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City manager gets third positive review in a row, $20,000 bonus


The Reno City Council Wednesday gave City Manager Doug Thornley a mostly positive review of his work. He also got a $20,000 bonus.

The review consisted of a survey that was completed 49 people with the city government and six outside the city. Internal stakeholders include city employees who work directly or indirectly with Thornley. 

The external stakeholders consisted of regional county managers, leadership from the University of Nevada and others. 

Respondents to the survey indicated they believed that Thornley was meeting or exceeding expectations in all fields. 

Members of the public who came to comment on Thornley’s evaluation were generally positive, indicating that they trusted Thornley in his position and that he was successful as the city manager. 

One resident, however, disagreed. 

Resident Rhonda Theisen, who was displaced from her home due to water damage caused by the Reno Fire Department on a fire call, took issue with Thornley. 

“I’m here to ask you to consider two things as you evaluate the city manager’s job,” she said. “One has to do with accountability, the other has to do with communication.” 

Theisen was displaced nine months ago, and remains displaced. 

“The City of Reno was not in compliance with the fire code last October and that led to millions of dollars of damage to my community, and we recently learned, not unexpectedly, that our insurance will not be renewed,” She said. “The question is: Who is responsible?” 

She went on to ask that, if the responsibility does not fall to the city manager, isn’t it the city manager’s job to determine where the failure was [within departments] and make that information public so that the public can regain confidence in the government. 

Theisen said that, despite numerous attempts to contact the city manager, she has never heard back. According to her, Council member Jenny Brekhus attempted to schedule a meeting between Theisen and the fire department, but was told to “stand down.” 

“People don’t need their government to agree with them,” Theisen said. “What they need is to believe they’ve been heard.” 

Brekhus, who did not attend the city council meeting Wednesday, submitted her own review, stating that Thornley was performing “poorly” and that his skills fall short.  

Staff disagreed and gave Thornley high marks, as did the other council members. 

Those who provided comment with their survey answers indicated they believed Thornley was “driving the City of Reno in the right direction,” is “demonstrating progress with vision and strategy that has not been seen at the city in over 10 years,” has strong communication skills and connects with others well, and has “gained the trust and respect of city employees, citizens and other organizations.” 

Thornley gave a presentation to council on the achievements of the city during the past year, which can be viewed here. 

Mayor Hillary Schieve said that she has been stopped regularly on the street by Reno city employees who say they have “never been happier or more proud to work for the city” under Thornley’s leadership. 

“Thank you so much for your leadership and I see how much you care for every single person who works in this organization and it’s really remarkable,” Schieve said. “Everyone here respects you and wants to work hard for you. You’ve done an outstanding job.” 

Duerr said that in her nine years on the council, she has seen a remarkable change since Thornley became manager. 

Reno City Council member Miguel Martinez.
Reno City Council member Miguel Martinez.

Council member Miguel Martinez said he was grateful for the past council that voted to hire Thornley to the position. 

Council member Meghan Ebert commended Thornley for the support he has given her while she was “learning the ropes” as a new council member. Specifically she said Thornley has personally worked with her to address her flooding concerns in her ward. 

Council member Kathleen Taylor said she has seen first hand individuals who left working for the city and came back specifically so they could work under Thornley. 

The council agreed to an additional two-year contract with Thornley acting as city manager. 

Schieve suggested a 10% bonus as a result of his positive review on top of a cost-of-living adjustment of 2.5%. 

Duerr agreed, but instead of a percentage stated she would rather see a dollar amount. 

“I’d like to see between $10,000 and $20,000,” Duerr said. “I don’t want it to be too-too much.” 

Council approved a one-time 10% bonus – equaling approximately $20,000 – a 12-month severance package and an additional two-year contract. 

Kelsey Penrose
Kelsey Penrose
Kelsey Penrose is a proud Native Nevadan whose work in journalism and publishing can be found throughout the Sierra region. She received degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from Arizona State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing with the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. She is an avid supporter of high desert agriculture and rescue dogs.