Reno council nears final decision on new city manager

The public will be able to meet on Tuesday the top two candidates vying to be the next Reno City Manager. One man and one woman, and both with different backgrounds.

The two candidates are Sabra Smith Newby and Mark Scott.

Tom Harris, economics professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the potential city managers would need to relate to Reno's challenges, like its finances, downtown development and affordable housing.

Big companies like Tesla's Gigafactory, for example, are bringing in jobs, but the employees are moving here in a tight housing market. Houses are expensive, and rent is going up.

Candidate Smith Newby knows Nevada laws and the political ramifications. She's the Clark County Assistant County Manager. She has worked in government in and around Las Vegas for the past 15 years, but she's never worked as a city manager. Her resume touts labor negotiations and programs that help the homeless,

"That immediate familiarity with all of the budget realities of Nevada, the relationship with the legislature, all of the Nevada revised statutes that apply to city planning and to the structures and obligations of the city government, there's a real edge for someone like that," said Fred Lokken, Truckee Meadows Community College political science professor.

Candidate Mark Scott is the San Bernardino, California, city manager. He's been a city manager in six communities over the past 17 years. Scott has been responsible for helping pull San Bernardino out of bankruptcy and for implementing a recovery plan. His resume cites understanding growth management and working on revitalizing downtown in each of his six cities.

"We here in Nevada have a very tight working relationship with all things California, and when planning is humming around here, we hire a lot of planners from California. Our planning footprint is almost identical to California's," said Lokken.

But Lokken, who has studied government and politics for decades, said he likes that the top two candidates come from the West Coast. He said East Coast people don't always understand our problems and concerns.

He stresses that strategies that work in their communities might not translate to Reno. He's seen it before.

"We do see these folks come from other states, and they just try to replicate how it's done there which doesn't work here," Lokken said.

The city manager is really the workhorse in City Hall. They'll work closely with the mayor and city council.

"The city manager under the city charter has a tremendous amount of authority," Lokken said.

When the candidates were interviewed in front of city council on February 21, two council members and the mayor chose Smith Newby and three chose Scott. So the seventh vote may end up making the final pick.

The two candidates will be interviewed again by the Reno City Council on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the council chambers. Council members are expected to make their final pick for Reno City Manager.

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