Bonanza Q-and-A with new Washoe County Manager John Slaughter
Ryan Summerlin February 19, 2014
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — In October, the Washoe County Commission named John Slaughter as its county manager, replacing Katy Simon, who retired last summer after 15 years at the position.
Slaughter has been with county since 1986, working as a land use planner, the county’s strategic planning manager, and as director of management services. He represented Washoe County at the Nevada Legislature from 2001-2013, and has previously facilitated Incline Village General Improvement District board of trustees retreats.
A Reno resident and father of three sons (ages 16, 19 and 25), Slaughter is an avid hiker and camping enthusiast, and while he used to “ski Diamond Peak many times in the past,” he no longer does due to a bad knee, he said Wednesday.
Slaughter, 53, also is passionate about Boy Scouts; as scoutmaster for a troop in Reno, he spends a week each year at summer camp with the kids. Further, considering he received his masters in urban planning from Kansas University, he’s also a big Jayhawk basketball fan.
Slaughter took time Wednesday to talk about the state of Washoe County and Incline Village. Below is a summary of his comments.
Bonanza: After a few months on the job, what’s your impression of county operations so far?
Slaughter: “I just spoke with the department heads this morning … that’s one of the things I’ve been doing, meeting with all departments, and the thing that strikes me the most is the variety of things that this county does. There are all sorts of services that we provide … and what strikes me is the dedication of our staff. I’ve been with the county for 27 years, and I’ve never been more impressed with our employees.”
B: Much has been publicized about how many positions the county has cut since 2007 to save money. Are there more opportunities for administration positions to be cut, or is the county stretched thin?
S: “We’re very stretched, at all levels, but what I would say is that in many cases, we’ve heard from the public that they didn’t realize staff had been cut because services still were being provided at a high level. … We’ve had 660 positions cut (since the 2007-08 fiscal year), and we know we’re not going to get back there to where we were. We’ve learned a lot since (2007) … and we’ve been forced to alter, in all areas, how we do stuff with fewer resources.”
B: So what have those cuts equated to in savings to the county’s budget?
S: “Our total budget since 2007-08 is down about 41 percent. We always throw out the statistic that we have 6 employees per 1,000 population — that’s down from 8 per 1,000 in 2007, and the national average is about 10.”
B: You’ve worked with IVGID over the years … what’s your assessment of the district, and do you feel the county needs to have more oversight?
S: “I feel we should keep it the same. One of my goals … with GIDs is to look for ways to enhance our relationship with one another. With IVGID, once their new manager, once he’s on board a little bit, I want to get up and meet with him and the board. My philosophy is to find the best way to provide these types of local services as close as possible to the community up there. I think IVGID does a fantastic job with the services they provide.”
B: A question asked of Katy Simon before she left — over the years, there has been criticism from Incline residents that we send boatloads of tax money down the hill, but don’t get a fair shake in return. What’s been your reaction to those comments?
S: “I haven’t really looked at the balance sheet on that, but what I do know is the county prides itself on services it does provide … things like snowplowing, streets, the library, the sheriff’s substation … and I think we do provide a number of very high-quality services that are not in any way inferior than somewhere else.”
B: Over the years, concerns have been raised about county funding being diminished or cut for senior programs in Incline — what’s your take? Is Incline deserving of annually funded senior programs?
S: “It is important we provide those sorts of services up there. Currently, we’re going forward with a process at the county, a human service integration program, to put human services under one umbrella, and through that process, how we provide senior services and social services in Incline Village will be part of that discussion.”
B: When it comes to creating a community plan for Incline Village based off the TRPA Regional Plan, how much input do you feel should be provided by those in Reno and down the hill?
S: “I’ve had specific discussions with Commissioner (Marsha) Berkbigler on this, and we’re both in agreement that community planning should be based in the community. While we haven’t come to conclusions yet, we’ve discussed how we’re going to facilitate that and make sure it does happen.”