Mulroy came close to Interior secretary’s post under Obama

Nevada came close to losing its top water czar to a Cabinet post in Washington, D.C.

Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager Pat Mulroy confirmed Tuesday that she was on the “short list” to become President Barack Obama’s next secretary of the Interior Department.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recommended Mulroy for the job late last year, when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided to step down.

Mulroy said she was interviewed over the phone by a White House staffer, but Obama nominated Sally Jewell, CEO of the outdoor equipment chain REI.

Jewell’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“It was great going through the process and great getting to talk to someone at the White House,” Mulroy said Tuesday. “I’m honored and stunned to have made it that far.”

In a statement, Reid said his recommendation came out of respect for Mulroy and her expertise.

“No one knows more than Pat about Nevada’s most precious resource — water. I think so highly of her and believe she has done such important work for our state and our country,” Reid said.

Former State Archivist Guy Rocha said Mulroy would have made history had she landed the job. He doesn’t know of a single Nevadan who has served in a Cabinet post.

Such an appointment probably wouldn’t sit well with opponents of the water authority’s plans to tap groundwater across eastern Nevada. Some rural residents, environmentalists and others hope that federal regulators will put a stop to the multibillion-dollar pipeline project.

Mulroy has served as general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, the state’s largest water utility, since 1989. She took on the dual role of general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority in 1992, shortly after the regional water supplier was formed.

Mulroy is paid $279,154 a year plus benefits to manage both agencies.

The job of Interior secretary pays just under $200,000 a year.

Mulroy’s name has been bandied about for the top job at Interior before, but this is the furthest the process has ever gone.

It began with a phone call between Christmas and New Year’s, Mulroy said.

“I got one of those cryptic Harry Reid calls. He said, ‘Pat, I need your CV by noon tomorrow.’u2009”

She said she sent in her curriculum vitae, and the White House called several weeks later after Salazar officially announced his resignation.

So what would Mulroy have done if she had been offered the job? If the president calls you to serve, she said, “you couldn’t say no.”

Contact reporter Henry Brean at or 702-383-0350.

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