The first item on County Manager Dan Holler's "to-do" list before he departs for Grass Valley, Calif., is to confirm he has been hired as city administrator.
City council members are to offer Holler the $135,000-plus position today. And Holler plans to accept.
He expects to submit his resignation to Douglas County commissioners Feb. 21, ending tenure as the senior county manager in Nevada.
Holler, 47, became Douglas County manager in 1996.
Despite a recent attempt by County Commissioner Dave Brady to fire him, Holler said he loved his job, and would have stayed if the California offer hadn't been made.
"I'm leaving by my choice, on my terms, at the top of my activity, which is nice," he said during an interview Wednesday. "I'd rather have people say, 'Why are you leaving?' instead of 'Why are you staying?'"
Holler said he and his wife Claudia, a substitute teacher, began looking at open positions about eight months ago.
"I want her to have a real comfort with it, too," he said. "We've always had the attitude of 'Where do we want to live? versus the job. We both had the feeling that maybe it's time for a change."
Holler said they had vacationed in Grass Valley which is about 21Ú2 hours from Minden, north of Interstate 80 in California's Gold Country.
The vacancy came up a year ago when City Administrator Gene Haroldsen was fired after 15 years, a development Holler said doesn't worry him.
The position has been filled on an interim basis by Jeff Foltz, retired Yuba City, Calif., manager.
Holler said most top administrators don't last longer than five years.
"It's the nature of the job, it's the politics of the job," he said. "If this hadn't come up, I would have been happy to stay here."
Holler plans to start work in Grass Valley on March 24.
"A city administrator does a lot of things a county manager does," Holler said. "I will be overseeing the budget, personnel, policy administration, and lot of involvement with the community."
He said Grass Valley is a full-service city with its own police force, fire department, water department, streets and parks. Unlike Douglas County with elected department heads, in Grass Valley Holler will oversee those employees as well.
He was selected from 50 applicants.
He said Grass Valley has a vibrant downtown, rich historical background, and thriving arts community.
"We felt good about the community," he said.
Holler is staying to see the Douglas County budget through to completion.
"The timing is right. This is not an 'I'm out of here' type of issue," he said. "The Legislature isn't in session, we're not in the middle of employee negotiations. There are no major development projects on the horizon."
Holler credited Douglas County employees for his longevity.
"I was extremely fortunate to have the level of support I did from my department heads," he said. "At the end of the day, I could leave work, and know they made me look good.
"The way they stepped up in the 1997 flood, I've been impressed since then. It's one reason for staying so long."
Holler said he has an ability to work toward consensus and doesn't go out of his way to ruffle feathers.
"You can have a very hard discussion on an issue in your office, but you come out with a united front. You don't create dissension. You don't have to have an authoritarian manner to get things done," he said.
He wanted to dispel rumors that he had been asked to go.
"Commissioner Brady has been very gracious. We had a good discussion. That I somehow was 'forced out' is absolutely not the issue. I've been very comfortable with my tenure. If I had not been looking around, there would be no problem with me staying.
"What gets overlooked is that the four other commissioners were happy with my work," he said.
With 20 years in the public sector, Holler said he's developed a process to deal with the criticism that, at times, is leveled at him and his staff at county commission meetings and through newspaper letters to the editor.
"People have a right to go do that," he said. "If the criticism is something that I need to look at, I follow up. If it's not, I don't worry about it."
Grass Valley is facing some of the same issues as Douglas County, Holler said.
"The area has growth pressures, the budget is fairly stable," he said.
He and his wife wandered the downtown area during a recent visit to Grass Valley, and were warmly welcomed, Holler said.
"There was a very positive sense of, 'We are Grass Valley,' this hometown pride. Even if there is disagreement, you get the sense of 'We want the best for our community,'" Holler said.
It's an attitude he experienced in Douglas County.
"Everyone has their heart in the right place," he said. "They want to see a special place stay a special place."
DOUGLAS COUNTY VERSUS GRASS VALLEY
State: Nevada State: California
Population: 52,386 Population: 13,000
Budget: $155 million Budget: $15 million
Employees: 700 (including towns) Employees: 122
County commission City council
Salary: $133,078 Salary: $135,000-$138,000