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City of Las Vegas gets a new leader

The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday selected its next chief executive.

Mike Janssen, the city’s infrastructure director, is set to replace City Manager Jorge Cervantes, who’s retiring in the coming weeks.

“I’m prepared to step up to this next level of leadership and look forward to working with each and every one of you … to continue making the city a great place to live, work, play and for our developers out there to invest in,” Janssen said after the 6-1 vote, with Councilman Cedric Crear voting no.

A ratification vote is expected to take place at the June 21 City Council meeting, after Janssen negotiates his contract.

The New York City native arrived in Las Vegas as an engineer associate in 1997 and climbed the ranks to public works director until he was appointed to his current position in November 2020.

Janssen holds a bachelor’s degree of science in civil engineering technology from the Rochester Institute of Technology and a master’s in public administration from UNLV, according to his city biography.

The City Council also voted Wednesday to launch a search to replace City Attorney Bryan Scott, who also recently announced his retirement.

The council had a choice on how to approach the replacements: appoint someone from in-house, or conduct a search for a replacement.

For Scott’s position, the human resources department will open the position to internal and external candidates, vet them and arrange interviews with the council members, who declined to hire a third-party firm to help with the search.

The two-week application process opens in July, said Vince Zamora, the city’s director of human resources.

That’s where the city manager’s position seemed to be heading, but then Councilwoman Francis Allen-Palenske brought a motion forward that killed a recruiting process.

“There is one specific candidate who stands out to myself and other council members,” she said about Janssen.

She complimented his “work ethic, outstanding communication skills and commitment to balanced governing, (which) makes him the strong leader our city needs and our residents deserve.”

Allen Palenske was backed by fellow Councilwomen Nancy Brune, Victoria Seaman and Olivia Diaz.

Crear, the lone dissenting vote, said Janssen had just accepted another job in Arizona and informed the city that he was leaving.

“He was ready to leave the city of Las Vegas and it wasn’t until this opportunity came about that he has decided to put his name in the hat, which I don’t fault him for — I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I’m saying that he was out the door,” Crear said. “I just don’t find it in the best interest of the city and the citizens of Las Vegas right now to accept this nomination, especially without having an opportunity to vet other candidates who are interested in the position.”

Crear said that about a year ago Cervantes asked a group of city staff who was interested in being a city manager, and that only Lisa Morris Hibbler, the city’s chief community services officer, raised her hand.

“If you look at her, she’s the most well-rounded person in our bench,” Crear said.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she would’ve also supported Morris Hibbler for the post, but that her hands were tied because Janssen already had the votes.

She “begged” Morris Hibbler, who is near retirement, to stay on board for Janssen’s administration, suggesting that he might struggle without her.

“Lisa Morris Hibbler, he needs you desperately,” the mayor said. “We’ll be fine if you stay. If you don’t stay; oh my God.”

Crear, a mayoral candidate, then struck a conciliatory tone, saying that he’s enjoyed working with Janssen, before congratulating him.

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

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