weather icon Clear

County manager, who started as part-time toll collector 33 years ago, to retire

Updated August 31, 2022 - 6:23 pm

Clark County will soon need a new chief executive.

County Manager Yolanda King, who was at the helm of Clark County’s pandemic response, announced Wednesday that she plans to retire on Nov. 10.

King has overseen 10,000 employees and managed the county’s multi-billion-dollar budgets since 2016.

A spokesman for the 13th largest county in the United States said information about a possible replacement would be “forthcoming in the days ahead.”

King described her stint as the county’s top administrator as “one of the privileges of my life.”

“I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish, especially through the challenges of the pandemic when so much was unknown and so many were suddenly in need of a kind of help that we have not seen before in our community,” she said in a news release. “Clark County has taken me on an incredible journey, and I have dedicated most of my life to its service.”

Long career

The county hired King 33 years ago for a part-time position collecting toll fees at the Las Vegas airport currently branded as Harry Reid International Airport.

King promoted up through the county’s finance department, becoming the county’s chief financial officer in 2014, and deputy to former manager Don Burnette, whom she replaced.

“Guided by her commitment to Clark County’s values and a profound respect for those we serve, Ms. King has redefined public service not just for our county, but also for the meaning of the word itself,” County Commission Chairman Jim Gibson said in the release, calling her an exceptional leader. “Yolanda has been steadfast in leading the over 10,000 employees in our organization through unprecedented times while ensuring Clark County was a beacon for millions of our residents during their most pressing time of need.”

Meeting tough times

Early in King’s tenure, she helped to navigate the county through the aftermath of the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting that ultimately killed 60 and wounded hundreds of others.

She is credited for the creation of the Broadband Master Plan that expanded internet services for the underserved, and supported funding projects for the homelessness and affordable housing, the county said. “Additionally, Ms. King has set the county down the path of becoming a top place to work and has initiated an employee engagement campaign that will cultivate a new generation of public servants,” the county’s release says.

At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, she led the county’s COVID-19 response.

“With quick adaptability, Ms. King led in the creation of programs in a matter of weeks to provide services such as rental support and other social service and family service needs quickly and efficiently,” the release said.

High praise

Following the announcement, former county managers praised her work ethic, knowledge, tenacity, tact and leadership skills.

Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, and a former county manager herself, praised King’s work during turbulent times.

“During the darkest times of the pandemic, Yolanda navigated every challenge and unknown with grace, resilience and optimism. She serves as a role model, leaving a legacy of excellence that has made our community stronger,” Valentine said in an email statement. “It has been a pleasure to work with her on a number of items over the years. I wish her all the very best in this next chapter of her life and will miss her humility and humor.”

Thom Reilly, another former county manager who also served as the Nevada System of Higher Education’s chancellor, lauded King.

“Her shoes will be a challenge to fill,” said Reilly, a professor and co-director at the Center for an Independent and Sustainable Democracy at Arizona State University.

He recalled his time working with King at the county, and later with public works projects at UNLV when he was a chancellor.

“It was a wise choice,” he said about her 2016 promotion, calling her an effective manager who worked well and city managers. “She’s been an extremely effective county manager, she’s navigated the politics; worked well with the board,” Reilly said.

King has “wonderful technical skills,” he said. “But that alone didn’t make her successful,” he added, noting that her communication skills also allowed her to excel in persuasion and negotiating when dealing with public and private entities.

“She definitely will be missed,” Reilly said. “She had a very effective tenure.”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @rickytwrites.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.