Longtime Henderson employee Murnane tabbed for city manager job

Published Mon, Jul 13, 2015 (5:55 p.m.)

Updated Mon, Jul 13, 2015 (8:15 p.m.)

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Robert Murnane, Henderson director of public works, parks and recreation

Henderson spent several months and $30,000 scouring the country to find the best city manager possible. But after two days of interviews with six candidates, it turns out the city didn't need to go far to find the best fit for its top job.

In a unanimous vote, the Henderson City Council tonight chose the Senior Director of Public Works, Parks and Recreation Robert Murnane, a 19-year city employee, as its next city manager.

The pick came after 45 minutes of discussion at a special city council meeting where the council praised the six finalists, which included two Henderson employees, two Las Vegas employees and two out-of-state candidates, but ultimately decided to stick close to home.

"It really boils down into one very simple thing: Did any of the external candidates far surpass the qualities of our internal candidates?" Councilman John Marz said. "In my mind they didn't."

As the city's public works director for 13 years, Murnane was intimately involved with every major development project that came through the city. He was credited by the council for his leading role in identifying a $17 million annual infrastructure deficit in the city's budget and then working to find solutions to close that gap.

In 2014, Murnane took on added responsibilities when he was put in charge of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, one of the city's largest and most utilized services.

"At the end of the day, it's hard to make up for that experience dealing with the city council directly," Councilman Sam Bateman said. "Bob has some pretty good ideas about where he wants to go. I think he can tackle whatever existing issues in a pretty efficient and quick manner."

Bateman said he felt it was important to go outside the organization to get "fresh perspectives" in 2012 when Henderson hired its previous city manager Jacob Snow, who was then leading the Regional Transportation Commission.

But with the city recovering from the recession and things running smoothly, Bateman said now was the time to find someone who was already familiar with the organization.

"I don't think we need an overhaul," he said. "The organization is heading in the right direction."

Henderson Fire Chief Steven Goble also drew strong reviews from the board for his innovative leadership of his department, but the council preferred Murnane's broader range of experience in different parts of the city's operations.

One of the candidates, Corpus Christi City Manager Ronald Olson, dropped out before Monday's selection after interviewing with the council last week.

The remaining three candidates — Orlando Sanchez and Scott Adams, both deputy city managers in Las Vegas, and former Carlsbad, Calif., city manager Steve Sarkozy — were all well received by the council but couldn't beat out Murnane's prior experience with the city.

A total of 55 qualified candidates applied for the city manager job through a search conducted by Ralph Andersen & Associates. The city paid about $30,000 to conduct the application process.

Even though the city ended up hiring an internal candidate, Bateman said the costs of the search process were worth it to ensure the city got the best candidate. He noted that the city was criticized in 2012 when it hired City Manager Jacob Snow without a formal search process, while this time around the city conducted several hours of public interviews with the six candidates.

Murnane's hiring won't be finalized until a contract is negotiated and approved by the city council. Before retiring, Jacob Snow received a salary of $228,375.

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