Q-and-A with outgoing Washoe County Manager Katy Simon
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Last week, Washoe County Manager Katy Simon announced she will retire from the position she has held for 15 years on July 1, 2013.
“It’s been a truly gratifying and wonderful career for which I am deeply grateful,” Simon said in her resignation letter to the county commission. “But it’s time for a change for me and opportunities to contribute to the future of local government on a national and international level are tugging at my heart.”
Prior to becoming county manager, Simon, 60, was Washoe County’s Deputy County Manager and also held several other positions in finance and management at the county since 1978.
According to a press release last week, the county commission will begin a national search as quickly as possible and will appoint an interim manager as needed until a permanent manager is in place.
This week, Simon took time to answer questions about her decision and how Incline Village has evolved during her time as county manager. Below is a summary of her comments:
Question: How would you describe the evolution of the relationship between Washoe County and IVGID over the course of your tenure?
Answer: “The county’s relationship with IVGID has been outstanding; we’ve been great partners on many projects, most recently the emergency management exercise (April 25 at Incline High School), and we’ve worked together on everything from housing issues to recently with senior meals delivery. With IVGID being sort of the first line of citizen interaction, IVGID’s been a great conduit for us to learn about the issues and problems people there want us to work on.”
Q: On the Incline Village tax revolt situation, would you have handled negotiations any differently between the county and Incline taxpayers?
A: “To be clear, I didn’t do any of the negotiating — I’m the interpreter, and our job is always to follow the laws, and I implemented them as efficiently and effectively as we could. I think in hindsight, looking for middle ground sooner would have been a great thing, and of course that’s both sides. We didn’t find creative middle ground, and frankly, I’m still searching for it. I think compromise is a mandate for people; we have to find compromises. We can’t live together successfully if we cannot creatively collaborate. I also want to clarify that I’m not blaming anybody — everybody did the best they could for the beliefs they believed in and for the right thing to do.”
Q: What will you not miss most about the job?
A: “What’s hardest about the job is when we have multiple points of view, all that are really legitimate, and we can’t really make it all happen. Government is really the process of us deciding collectively how we’re going to live together, and we can’t make everybody happy, and that’s just the hardest part. It’s not just a black and white — we’re always dealing with gray.”
Q: Over the years, you’ve heard 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?
A: “From a public policy standpoint, we spend about three times as much per person in Incline Village as we do anywhere else, and even that doesn’t feel like it’s enough sometimes because the assessed value of Incline is so high — but the other side of that coin is, yes, those comments are accurate. Just like where I live, in Caughlin Ranch, and other places, like Montreaux — people in the wealthier areas of Washoe County, they spend more for county government than they get back. But at the same time, they’re not using our child welfare system, not going to the jail, they’re not using those purposes.”
Q: What’s your view on the future of Lake Tahoe, considering legislation on the table from both states and the potential for the TRPA to be broken up?
A: “I say this individually — as the county commission has not taken a position — I’m a believer that the compact is the right thing for Lake Tahoe, and I’m very pleased and very hopeful and optimistic about the talks planned between Gov. Sandoval and Gov. Brown. I also think that pulling out of the compact would be devastating — it would … cause massive lawsuits that would grind every project to a halt. For better or worse, TRPA has enabled us to have a forum for moving forward for having issues vetted and for making decisions to allow for good development to occur … unless we have private investment, it’s not going to remain a beautiful place.”
Q: What does the next five years hold in store for Washoe County?
A: “There’s a great new book called “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins, and the thing he talks about is having fanatic discipline. We absolutely have to have fanatic discipline. As we recover, there’s going to be this pent-up desire to restore everything we’ve had before. It’s going to take careful consideration on how we grow again … and very difficult choices will have to be made about how we restore.”