County offers manager job to state director
Despite substantial public comment for a different candidate, Douglas County commissioners voted 4-1 to offer the county manager’s job to State Director of Administration Patrick Cates.
Cates has been reappointed to his current position by Gov. Steve Sisolak.
In an email to The Record-Courier, Cates said he is interested in the job.
Commissioner Dave Nelson spoke in favor of former State Controller Ron Knecht, who was in the audience on Thursday.
“I don’t know how anyone can looks at these qualifications and not hire this man,” Nelson said.
Douglas County Republican Party Chairman Dick Schwabe was among the residents to spoke in favor of hiring Knecht.
“Ron Knecht is the most qualified candidate,” Schwabe said. “He has a long history of governmental experience.”
Schwabe pointed out that though Knecht lost the state controller’s race this year, roughly two-thirds of Douglas voters supported him in the 2018 election.
“It would be an honor to have a man of his stature employed as county manager,” he said.
Genoa resident and legalized marijuana opponent Jim Hartman took issue with Knecht’s support for Question 2.
“If you go into choosing him, go into it with eyes wide open,” Hartman said.
County employee Shawnyne Garren suggested that the county pick someone who didn’t have too many close relationships.
“You need someone who’s going to lead and set an example and do it with clarity,” she said. “One of the biggest problems is a trust issue and that needs to be considered very carefully. This position will get scrutiny from all directions.”
Resident Jim Slade said the lack of faith in county government is a critical issue.
“In the wake of Tiregate and other issues that have caused a lack of faith in county government, my belief is that we might benefit from an outsider,” Slade said. “It wouldn’t be inadvisable to hire a search firm and get a short list of candidates.”
Commission Chairman Barry Penzel acknowledged Knecht is well educated but that he was more concerned with the next county manager’s leadership abilities.
“I think we have a great leadership challenge and we have a great opportunity to really move forward,” he said. “(Acting County Manager Jenifer) Davidson has hired some great people.”
Penzel said Cates was his second choice after Tom Stone, who resigned the position after a week.
“Cates led a department of 450 people, and that’s a large number,” Penzel said. “I think he will relate to the employees, from the person who does the work to the managers who sometimes think they do the work.”
Commissioner Larry Walsh said he thought Cates was the best man for the job.
Under the motion approved by commissioners, Cates will have to move to Douglas County within a year of taking the job.
Penzel, Walsh and commissioner Wes Rice voted for Cates. After the vote, Nelson changed his vote to support Cates.
Negotiators were instructed not to exceed the mid range of the $168,000-$225,000 salary.
Cates, Stone and Knecht were all among the five candidates considered by commissioners in December. Stone was offered the position in January, but resigned after a week.