When John Entsminger met with six Clark County commissioners to ask for their support and name him to replace water czarina Pat Mulroy, the question he was asked most often was: “Are you tough enough?”
The only one he didn’t meet with was Commissioner Larry Brown, who is vying for the same job.
The commissioners wanted to make sure Entsminger could continue Mulroy’s hard-nosed approach to make sure that Southern Nevada gets the water it needs.
Entsminger provided an example. He said when the seven states in the Colorado River compact sought to negotiate water issues with Mexico, there would only be two representatives from the seven states. California, being a heavyweight, got one seat. The other states said, “We want John,” choosing him to represent their interests.
His peers thought he would be the best negotiator.
As I wrote in Saturday’s column, based on a series of interviews, it appears Entsminger will likely get the job if the vote comes up Tuesday before Clark County commissioners.
Perhaps that is why Brown felt free to dump all over Mulroy’s operation of the water district and the water authority during an editorial board meeting Thursday.
Because dump he did.
He praised her, then systematically went through all the things he thought should be questioned or looked at with “fresh eyes.” Maybe the rural water plan should get another look. Maybe desalination should get another look. Or California and Mexico’s agricultural needs.
“There are solutions out there that haven’t been found yet,” Brown said.
Mulroy has said consistently Entsminger, her second-in-command, is the best qualified candidate to replace her. It was an obvious snub of Brown, who once worked for her, supervising about 50 to 60 people in the area of media relations, water conservation and consumer relations.
Brown may have worked for her, but he wasn’t a negotiator like Entsminger or involved in the technical side as a policy leader. Brown supported the policy of taking water from rural counties for thirsty Southern Nevada when he worked for the district. Now he questions the wisdom.
Entsminger spoke knowledgeably about the potential need of a new water station pump if the Lake Mead water level keeps dropping.
Brown said all the capital construction has been done and now it’s time to cut bloated salaries and staff numbers.
While that appeals to many, when water faucets go on, water comes out. Mulroy made sure that in times of rocketing growth, there was water to sustain that growth. When the growth failed, she sought a plan to raise rates to pay for debt, which cut into her popularity with residents.
Entsminger’s 15 years with the water district, starting in the legal department and rising to senior deputy general manager, qualifies him for the job. While he doesn’t plan to leave immediately if he is not chosen, he stressed repeatedly that his career goal is to head a water district. Not to serve as Brown’s second-in-command.
Mulroy has clearly groomed Entsminger as her successor, much like big businesses do. But, for anyone who dismissed him as “same old, same old,” he sees a difference between that and continuity.
“The next chapter is not a discussion of how can we get more water, but how can we all co-exist with less,” he said. “A big part of our mission is to stay out of court.”
His implication is that, as a lawyer, he would do a better job of keeping the district out of court.
While his style is different than Mulroy’s, less confrontational, he said they are aligned philosophically. “Neither of us are dogmatic, and both of us are extremely pragmatic.”
Although graduated water rate increases are planned for the next four years, Entsminger said, “Knowing what I know now, I think we’re stable for five years.”
Entsminger has the experience, the knowledge and the capability to run the water district and authority.
One of the voices of reason on the commission which often splits 4-3 over contentious issues, the likeable Brown wants a fresh look and promises to cut fat, a populist promise.
But why would commissioners bypass proven competence for someone with lots of questions, but few answers?
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275.