Daniel C. Holler began his first day in Mammoth by getting plenty of lowdown from the top down.
What the town’s new interim town manager does with the information is open to speculation.
Holler, 52, the former city administrator of Grass Valley, Nevada County, officially took office on Wednesday evening, Oct. 2, when the Town Council voted to approve his open-ended contract of $158,000 a year.
But Holler officially began work when he spent much of the day with Police Chief Dan Watson, who has been acting town manager since the resignation of Marianna Marysheva-Martinez in early September.
Holler played his opening Town Council meeting with extreme diplomacy, and very few words.
“I’m very happy to be here,” he said, “and after two days on the job, I can still say that.”
Watson said he had no particular inside insights to deliver to Holler, other than getting him up to speed as to how the town government is structured, who reports to whom, and so on.
In Holler’s case, according to Watson, not everything is by the book, however.
Normally, Watson said, an interim manager acts as a placeholder, with the primary task of keeping the town running while simultaneously leading an effort toward finding a permanent replacement.
Holler, though, has made it clear that as of now, he would be interested in becoming the permanent town manager, leaving the replacement effort primarily in the hands of town attorney Andrew Morris.
Morris led the search to find an interim, Watson said, coming in with three qualified candidates in all.
Holler brings to the job qualifications that include leading the administration of a tourist-based economy—Grass Valley is in the heart of California’s Gold Country—as well as experience in administration of Douglas County, Nev.
Based in Minden, Holler worked closely with ski areas such as Heavenly while running the county administration.
Holler’s contract is $25,000 a year less than the salary given to outgoing Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez. That works out to be about 24 percent less.
It does not require the Council to provide any severance payment to Holler when and if the Council no longer requires his services. Both Marysheva-Martinez and the previous town manager, Dave Wilbrecht, earned severance packages, as did Holler when he resigned his Grass Valley post in late August.
Holler was manager for 12 years of Douglas County, which abuts the southeastern end of Lake Tahoe and has about 41,000 residents, before taking the Grass Valley job in February of 2008. The population of Grass Valley is 12,808.
During his tenure in Grass Valley, Holler steered the city through the housing crisis and ensuing economic decline that resulted in the city’s annual budget drop from $12 million to $10 million, forcing layoffs of employees, among other budget cuts.
However, following the recession, an overwhelming majority of voters approved Measure N in November 2012, a temporary half-of-a-percent sales tax hike to stabilize city services, such as staffing police and firefighters.
Measure N is expected to bring in nearly $1.8 million during its first year alone.
Holler has also been at the helm of the city as it embarked on the Dorsey Interchange project, a nearly $25 million addition of entrances and exits to Highway 20/49 at Dorsey Drive—a project that had been gestating nearly three decades before coming to fruition.
His departure from Grass Valley was on civil terms.
“I frankly believe that I am not the right fit with the direction they want to go,” Holler said. “It would be nice for someone new to look at how to move forward.”
In Grass Valley, the city administrator is hired by the city council and acts as the chief officer who manages the day-to-day business of the municipality, leaving the mayor’s role as a largely symbolic one beyond officiating the council’s meetings and agendas.
“I don’t wish them any ill will or anything,” Holler said. “It’s part of the business.”
In California, the average tenure of a town manager is slightly more than seven years.
In Mammoth, however, there have been three town managers within three years, beginning with Rob Clark, and then shifting to Dave Wilbrecht, and finally, Marysheva-Martinez.