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New state administration chief has lots to keep him busy

CARSON CITY — Nevada’s new director of the Department of Administration has plenty of challenges as he starts his fourth week on the job, not the least of which is getting a handle on the myriad agencies under his control.

Patrick Cates, most recently with the Department of Wildlife, has nine divisions to manage, from the state archives to the Public Works Board, which oversees state-funded construction projects, some of which total in the millions of dollars.

He has nearly 600 employees and a budget of nearly $300 million. He earns $128,998 annually in the position.

While much of what the agency does isn’t typically on the public’s radar, there are notable exceptions such as the Victims of Crime program where compensation is provided to those injured by criminal activity in Nevada.

Cates, 46, in a recent interview after starting in the new position Sept. 14, said there is a lot to do to familiarize himself with the various divisions that also include grant procurement, information technology services, risk management and the state’s motor pool.

Last week he took a tour of the Marlette Lake water system, another of the many varied responsibilities of the position. Originally built in the 1870s to supply water to the mining industry around Virginia City, the system and its water rights were acquired in 1963 to serve Carson City state government and other users.

But other functions of the agency have been reassigned because of a measure in the 2015 Legislature that created the Finance Office. The budget office is now within the governor’s office, with internal audits, instead of with the Administration Department.

Cates said he enjoyed his time as deputy director of wildlife for the past six years but took the new position after being asked to serve.

“I was recruited by the governor’s staff,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of opportunities in my career. It was an opportunity that I had to take advantage of. When you’re reached out to and asked to serve, you serve.”

In naming Cates to the job, Sandoval said: “Having worked for the state of Nevada for almost 20-years, Patrick has amassed a broad range of experience managing administrative and budget functions for several divisions and departments, and I am confident he will be a strong and effective director.”

Cates also served in the Department of Cultural Affairs and Health and Human Services, where he worked with the Medicaid program.

“Part of what I’ve tried to do and bring to every agency is to foster a culture of change,” he said.

As part of that approach, Cates restructured the Wildlife Department budget as directed by state lawmakers to bring more transparency to the agency’s spending.

A top challenge for the short term is to fill the vacancies in the management team at Enterprise Information Technology Services, Cates said. The agency maintains the state’s telecommunications backbone, including running the mainframe that the Division of Welfare and DMV run on.

“It’s been a long time during the recession; there hasn’t been a lot of investment in the IT infrastructure of the state,” he said. “I think that is sorely needed.”

Cates said he will have a plan on what improvements are needed to submit to the Legislature in 2017.

He will also focus on what construction projects and improvements need to be readied for the 2017 session. The amount of funding is not yet clear, but “we’re hopeful for the next session of the Legislature,” he said.

When he is not running his new agency, Cates spends his free time camping and hiking. He lives in the Washoe Valley, just north of the capital.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.

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