By Mark Waite
Nye County Commissioner Joni Eastley, who leaves office due to term limits at the end of the year, has applied to be an assistant county manager.
County Manager Pam Webster confirmed the news after consulting with Eastley. The plan is to groom the assistant county manager to fill in for Webster when her contract expires on Dec. 31, 2013.
But Webster said the selection of assistant county manager would be handled like all other employees she hires, commissioners wouldn’t review the applicants, only ratify her selection.
“My plan was to narrow it down and come up with my recommendation and if that was an issue, I could expand the interview committee if I wanted to. I’m going to come up with my recommendation and submit it for ratification unless they want to change that,” Webster said.
Nye County Human Resources Manager Donelle Shamrell said 39 people have applied for the job so far. The position was advertised on the county’s website, the National Association of Counties and Nevada Association of Counties websites as well as the International County Manager Association website, she said.
“I’m not confirming anybody’s name on a list right now. It’s not a position that reports directly to the board, it’s a position that reports to the county manager. It’s like any other position; we don’t release a list of applicants until we get close to ratifying or requesting ratification by the board,” Shamrell said.
When asked about Eastley, Webster said, “I think she’s a strong contender.”
Webster said she may not be ready to submit a name for commissioners before the end of the year, indicating it may be possible the newly-seated county commission, with incoming members Donna Cox and Frank Carbone, will vote on the selection. The commission only has one regularly scheduled meeting left in the year, which takes place Dec. 18 in Pahrump.
Until now, Eastley indicated a desire to stay involved in county government after she steps down following her third term, but didn’t give an indication it would be this closely. She suggested to the Nevada Association of Counties that it create an emeritus board of former county commissioners that could help counsel incoming board members. Many experienced political leaders, especially in rural counties, are leaving due to term limits. Eastley has been the county commission liaison to NACO and made frequent trips to Carson City, leading to speculation she may pursue a state political or lobbying position after her term expires.
She also is a member of the Central Nevada Regional Water Authority, the county liaison on legislative issues, represents the county with the POOL PACT state insurance pool, is a member of the tri-party working group and handles county jail inspections.
Eastley wasn’t available for comment by press time.
County commissioners on Sept. 18 approved a recruitment process for the assistant county manager, but it only spelled out a targeted hiring date of January 2013 and mentioned the position could be funded with $75,000 remaining in the general fund balance with six months left in the fiscal year, due to higher than anticipated consolidated tax revenue.
“My intent would be to begin recruiting and have someone in place for the beginning of the new calendar year. As you know, my contract ends on 12/31/13, so that would give me a year with this new individual to ultimately consider for this position,” Webster told commissioners back in September.
Webster herself was promoted from assistant county manager following the termination of Rick Osborne by a 3-2 vote of commissioners last January. Commissioners agreed to pay Osborne’s salary until Aug. 13, 2013, a buyout estimated to cost almost $200,000 with benefits. Webster started work as a comptroller for Nye County in 2006 and was promoted to assistant county manager a year later.
County Commissioner Butch Borasky had requested the board have some input into the selection of the new assistant county manager, but said there’s two ways to look at it.
“The process the way I wanted to see it was we get to look at all the resumes and we get to make the final decision. If Pam is going to make a recommendation out of that group, I don’t have a problem with that. The lady has some talents of her own,” Borasky said.
Borasky said he’d have some questions to ask Eastley if allowed to do the interview.
“I’d have to ask her directly if and when we get to that point: How do you transform from being a commissioner down into management? Because that’s a helluva culture shock and now you become part of the staff, questions like that, will there be any bias on your part?” he asked.
Borasky didn’t want a north-south attitude, but said he felt Eastley had an open mind.
“We all know she’s quite talented, very, very good on research, proofreading and stuff like that. There’s some good qualities that are there. The perception will probably be ugly,” Borasky said of Eastley.
Borasky would prefer to hire someone from Nevada, or someone from the western states.
Commissioner Dan Schinhofen said the qualifications for the position would have to be changed to consider Eastley. But while the qualifications require a candidate to have graduated from an accredited college or university with a Masters degree in public education, business administration or a closely related field, alternatively they can have five years of management experience in the public sector, or a combination of education and experience.
Schinhofen said Eastley has human resources and budgetary experience. But Schinhofen said he’s under the impression Webster will give them a few choices.
“I believe she’s going to whittle it down to three people and then we’ll choose from them. I believe that’s how it’s going to go. My concerns are with the qualifications that were set out. If we’re going to consider Joni, then we should probably re-agendize it and say where you have to have attended college,” Schinhofen said.
“Joni does know the area, she knows the ins and outs, she’s well thought of at the state level, she knows everybody and we always end up with somebody from out of state that doesn’t know the issues, that take a year or two to get up to speed. That would be a positive. It doesn’t mean it’s a done deal,” he said.
Commissioner Gary Hollis expects he’ll be out of office before the board makes the decision. But he would prefer a five-member committee consisting of the county manager, two commissioners, a county staff member and a member of the public to review the applicants.
“I think if she puts in for it she’ll get it,” Hollis said. “I probably would put my name on her, she’s a good person.”
When county manager applicants are up for consideration, commissioners usually get five names, he said.
“I don’t have any problem, she’s a very dedicated person, I have nothing whatsoever bad to say about her,” Hollis said.
An Ohio native, Eastley worked as a special projects supervisor for Central Telephone Company for 10 years before moving to Nevada in 1984. She then worked for 14 years in various human resource positions at Round Mountain Gold Corporation.
Eastley began her political career when she was elected to the Round Mountain town board in 1988, where she served as chairman for five years. She was instrumental in the construction of Round Mountain town facilities.
In November 2000, Eastley won her first term on the county commission, defeating Susan Brown 616 votes to 427 to win election to district two. She was re-elected in 2004 without opposition and faced token opposition in 2008.
District two included Tonopah, Beatty, Amargosa Valley and a northwestern precinct in Pahrump before her district was eliminated due to redistricting after the 2010 census. District one County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman assumed those areas as well as vast, sparsely-populated areas in northern Nye County.