Q-and-A with the four remaining IVGID GM candidates
Ryan Summerlin October 16, 2013
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Incline Village General Improvement District Board of Trustees will discuss next steps in the interview and hiring process for the district’s next general manager at a special meeting at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30.
The meeting is at 893 Southwood Blvd., and an agenda will be posted no later than Friday, Oct. 25, at www.ivgid.org.
In the meantime, the Bonanza spoke recently with four of the original six candidates, all of whom confirmed this week they still remain interested in the position. Below are answers to an email Q-and-A of the following questions.
1. What made you decide to apply for this position?
2. At times, the critics in Incline Village can be loud, and the opinions from residents can be plenty. How do you propose to work with a community that is very vocal on how IVGID should be operated?
3. Do you feel IVGID should be run like a public agency or a business? Perhaps a bit of both?
4. Have you done business in the past or have any other affiliation with the district, its current senior management team and/or the current board of trustees? If so, do you feel there are any conflicts of interest regarding those previous relationships?
5. IVGID is able to operate several of its amenities via the annual Recreation Fee for each property owner, the rate of which has held steady at $830 the past few years. Would it be a priority of yours to maintain or diminish that fee? Why or why not?
6. What’s your assessment of how the board of trustees oversees the district, and how do you feel the role of the general manager fits into that oversight?
7. Is there anything you feel needs immediate attention regarding district operations?
1. I love this community and am very proud of what we have here. My wife and I have lived here for over 20 years and have raised our family here. I have been active in the community and feel I have a good pulse of what the communities’ issues, needs and opportunities are. My skills and experience (in private and public sector executive roles) uniquely equip me for this position. I can help Incline Village as IVGID’s GM by providing strong leadership, excellence in management, and an unwavering commitment to excellent customer service. I’m excited about this opportunity and I look forward to serving.
2. The residents of Incline Village want to be heard, know that their opinion matters, and that leadership cares about our town and its issues. I believe we can do a better job listening to all of our constituents in an open, transparent, honest, and fair manner – and this belief is congruent with my leadership style and values. The opportunity also exists to proactively reach out to less vocal members of our community and solicit their input. I believe we also have an opportunity to improve outbound communication to our community.
3. We have both. We have traditional public agency operations and business operations. The key is being good at both and striking a harmonious balance. For this balance to be sustainable I believe our strategy (crafted with the Board) is what guides the goals the district has for our various operations. This needs to be inclusive, clear and communicated well. Customer service levels and value are critical components of this equation. The fact that we are both is positive for our community, if run well. I also believe the opportunity exists to collaborate with others using best practices from both the public and private sector.
4. Having been a resident in Incline Village for over 20 years I’ve had the privilege to have met and known some of the staff and trustees over the years. I am also a ‘customer’ of the district, like any other resident. I do not feel there are any conflicts of interest.
5. This question is directly tied to the third question: “…public agency and business”. The Recreation Fee is an outcome of board policy, operational goals and results, and changing debt and capital improvement investment levels. I believe there’s room for improvement in how we operate our facilities which certainly could help diminish pressure on the Recreation Fee. Part of my job will be to help assess the drivers/components of this subject to see what opportunities for improvement exist.
6. The board and general manager must first and foremost work well together as a team in serving the community. While the board sets long range strategy and goals, policies and budgets, the general manager is tasked with executing those and overseeing operations. A well functioning board, in my opinion, will seek input and guidance on policy discussions and determination from the community and from management (a General Manager) so as to craft policies that are operationally functional and have the best chance of success. I also believe and have experienced the situations where the GM may be the first to detect the need for policy suggestions or modification as changes ripple through an organization. I have had direct experience with this in both the public and private sectors and, to me, the first rule of thumb is clear and honest communications between both parties and the community.
7. I believe we can improve the culture, provide exceptional customer service and put more focus (working with the board) on strategic planning. I believe everyone wants to see us continue to improve, set high standards (and achieve them) and build on the collective pride we have in our community. I look forward to working with the community, board of trustees, and staff.
1. I want to thank the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza for allowing each of the candidates to discuss our ideas about this role. I see this position as a great opportunity for myself personally and professionally—I view it as the next logical step in my career. Being a leader in helping to shape the future of the Incline Village community would be my next challenge. I want to help the community map its path as it looks to find greater clarity for its vision and looks at growth in sustainable ways. I applied for the position because I think that I have the leadership, track record, skills and experience to solve community problems. I want to be the leader that helps to shape and define its future. There’s no doubt that living in and leading the community would be that next logical place for me and my family.
2. I have been successfully leading and transforming communities for more than 14 years. I would continue to use what I have found to be a successful strategy—to first focus on those elements that create and sustain a “sense a community”. If the community has many and diverse strong opinions, then you have to take a step back and ensure there is a process for involving the community. Listening and having a consistent process for engagement is at the heart of managing diverse interests. It is the board of trustees and the general manager’s responsibility to make sure he/she is always listening to, sharing, understanding, and then balancing opposing community perspectives. You need a process that drives to “root causes” of issues; you need a process that allows the community to be heard. The process should also have flexibility to course correct. Communities change, issues will be different through change. You need a good process for listening and engaging people.
3. I think that IVGID is best suited to be run as a “community focused” non-profit organization whose mission it is to provide well-defined programs and services that add value. As a community-based non-profit, it can use the tools and strategies of a successful business while focusing on providing value to the residents, who are providing the resources to sustain it. Given its need to serve, it cannot simply focus on the for-profit, pure business strategies that a traditional resort would leverage. The straight business model typically diminishes community “needs”. But, solid business principles can be applied to a community-focused non-profit in terms of greater value creation, good fiscal responsibility, measuring programs, evaluating outcomes, long-term visioning, etc. Incline Village is made up of competing constituencies that will need to compromise on what they want in and from their community.
4. No. I have never done business with IVGID or any of its affiliates. My only connection to Lake Tahoe is my relationships established many years ago from my skiing and coaching career. I have relationships with U.S. Ski Team athletes and coaches that make up the rich skiing history within the Lake Tahoe area.
5. I think that you have to consider the fee in the separate parts that it represents. The $730 recreation fee represents approximately 50% of the recreational revenues needed that come from “sales and fees” outlined in the budget. One issue, it seems, is that the recreation fee, as required, does not yield any “tangible” benefits. Compare that to when a resident pays the beach fee of $100 annually. The next general manger will need to scrutinize the revenue current streams in the budget to understand where and how the other 50% of revenue is best generated. How much is generated from residents, resident guests, and visitors? The next general manager will need to take a step back to understand how the community views its recreation fees vs. benefits. The “seeking to understand” will be an important first step in determining the future direction of the assessment.
6. There is no reason the board of trustees and the general manager should not be working towards common goals and objectives that service the greater community. If there is a disconnect between board of trustees and general manager, then there is a greater disconnect in the community. The board of trustees should be primarily focused on establishing the policies and scope of services that IVGID is authorized to deliver; then, the general manager should be allowed to determine the best and most efficient way to deliver those programs and services to the community. There’s a partnership here between the two. The general manager can then organize and manage the staff in order to best deliver systems and continuous improvement strategies as he or she manages the “business” of serving the community.
7. I think that IVGID needs to clearly define its current state and future role within the community. In its inception, IVGID was created to provide the essential services of water, sewer and trash to a new community on Lake Tahoe. As the community grew and recreation became a more important piece of the community, it decided to invest resources into some non-traditional recreational assets such as the golf and ski operations, which typically are sustained through a traditional resort model. IVGID has continued to add to those assets with tennis facilities and a community recreation center. Throughout the decades it has committed the necessary resources to upgrade and invest in these facilities. I believe that it is this uniqueness and diversity of assets that will ultimately be the foundation to sustain Incline Village’s successful transition as a premier 21st century resort community in which to live, play and work.
1. What I’m looking for in an organizational leadership position is interesting, challenging work in an organization that wants me to do what I’ve demonstrated that I’m capable of doing. In my view, the next IVGID General Manager has a unique opportunity to work in partnership with the Board, the staff and the community to weave together the various points of view and interests found in the IVGID community into a whole cloth that is both resilient and adaptable and will support IVGID in efficiently and effectively delivering its services to the community. This task is both the challenge and the opportunity that makes the IVGID General Manager position interesting to me.
2. Throughout my career, the most successful projects or programs I’ve led have shared one common element: the people affected or interested in the work were involved from the outset. In my experience, the two key strategies for achieving success are, first to create open and transparent processes and, second to provide meaningful forums where people can be heard and their input received and considered as part of the process. What I’ve learned is that if you do these things well even those who aren’t satisfied with the result view the process as having been fair and open and so are more likely to at least grudgingly accept the outcome. If I am selected as IVGID’s new General Manager, I will definitely be recommending to the Board that these kinds of strategies be implemented.
3. As IVGID is a State established public agency, there is no question in my mind that it must be managed and operated in compliance with all applicable Nevada laws governing public agencies of its type. On the other hand, I know there are many opportunities for public agencies such as IVGID to benefit from applying business-like strategies to their management, especially with respect to identifying and implementing ways to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their operations. I believe my experience in as a department director dealing with the multi-year impacts of the recent economic downturn would help me work with the Board, staff, and community interests to review IVGID’s current operations and indentify and implement opportunities to ensure that IVGID customers receive the best value they can from the rates, assessments and fees they are paying for services that are being provided.
4. I have had no previous affiliations with IVGID and have only met Board Chair Bruce Simonian and Interim General Manager Joe Pomroy as part of larger group meetings on work-related topics where I was one of a number of participants in the meeting.
5. For me, the most successful and responsible approach to dealing with any important question is to use “data driven decision-making.” For the Recreation Fee question, this means doing the work necessary to understand how the fee has evolved over time, what it pays for, what are the cost trends for the programs and projects it supports, etc. It means asking questions, questioning assumptions and identifying and evaluating alternatives. This kind of work is, in my view, what it takes to make a good decision that can be supported by the Board, staff and community. As I have not been involved in the kind of analysis described, I don’t feel it would be appropriate to for me to say what I would do about the Recreation Fee. I do, however, recognize the importance of this issue and, should I become IVGID’s General Manager, it would be a priority issue for me.
6. From many years of observing the interactions of boards and managers, I have concluded that creating a workable relationship between a board and its manager is highly dependent on two things: first, the way the manager performs his or her facilitative, consultative, leadership and management roles, and second, whether an organization and its board can create a well understood agreement about the organization’s strategic purpose, operational role and how it is going to function. If they can, this becomes the glue that creates a cohesive whole. I think the IVGID Board has spent much of 2013 working on becoming a cohesive body, a process that inevitably takes time. A new manager will need to support the Board in this process. I think initiatives such as preparing a “State of the District” report and conducting a strategic planning process should be designed to facilitate the Board’s ongoing development and strategic alignment.
7. In my responses to several of the earlier questions, I’ve described what would be priority issues for me should I be the next IVGID General Manager. These included listening and learning about the district and the community it serves, working with the Board and staff to support the organization’s development and strategic alignment, and developing a greater understanding of the Recreation Fee issue and possibly creating some alternatives for consideration for the fee’s future. Beyond these priorities, I’m not aware of anything else that requires immediate attention. Inevitably, though any new manager will identify things needing attention as he or she becomes more familiar with the organization and its operations. I have considerable experience in coming into and quickly getting up to speed in a new organization, and I feel very confident that anything that needs immediate attention would be identified early on and appropriately addressed.
1. I have been a visitor to Incline Village and Lake Tahoe since 1972. In 2005 I had the opportunity to move to the area and start a local business. I became very involved in the community as a local Rotarian and founding member of the Board of Directors of Red White and Tahoe Blue. I was an active affiliate member of the Board of Realtors and a volunteer for the Parasol Foundation. From this involvement in the community I developed a strong understanding and appreciation of Incline Village, its residents and businesses. My business philosophies, experience and success in managing and improving statewide businesses provides the perfect fit for the position of IVGID General Manager. The combination of challenges, opportunities and my abilities to contribute at a high level led to my decision to apply for the GM position and fulfill my desire to serve the community of Incline Village.
2. My entire career has been engaged in finding ways to succeed while surrounded by strong opinions and personalities. I thrive in an environment that offers challenge and diversity of opinions on how to meet objectives. I successfully navigated this “vocal community” of Incline Village (your words not mine) and built mutual respect at all levels. I am an excellent listener and very creative at taking multiple ideas and opinions, acknowledging components that have merit, and then exploring and creating solutions and programs that are appreciated and beneficial to all parties. We certainly have more in common than we have in differences and these common needs and objectives will always win the day over any differences that may exist.
3. The businesses I have owned and managed have always placed a major importance on customer satisfaction, employee development and empowerment, commitment to community and on short and long-term profitability. This business structure fits the current and future needs of Incline Village. Improving the services and quality of these services to property owners, businesses and visitors is mission one. Employees who are being developed, motivated by career opportunities and active participants in the success of IVGID are key to improving customer satisfaction. I believe meeting IVGID’s commitment to our community at all levels and responsibility to improve services while reducing costs would be best achieved by a business model versus a public agency model.
4. From my noted involvement in the community I have had past interaction and involvement with the district, trustees and some IVGID managers and employees. I do not feel that there is any conflict of interest to myself, the trustees, IVGID or the property owners of Incline Village. I am proud of my involvement in the community and feel the relationships I have established; founded in truth, integrity and fairness to all will assist my transition into this position. The trust, knowledge and understanding I have established will accelerate the further development of strong, proactive relationships with the community, IVGID and the Board of Trustees.
5. Without any decrease in the quality of services and customer satisfaction it would be a priority as G.M. to maintain this fee and look for ways that this fee could be reduced. Evaluating new and unexplored opportunities to increase revenues and profits while improving services could result in fee reductions. The experienced, unbiased and creative approach I will bring to the position will look beyond the obvious fee increase to generate revenues. Assessment of current income opportunities and creative methods to increase revenues will provide the continued ability to stabilize and the potential to decrease the current annual fee.
6. The Board of Trustees is responsible for matters of policy, while the General Manager is responsible for the operation of the District and executing policy. This translates to a strong leadership and management role in operating the resources of the District including Employees, Services, Facilities and Public Works. The GM is responsible for execution of policy and procedures to insure fiscal budgets are not exceeded. With ongoing reviews and board interaction I am confident the Board of Trustees and myself as District GM will work as a unified and proactive team to insure growth, improvement and achievement at all levels in the District.
7. Stabilization of employees would be an immediate priority. Having had direct responsibility for 4 company acquisition-mergers I know from experience that the transition of Senior Management can create an atmosphere of unknown and concern for many if not all employees. I will immediately meet with all employees and provide them an opportunity to know my objectives, our mission for the District and my expectations as their G.M. I will conduct one-on-ones with all managers and key personnel to insure they have the resources to be proactive in the ongoing management of their respective responsibilities. The development of our valued employees would be an ongoing priority in my weekly schedule. Another immediate action would be the review and assessment of all areas of the district with Department Managers. This would provide a detailed list of priorities and action steps to improve any other areas identified that need immediate attention.