Darren Adair doesn’t have the kind of government experience that shows up on a resume.
But the 45-year-old interim head of North Las Vegas’ finance department said he already oversees a city no one can see, one hidden in the thousands of servers, millions of circuit boards and billions of microchips hosted by Switch Communications LLC, the Las Vegas-based cloud computing giant where Adair serves as chief financial officer.
“For the last seven years, I’ve been CFO of Switchville,” Adair explains. “Think of the racks of servers as city blocks. Think of the computer cabinets as high-rises.
“Instead of having people on those high rises, a high-tech city has bits, and it’s our job to keep them safe, to provide utility connections, to organize them the way a municipality does planning and zoning. … That’s what Switch does — provides for this sort of ecosystem.”
The company Adair joined in 2006 was a broadband Internet exchange floor taking in about $10 million in annual revenue. Today, Switch is a $1.5 billion data storage giant, with eight high-security data centers serving high-profile clients from Amazon and eBay to, reputedly, the National Security Agency.
One of the company’s eight Southern Nevada warehouses sits on a former Enron-owned realty asset right above a lucrative tangle of fiberoptic cables operated by 27 of the world’s biggest telecommunications providers, including Sprint, Verizon and AT&T.
Adair’s former employer acts as a sort of traffic cop for carriers feeding those digital veins and collects a small toll on the innumerable bits of data pumped through them every day.
It’s part of the reason Switch, the second company Adair has seen to billion-dollar revenues, is now billed as the most powerful data storage provider in the world.
It’s also a big reason many think Adair, who brings over a Rolodex full of Switch’s clients, can help turn Nevada’s fourth largest city around.
Thomas & Mack Co. partner and Switch board member Tom Thomas couldn’t promise that Adair’s appointment would bring Fortune 100 companies to North Las Vegas but suggested that his name would lend the city some much-needed credibility with the right people.
“All you hear is bad stuff, but North Las Vegas is a vibrant community,” Thomas said. “It’s the future for distribution and warehousing in (the Las Vegas Valley).
“What North Las Vegas needs to do is retool its communications with the financial markets, and he can do that.”
Adair, for his part, promises nothing. The North Las Vegas resident will head a finance department plagued by ever-dwindling property tax revenues, three straight years of eight-digit city budget deficits and a recently awarded “junk” bond status from credit rating agency Standard & Poors.
He’ll also have to work under the watchful eye of regulators at the State Committee on Local Government Finance, who last year considered swooping in to take over the recession-racked city’s finances.
Reached for comment hours before he was officially tapped as the city’s interim finance director, Adair said he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“I like a more challenging environment,” he said. “(North Las Vegas) needs something different. I can’t tell you I’m bringing in a miracle, but I can tell you I’ll bring something different.”
A statement released by the city Sept. 26 highlights Adair’s service to the city’s Utility Advisory Board and underscores his more than two decades of public accounting experience.
It also finds first-term Mayor John Lee positive over the move.
“We won’t even come close to matching Darren’s private sector salary, but we are thrilled he answered the call to serve the public by sharing his valuable knowledge, talents and skills,” Lee said. “Darren is a business professional who regularly evaluates the potential of early-stage high growth startups. He knows North Las Vegas has a bright future, and we are proud he wants to be part of our success.”
Adair is expected to move to City Hall in the next few weeks and is set to earn an annual salary of $125,000.
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter James DeHaven at 702-477-3839 or firstname.lastname@example.org.