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Town board asks Pettitt to resign

by Merrie Leininger

Gardnerville Town Manager Diane Pettitt spent Thursday packing up her office.

The board asked Pettitt to resign after a closed-session meeting April 6 and is already in the process of replacing her.

They began advertising for a full-time manager this week and expect to have someone hired by the end of July.

Pettitt said she was taken by surprise when board members said they thought she wasn’t taking the town in the direction they want it to go.

She said she hasn’t had a chance to think about the future and hasn’t made plans. She has worked for the town for 14 years and has been the manager since about 1994.

Pettitt said she’s an “at will” employee, which means she has no means of appeal the board’s decision.

“I serve at the will of the town board,” she said.

Board President Loren Orr said the board wants a more hands-on manager who can help them take the town in a new direction.

“The board is trying to establish a different style of leadership. We want a manager that’s going to be a little more involved in outside operations like park and street maintenance and have a background maybe from engineering or construction to be able to maintain costs in public works more than we have in the past,” Orr said.

He said Pettitt received a severance package that amounts to paid leave until August.

“She has worked for the town for 14 years and that coincides with finishing the 14 years. It is in recognition of the work she’s done,” Orr said.

He said the board needs more direction from someone who knows how to supervise public works and maintenance projects.

“What you have to understand is the town board is five people who have other jobs and who have had no responsibility in running a town. We rely on the paid employees to run the town and prioritize improvements. We’re looking for a stronger leadership role in that regard,” Orr said.

In the human resources’ job announcement, the town manager’s job responsibilities are described as someone who manages all general office functions, prepares the town’s budget and payroll, oversees public works issues with utility companies and project managers, acts as the town’s liaison to the county and attends county meetings and is the contact person for the town residents.

The minimum requirements are a bachelor’s degree in business, finance, accounting or a related field and five years experience in supervision and management. Town managing experience may be substituted for the education requirement. Knowledge of maintenance, construction or engineering is preferred.

The position pays between $39,062 to $53,248 with benefits.

The application deadline is June 2. For more information, contact Douglas County Human Resources at 782-9876.

n New district engineer. The board has also changed engineers after 16 years with the same principal members of Lumos and Associates.

During the May 4 meeting, the board voted to work with JWA Consulting, which has an office on Kingsbury Grade.

Pettitt said the board was asked to interview new engineering candidates by the state which had questions about how Lumos became the town’s engineer.

Lumos has been handling all phases of the Martin Slough pedestrian/bike path and water quality enhancement project. Questions surfaced from the state during the process of awarding grant money.

“There was a question to how the town came to have Lumos as their engineer,” Pettitt said. “So the state requested an RSP, which is a request to engineers to provide information as to why they would be qualified to do the work of the town.”

Besides Lumos, JWA was the only firm that responded.

Pettitt explained that in 1984, the board hired Vasey engineering consultants, which was sold to Berryman & Henigar. After two years, the principals opted to leave that firm and join Lumos and Associates.

Larry Werner of Lumos and Associates said he and his partners have been involved with the town for so many years, they were surprised to be replaced to quickly.

“I met with each of the board members to understand better. It appeared to be a communication problem. They felt we weren’t filling them in enough. I guess we would have liked to had an opportunity to correct the problem had we known there was a problem,” Werner said.

Lumos has four offices, one each in Carson City, Fallon, Reno and Minden. They still represent Eureka County, Topaz Ranch Estates General Improvement District and the Gardnerville Ranchos General Improvement District.

Werner said the loss will affect the company financially, but they should be able to make it up by taking on private clients in Gardnerville that they avoided while they worked with the board.