ore. The community is more than five times the size of Douglas County at 4,100 square miles with a population of more than 355,000 compared to Douglas County's population of 47,000.
The former Lane County administrator was fired for allegedly increasing her take-home pay by cashing in unused sick leave and vacation time in violation of county policy.
Mokrohisky is Lane County's third administrator in six years.
"I am really excited by the challenge," he said. "If I was going to leave Douglas County, I wanted to go someplace that really needs help. I want to be part of the solution. They have good elected leadership, and staff in place. They need someone to come in and help with a new start."
His first day in Oregon is May 5.
Mokrohisky said he's leaving the Douglas County organization on a high note.
"The leadership team is outstanding. If I've done my job well, things will continue to grow. I feel like it is good timing. We're in a great place. We had some difficult financial challenges, but we've balanced the budget through priority-based budgeting. We transformed the airport, we walked the talk," he said.
Mokrohisky said he would love to come back to Douglas County "as a quiet fly on the wall" for the opening of the community center in a year.
"This has been talked about since 1969. This is a 100-year building. It will rival any facility in the West. It's on time and under budget. It creates an attraction for the whole family," he said.
Mokrohisky came to Douglas County as assistant county manager in 2009 from Wisconsin with his wife, Liz, and their daughter Mary, who was 3 months old. Mary is now 5, and has little sister, Molly, 2.
In the five years the family has lived here, Mokrohisky said he didn't expect to plant such deep roots.
Liz Mokrohisky is a nurse practitioner, and is leaving behind a fan base of patients.
"My wife is very invested here," he said. "As this is her last week, too, there were some tears shed.
"We both feel very blessed we have careers where we can serve people and communities. For us, it was somewhat unexpected that we feel we've been so valued by the community. I've thought a lot about this. I feel like we take part of Douglas County with us and leave a part of ourselves here."