The rush to replace retiring water czar Pat Mulroy is a testament to her political clout and the importance of the valley’s water agencies. Nevada’s power brokers — Ms. Mulroy among them — have no interest in seeing an unfamiliar outsider fill her considerable leadership void. Not when the job of keeping potable water flowing from every tap, every minute of every day, is at stake.
But even by Nevada’s low standards, this power play is especially hurried. It could very well be wrapped up by Tuesday, when the Las Vegas Valley Water District board meets to consider the selection of a new general manager. That person would be a slam dunk to assume Ms. Mulroy’s other, bigger title as general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
There has been no regional or national search, no public interviews of candidates and no posting of required or desired qualifications — just the usual behind-the-scenes dealmaking. The candidates are John Entsminger, Ms. Mulroy’s deputy and preferred successor, and Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, who wants to make the ethically challenging jump from elected steward to public administrator.
County commissioners sit as the water district’s board; Mr. Brown is asking his elected peers to effectively vote him out of office and into a new job before his term expires.
The jockeying for this job is so intense, Mr. Brown told the Review-Journal’s editorial board last week, that he was offered the No. 2 job at the water agencies if he stepped aside and cleared the way for Mr. Entsminger to become No. 1. Mr. Brown said he refused.
Ms. Mulroy is correct in touting Mr. Entsminger’s resume. The attorney has worked with Ms. Mulroy since 1999 and has years of experience negotiating national and international Colorado River issues. He understands water law and the agencies’ operational and supply challenges.
Mr. Brown, on the other hand, has been one of the valley’s finest elected officials, a budget watchdog and student of policy on both the Las Vegas City Council and County Commission. But if he covets a high-level public-sector job — any high-level job — he should resign his office, or let his term expire, and compete for the job as a private citizen, not a politician.
If Mr. Entsminger and Mr. Brown applied for any other water agency job outside Nevada, Mr. Entsminger would be a front-runner and Mr. Brown wouldn’t be seriously considered. Southern Nevadans deserve a better choice.
All of this behind-closed-doors negotiating needs to be brought into the sunshine. These are public agencies. Tuesday should be the start of a public hiring process, not the end of it.