Colleagues and elected officials reacted with sadness Tuesday to the news that Douglas County Manager Dan Holler was leaving the job he's held for nearly 12 years to become city administrator in Grass Valley, Calif.
"I am saddened by the whole thing," said County Commissioner Jim Baushke. "He's been a great county manager and I hate to see him go. We're going to be a long time finding someone who's as good as he is."
Holler, 47, confirmed Tuesday that he tentatively reached agreement with Grass Valley officials as to terms of his employment. With city council approval Friday, Holler could join the city March 24.
"For the people who don't think he's done a good job, they don't know what all is entailed," Baushke said. "I had a feeling because of some of the actions of other board members in the recent past, he might be encouraged to seek employment somewhere else. We'll probably be in a process for the rest of the year trying to replace him."
Holler came under fire from County Commissioner David Brady in December for what Brady said was Holler's inability to delegate and tardiness reacting to budget fluctuations. Commissioners held Holler's salary at $133,078.40 per year. Brady called for a vote of no-confidence, but the other commissioners refused.
"I wish him well," Brady said Tuesday. "This is positive for him."
In Grass Valley, Holler will be filling a vacancy created a year ago when the city council fired City Administrator Gene Haroldsen.
The Grass Valley position was advertised at $135,000-$138,000 annually.
Renea Louie, executive director of the Douglas County Business Council, said Tuesday she'd been privileged to work with Holler for the past 10 years.
"It's an extraordinarily difficult position. It takes a very talented person to handle that job as elegantly and intelligently as Dan has," she said. "He comes with an incredible amount of knowledge and ability. It's going to be a loss for this county."
Louie said it was unfortunate that some people chose to focus on "the 1 percent that was not done to perfection instead of the 99 percent done with elegance and intelligence, and move this community forward in the direction it wanted to go."
In the last few years, Douglas County has wrestled with growth, business, redevelopment, infrastructure and the economy.
"The last five years have been a difficult time in an otherwise close-knit community," Louie said. "Division in our community is difficult at best for anyone to handle, especially a county manager. Our loss is that Dan is leaving. Perhaps that loss to us will awaken the leaders to begin working together for everyone, not just the few who are vocal."
County Commissioner Doug Johnson said he wished Holler success.
"However, we should recognize this kind of change always offers an opportunity for coming together," Johnson said. "Hopefully, with the challenges ahead, the board and the community will benefit and we can move forward together."
Former commissioner Bernie Curtis said Holler's 12 years in the position are testimony to his dedication to Douglas County.
"He's done a terrific job," Curtis said. "Twelve years is a long time in that position. He should feel proud of that. Generally, the tenure of county managers is much shorter. Dan is a great guy, and I wish him well in his endeavors in Grass Valley. I think it will be a good fit. It's a progressive little community and will be a great place for Dan to work."
Former County Manager Robert Hadfield, who has filled in as interim county manager in Douglas and Lyon counties, said the job is well-known for being a mobile position.
"It's not the type of job where you assume someone will stay in the same place for long. The fact he's been there for 12 years as county manager is extraordinary," he said.
"It's not surprising that given the passing of time and convergence of all the issues this county faces that one might look for other opportunities," Hadfield said.
Hadfield said he hoped commissioners would look within to fill the interim, and eventually replace Holler.
"I've always personally believed the reason why you have an assistant county manager is that they are qualified to be the manager," he said. "It's disturbing to me often times that people in the community are passed over in favor of some kind of regional or national search.
"I would like to see them give the opportunity to some people in positions of authority in the county who are in training for having the top job."
County Commissioner Nancy McDermid, elected in 2006 to the board, said Holler had been hampered in recent years by a lack of direction from commissioners.
"It was said of Dan that he was the captain of a ship that did not get to its destination," she said. "But if the owners of the ship don't give the captain an itinerary, he's not going to get there. I don't believe the board gave clear directions. Dan kept the ship afloat and he kept the staff working. Our situation budget-wise is nothing compared to other jurisdictions in our vicinity."
She called Holler's move "Douglas County's loss and Grass Valley's gain."
"Dan has the highest integrity, work ethic and a sense of humor," she said. "Believe me, the next manager is going to have some style of management that is not going to please everybody."
Sheriff Ron Pierini said Holler is diligent and hard-working.
"I was very surpised at the amount of knowlege he had about every department. I would grade him as a very, very intelligent individual who took that job very seriously. He was very dedicated to do the best job he could," Pierini said. "I think Douglas County has been very blessed to have him in that position for more than 10 years. I wish him well in his new career and new location. He has a lot of history for us, and that's going to be hard to replace."