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The new Mammoth Lakes interim town manager is Dan Holler, formerly city administrator for Grass Valley, Calif., a Gold Country Sierra community near Nevada City.
Holler, 52, who left his position in Grass Valley in August after controversies with the town’s Council, will assume his duties in Mammoth on Oct. 2, according to Mayor Rick Wood, who made the announcement after a closed session of the Mammoth Town Council on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 24.
For Holler, the “interim” tag suits him fine.
“The position of ‘interim’ comes with a lot of freedom attached,” he said. “This gives me a chance to test drive the town a little bit, and for the town to test drive me, too.”
He made no qualms about moving to Mammoth with his wife, Claudia, and their “spoiled Yorkie,” Elliott.
“I love Mammoth,” said Holler, who worked for 14 years in Douglas County, Nev. (Minden).
“I’ve vacationed there, it’s a beautiful place and I hear it’s going to be a great ski season.”
He said he was under no illusions about the issues facing the town.
“I think there are great opportunities with Mammoth, as well as great challenges. The town has the traditional issues of providing ongoing public services, and I understand that it’s in a rebuilding process.”
The terms of Holler’s compensation package and the list of his immediate duties will be discussed at the Oct. 2 meeting, Wood said.
Wood said he expects Holler to hit the ground running.
“There will be the usual responsibilities of any Town Manager,” Wood said, “but added to that will be the initiation of an effort to hire a permanent Town Manager.
“His job is to do everything a Town Manager ordinarily does, which is to run the town and hire and fire employees and report to council and provide leadership where required, and obviously on top of that, begin the process to hire a permanent Town Manager.”
Council member Matthew Lehman said it should not take long for Holler to grasp the issues at hand.
“The first roles are going to be to introduce himself and get to know everybody and get to know where our strengths and weaknesses are.
“After a week or so he’ll be able to start diving in to some of the particular areas where we need help.”
Wood said the terms of the contract are open-ended, but he would not be surprised if Holler were to be here through the winter season.
“We know generally that the process is several months,” Wood said, “so although you might be optimistic at four months because we have holidays in there, realistically it’s a six-month position, although our contract is not a six-month contract.
“He’s going to be here to serve at the pleasure of the council and as long as he wants to be here.”
Holler was a finalist among three candidates for the interim job. When the council began its process, there were four, but one dropped out.
The council did not announce who the other candidates were, or where they came from.
He is the third town manager in Mammoth within the space of 11 months.
Before becoming Town Manager, Marysheva-Martinez also was an interim town manager, having replaced Dave Wilbrecht, who himself ran into problems with the Town Council.
Holler comes to Mammoth after having undergone eerily similar circumstances that led to the resignation of Marysheva-Martinez.
When Holler resigned his position in August, the City of Grass Valley issued a vague press release, saying,
“There is a desire by the City Council to move in a direction for which Holler sees himself as not being the best fit for the City.
“While this is a difficult time, it also represents an opportunity to build the City Department Head teams with the search for a new Fire Chief and Finance Director.
“This will allow the Council and new Administrator to start fresh. The change will allow Holler to focus on new opportunities in both the public and private sector, without impacting Grass Valley.
“The City has a very capable staff and a system in place for other department heads to fill-in on short-term assignments taking on the duties of the City Administrator.
“For Holler, the past 5½ years has been challenging financially for the city and managing that process with the loss of redevelopment, with an aggressive capital investment program, ongoing service demands and looking for creative ways to help the economy has been very demanding.”
Holler, in the same press release, said,
“For me and the city, it is time for a change. The city has a bright future and will continue to serve its residents, businesses and visitors well.”
In an interview Wednesday, Sept. 25, Holler sidestepped whatever controversies there were in Grass Valley, saying of his resignation that “the timing was right for me, and with some of the issues with the City Council, the timing was right for them.”
As much as the Grass Valley wanted to soft-pedal the issues Holler faced with the City Council, it was clearly not a happy ending.
At a meeting of the Grass Valley City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 24, the fallout from Holler’s resignation reverberated time and again, as the City Council wrestled with overhauling that town’s government.
“We’re trying to get a handle on exactly where we are,” said Mayor Dan Miller, whose remarks were picked up by the Grass Valley Union newspaper in its Wednesday, Sept. 25 edition.
“We just lost our finance director and the city administrator.”
Miller was responding to an appraisal by the chair of an oversight committee, Ed Thomas, who responded to issues in connection with the resignations of both Holler and Grass Valley Finance Director Roberta Raper.
Raper resigned to take a job in Napa County.
“It feels like the city council is micromanaging, and you ought to have confidence in the department heads,” Thomas said.
When Holler arrives, he will find in Mammoth a town without a Public Works/Airport Director, a Building Inspector, a Director of Economic Development and a police force that is trying to keep up with repeated budget cuts and job losses.
It appears as if he’ll have four to six months to decide if it was worth the move back to the Eastside.