Town managers are a little bit like baseball managers.
When they’re good, everybody heaps praise all over them, saying there is no way in the world the team would have won without them.
More times than not, though, the awesomely great baseball manager becomes a bum in two or three years. The manager, universally despised at that point, then rotates to a different team and the process repeats itself
So it is with town managers, who on average last just over seven years before moving on to the next town.
In Mammoth, we smash that average even more, going through town managers with such a rat-a-tat-tat frequency that it’s become somewhat of a local joke.
It wasn’t that long ago that Steve Julian ran the town. He was followed by Charley Long, who gave way to Rob Clark, who gave way to an interim town manager, Marianna Marysheva-Martinez, who became a full-time town manager after Dave Wilbrecht left.
That brings us to Dan Holler, who by all accounts is a stand-up guy who understands finances, knows the Eastside (he was an administrator in Douglas County, Nev.) and grasps the vicissitudes of a tourism-based economy, having come from the Gold Country City of Grass Valley.
The real question in all of this is why Mammoth can’t hold onto its town managers for very long, but we have more than a hunch.
A town manager works at the will of the Town Council. Over the stretch of years that included Julian, Long, Clark, Marysheva-Martinez, Wilbrecht and Marysheva-Martinez again, the council has had to grapple with wild winds that have pushed it into reactionary politics.
No sooner were the boom years upon us than the Great Recession hit. No sooner than the Great Recession begin to ease, Mammoth had to deal with the Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition fiasco.
No sooner than the MLLA litigation was settled, the town suffered a severe budget shortfall crisis, with qualified department heads fleeing as fast as their feet could take them.
At no time in all of this was there time for the council to catch its breath and look forward to what we really want to be.
The town managers, Marysheva-Martinez in particular, were more like firefighters than town managers, putting out one blaze even as others popped up.
Now, even in a town saddled with a $2 million-a-year debt payment on its MLLA courtroom loss, we have a chance to catch our breath, look forward with meaningful thought and create a Mammoth we can stand behind.
In Holler, we’re hoping we have a leader rather than just an administrator.
We want him to help guide the thinking of the Town Council, knowing full well that “thinking,” per se, has not been the council’s strong suit over the past decade or so.
Ultimately, we’d like to have a town manager who can organize the town around a single battle cry—in our eyes it is a combination of tourism and recreation—then figure out a way to get it done.
For someone like Holler, who has a history of getting things done without having had the luxury of actually being a manager, this ought to be a blast.
Concurrently, we’d like to see a Town Council agree on what we are and who we are, then give the reins over to someone whom the town staff can rally behind.
In the wish-list department, that doesn’t seem like a lot, at this point.