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County manager gets raise after positive review

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If Washoe County Manager Eric Brown was graded as local students are, he’d have made the honor roll this year. That’s according to the Board of County Commissioners, which, on Tuesday, conducted its annual review of Brown’s performance

Commissioners said Brown met or exceeded expectations in all areas.

But they held off on making contract changes until next year when new commissioners are seated. Brown received a 10% raise in the meantime.

“As the leader of the fourth largest employer in northern Nevada, you make me proud,” Commissioner Kitty Jung said. “You’re my favorite appointment I’ve ever made over 15 years of making appointments. I think you’ve transformed this community.”

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Washoe County Manager Eric Brown

Brown, who is reviewed annually based on his contract requirements, scored 100% ratings for effective leadership, high personal standard and integrity and effective communication. The ratings were given by 21 individuals working for the county and outside the organization. 

During the review, Brown gave a presentation on accomplishments over the past year, which include taking over homeless services from the City of Reno, renewing employee contract agreements and completing redistricting.

Brown also highlighted an overhaul of the citizen advisory boards, eight of which now exist, restoration of EMS and fire services to Gerlach, launch of the Affordable Housing Trust, improvement of employee development efforts, and distribution of millions of dollars in emergency rental assistance.

Under Brown’s leadership, the county ended fiscal year 2022 with a $12 million fund balance, spending less than budgeted for the year. 

He credited good direction from commissioners and the hard work of leadership and other staff at the county for his ability to excel in his role. 

“I have a wonderful team, both at the leadership level…and the department heads continue to be very supportive of me and the office of the county manager, and I want to thank all of them for their cooperation,” he said. “None of this would be possible if that collective group of individuals were not on board.” 

Some of Brown’s goals for 2023 include expanding broadband in the county’s rural communities, expanding environmental sustainability initiatives, improving technology solutions within the county offices and continuing development of the Nevada Cares Campus. 

Jamie Rodriguez appointed as Registrar of Voters

After serving in an interim capacity through the 2022 general election, Jamie Rodriguez was approved by commissioners for appointment as Registrar of Voters. She replaces former registrar Deanna Spikula who resigned after receiving death threats from election deniers. 

Four finalists were selected, but two chose not to interview. 

Washoe County Registrar of Voters Jamie Rodriguez speaks with media on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022 in Reno, Nev. Image: Ty O'Neil / This Is Reno
Washoe County Registrar of Voters Jamie Rodriguez speaks with media on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022 in Reno, Nev. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

Brown recommended Rodriguez for the role at the end of a process that included 20 applicants.During Brown’s performance evaluation, however, the county manager noted that the registrar’s office needs improvements, calling recent incidents in the primary and general election unacceptable.

Brown tapped Rodriguez to make changes as the permanent registrar.

“Once we learned that Ms. Spikula was going to resign, we reached out to recruiters in the election space to see if we could retain a consultant to help us,” Brown said. “There really wasn’t anyone who could either bring us a candidate or even wanted to engage with us to do this search. That’s the environment we’re facing.”

He added that the job of registrar of voters is much different now than it was in the past. 

“The scope of this job has changed dramatically in just the last two years,” Brown said. “Sixty-two percent of ballots in the last election were cast by mail. That is a different model than we were used to before. Our systems aren’t structured to handle that.” 

In addition to mail-in voting, the office managed 66 in-person voting locations in 2022.

Commission Chair Vaughn Hartung agreed that finding elections professionals is difficult because of the current political atmosphere. 

“This reminds me of during the pandemic trying to find health officers. It was impossible,” Hartung said. “This is indicative of what is happening nationwide. This is not easy. I commend people who want to step up.” 

Commissioner Alexis Hill agreed with the selection of Rodriguez, saying she is “a tough gal.” 

$2 million allocated to Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Commissioners approved $7.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to be distributed to 11 nonprofits and two county projects. 

The largest grant was $2 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The fund is managed by Community Foundation of Northern Nevada, which will receive $60,000 for managing the funds. 

The trust fund was first discussed in 2018 but didn’t launch until 2022 when it was first funded with a $75,000 contribution from SilverSummit Healthplan. The fund incentivizes developers to build affordable housing through a competitive loan process.

Nonprofits receiving grants included Nevada Legal Services, Domestic Violence Resource Center, Northern Nevada Literacy Council and ReDirect Youth Outreach, among others.

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Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.

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