Grass Valley's incoming city administrator Dan Holler couldn't have picked a more challenging time of year to transition to a new job - the middle of the government budget season.
Next month, Holler, 47, the Douglas County manager, will fill the permanent slot at City Hall left vacant by Gene Haroldsen after a nearly yearlong search. Holler is slated to start March 24, just as he and city department heads anticipate preparing a budget.
"It depends a lot on what Uncle Arnold decides to do," Holler said, referring to Gov. Schwarzenegger.
The state's multibillion dollar budget deficit could translate to less available funds for local governments, including Grass Valley, Holler said.
The city already has its own challenges, including an ongoing lawsuit with Newmont Mining Corp., infrastructure concerns and the debate about whether to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine, Holler said.
"Welcome to the West," he said, noting that many cities throughout rural California face the same challenges: attracting higher-paying jobs, dealing with transportation issues and managing growth.
Holler said he wasn't looking to leave Douglas County when the Grass Valley position opened up last February, but he was starting to think about considering a new professional challenge.
"A lot of the same issues kept coming up over and over again," Holler said, adding he was starting to feel stagnant in his position. His last day with Douglas County is March 21 " only three days before he starts work here.
Despite a difference in "style" with one commissioner, the majority of them supported him and wanted him to stay, Holler said.
"We looked at where do you want to live versus where do you have a job," Holler said. He and his wife, Claudia, always enjoyed visiting "Gold Country," he said.
Late last year, when Holler learned Grass Valley hadn't filled the city administrator post and new candidates still were being considered, he decided to seek the position.
"Coming to a smaller community was attractive, because there isn't as broad a range of issues," he said. In their spare time, Holler and his wife are outdoor enthusiasts in the Sierra, enjoying skiing, hiking and golfing, among other pastimes.
Last weekend Holler and his wife were looking for a home within Grass Valley's city limits, a location he considers essential as city administrator.
Though admitting he needs to get up to speed on several local issues when he starts work, Holler offered thoughts on a range of pressing concerns:
- Dorsey Drive interchange: "If you can get state and federal funds for that " great," Holler said. But many times a local funding mechanism helps leverage more state and federal funds. "I'm assuming it's going to be the same here," he added.
Holler said transportation planning has to be all-inclusive. "I think you've got a lot of road repair work to do," he said.
- Idaho-Maryland Mine reopening: "That's going to be controversial anywhere," Holler said describing the plan to reopen the mine as an "interesting project."
- Development and growth plans: It's important to not be afraid to say no when a development that doesn't meet a general plan or zoning requirements is proposed, Holler said.
To the general public, it might look like every proposed project gets approved, but some are halted before they get to a commission level, he said.
"(In Douglas County,) we said no to a juice manufacturer because we didn't have the water to accommodate them," Holler said. "It was nice company, but we had a compliance issue."
On the other hand, business growth occurred under Holler's watch. He oversaw a Starbucks beans storage facility being built in Minden, the Douglas County seat, during his tenure, he said. The facility employs more than 200 people, he said.
- Conflict of interest philosophy: In many instances, it comes down to a perception issue, Holler said.
"You have to ask yourself, would somebody else take a look at that and question it," Holler said. Even if it's deemed legal, it would be better to disclose a perceived conflict, he said.
Holler said he doesn't plan on joining any local service clubs.
"Generally, I've said no to all of them," Holler said. He emphasized, however, he likes what the service clubs do, but he doesn't want to look like he has a favorite.
"I will come to speak to any of (the service clubs) when they want to know about an issue," Holler said.
Also, the city administrator job will be enough of a time commitment away from home, he added.