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City manager in Nevada City resigns

Nevada City City Manager Mark Miller, who weathered a tumultuous but productive tenure, resigned Friday to become director of sanitation at the county’s Community Development Agency.

Miller has been Nevada City’s city manager for nearly six years. He was city manager during a turbulent time, which saw the departure of long-time city clerk Cathy Wilcox-Barnes, as well as a civil Grand Jury report criticizing the city for failing to bill and collect water and sewer fees.

“It was time to make a change,” Miller told The Union. He said the decision to resign was his. His job review in January, though the source of speculation, went “very well.”



Miller conceded that the grind of small-town politics can be wearing. “It gets old,” he said. “Some people are so resistant to change.”

“We made a lot of improvements” in Nevada City, Miller said. He pointed to a wastewater treatment plant upgrade, the passage of a half-cent transportation sales tax, hiring new department heads, implementing new office policies and addressing concerns raised in the Grand Jury report “Asleep at the Wheel.”




The Union’s own investigation showed the problems at City Hall lingered on for years.

On Friday, Miller was in the process of notifying council members about his decision to leave.

“I wish Mark well and thank him for all of his hard work,” said Mayor Sally Harris, rattling off the same accomplishments. “It’s been a challenging past four years,” referring to her tenure with Miller.

“He helped the city through a turbulent time,” said Jim McConnaughay, chairman of the city’s Downtown Association. “There are still some issues that need to be addressed,” such as making City Hall more “professional.”

Examples include formalizing performance evaluations and creating more written policies for reimbursement and other items, McConnaughay said.

Some downtown business owners were at odds with Miller, however, as well as longtime Councilman Steve Cottrell.

“I wish him great success,” Cottrell said. “He’s made the right decision. I have a different view of the city manager than Miller does.”

Some business owners objected to the Downtown Association’s fee structure and blamed Miller for the situation. The association has since begun to mend the rift.

“It’s a hoot – these government guys protect each other,” charged Chuck Shea, owner of the Parsonage B&B on Broad Street. “They all find jobs for each other.”

“Frankly, a lot of the problems with Nevada City were Mark Miller,” he added.

Other residents have complained about Miller’s handling of the dismissal of Cathy Wilcox-Barnes, a longtime resident.

Wilcox-Barnes sued the city for wrongful termination but reached an out-of-court settlement for $275,000, paid by the city’s insurance company.

Wilcox-Barnes has been openly critical of Miller.

Miller said he would stay on in Nevada City until March 15 if necessary. He recommended to Harris that an outside interim city manager be hired, similar to Grass Valley’s hiring of Jeff Foltz in an interim role.

“I can only look at Grass Valley as a model,” Harris said. “But I hope (our search) is quicker than that.”

Grass Valley recently found a permanent replacement for fired City Administrator Gene Haroldsen after nearly a yearlong search. The city hired Dan Holler, the manager of Douglas County, Nev.

A meeting will be held Wednesday to determine what the city will do to fill Miller’s position and perhaps appoint an interim city manager.

Miller begins his new job on March 17. He fills a slot being held in the interim by Jan Christofferson.

Miller, 50, applied for the county job about a month ago after receiving job queries from outside the county. He preferred to stay in the county for lifestyle reasons and because his children are in school.

“I am so pleased that Mark has decided to join our team,” County Executive Officer Rick Haffey said. “His education, professional experience and skill set are an excellent match for this position.”

Miller will be paid $105,788 in the post, about a $20,000 increase from his current pay.

The director of sanitation is a department head position and is a member of the senior executive team. He is responsible for two operations areas, the Solid Waste Division and the Wastewater Division.

He will be responsible for a budget of $16 million and 47 full-time personnel.

“Among some of the challenges for this position are meeting the ever increasing state standards for the diversion of solid waste from landfills, as well as standards for water quality at the County’s wastewater treatment facilities,” the county said.

Miller holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Lehigh University and a master’s degree in public policy from the UC Berkeley.

On the Net

The notice of a special City Council meeting accompanies this story at:

http://www.theunion.com


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