Cohorts of Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown may vote to give him another job Tuesday.
But they probably won’t.
Clark County Commissioner Susan Brager was frank Thursday. Given a choice of Brown or John Entsminger as the new general manager for the Las Vegas Valley Water District and the Southern Nevada Water Authority, “I feel like John is the one.”
Her prediction is that most commissioners are leaning that way.
She cited Entsminger’s expertise with water law, including the law governing the Colorado River allocations and his understanding of the federal Clean Water Act, giving him the edge over Brown. She told Brown that “with a heavy heart.”
Commissioner Tom Collins is also supporting Entsminger. “I believe John Entsminger is the most qualified. I have seen him at work for years, solving problems, getting agreements and contracts etc., with a lot of other water users.” Collins said the senior deputy general manager “presents our needs in Southern Nevada and listens and works to help others meet their needs and opportunities as well.”
Collins and Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani are not fans of Brown, whose strongest supporter on the commission is Chairman Steve Sisolak. The chairman didn’t commit but said he “leans very, very strongly” toward Brown and knows him better. Sisolak called both men “very capable.” From Sisolak’s comments, he agrees with Brown that the GM doesn’t have to be that knowledgeable about water issues and can hire experts.
Commissioner Mary Beth Scow, who chairs the Las Vegas Water District and the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said she would wait until the meeting. “I don’t usually go public with how I’m going to vote,” Scow said. Others said they believed she would support Entsminger.
I can’t say positively whether Entsminger has the four votes necessary to get the job. Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani didn’t get back to me, and Lawrence Weekly ignores most news media calls. Since Brown cannot vote Tuesday, it’s possible there could be a 3-3 vote, which would block a decision.
Entsminger and Brown came in for editorial board meetings at the Review-Journal, and I sat in.
Entsminger, 42, demonstrated in-depth knowledge of water policy, past and present.
Brown, 56, said he would engage in major housecleaning at the water district and water authority, the two agencies overseeing water in Southern Nevada. The district provides retail water needs while the authority looks at the wholesale needs of the valley.
In what seemed like a definite swipe at Pat Mulroy, the district’s general manager since 1989, Brown essentially said he would ask a lot of a questions about policies she promoted. He didn’t say he had answers, just that he’d take a fresh look and ask questions.
“Pat’s focus is the external, she’s as good as it gets,” Brown said about Mulroy. Moments later he said, “I don’t think the world’s going to end if Pat leaves or if John leaves.”
He also swiped at Entsminger. “The GM job is more than just the legal counsel.”
It seemed odd that Brown would focus so much on Mulroy, but there’s a back story.
Brown worked for the water district for seven years until he took a job as a Las Vegas councilman. He was first a lobbyist in the 1991 Legislature and later became director for public services, overseeing customer service, conservation and media relations. When he entered politics in 1997 “as a lark” and became a Las Vegas city councilman, Mulroy told him he couldn’t work at the district any longer because of conflicts.
Brown doesn’t even list his seven years with the water district on his official biography as a commissioner. He’s always noted his Harvard University degree and his professional baseball career. But his bio doesn’t say what other non-elected jobs he’s held, except for his current job as community relations manager for the Las Vegas 51s. It’s not a full-time job, although he said he goes to all the home games and deals with business and marketing.
Despite chairing various water-related committees, including the Clean Water Coalition and the Clark County Water Reclamation District, Brown said he was more active with the Metro Fiscal Affairs Committee and the Regional Transportation Commission and less active with the water committees. Somehow the county commissioner since 2009 didn’t come across as someone with a passion for water issues.
Entsminger said his career goal is to be the general manager of a water district, saying he will try to achieve that goal elsewhere if he doesn’t get the top job. He’s worked at the district for 15 years, starting in the legal department and becoming senior deputy general manager.
Brown put to rest that he was just trying to get a better paying job, saying, “the number two spot was offered to me by John and Pat.” If he just wanted more money, Brown said, he could have had it. Consultant Billy Vassiliadis advised Brown not to take the No. 2 job because it would look worse to the public than taking the top job. (Mulroy told reporter Ben Spillman she never offered Brown the No. 2 spot. Brown insisted they discussed it.) Brown said he offered the deputy’s job to Entsminger.
In 2012, Entsminger’s salary was $196,890 and Mulroy’s base pay was $281,859, according to Transparent Nevada. These water types are definitely paid more than county commissioners, who make $80,000 for what is considered a part-time job.
In Monday’s column, read more about the guy poised to replace Mulroy with her unequivocal blessing.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275.