Long-time city employee Aaron Baker was selected as the new city manager by Mesquite’s City Council at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 27.
Baker replaces retiring manager Andy Barton who has held the job for seven and a half years.
Baker was nominated for the position by Mayor Al Litman who said it was his honor to present Baker for consideration. “We were fortunate to have a candidate who not only was already in-house but also exhibited all the qualities we were looking for,” Litman said.
Councilmen George Gault, George Rapson and Brian Wursten voted in favor of Baker. Councilwoman Sandra Ramaker voted against Baker’s nomination. Councilwoman Annie Black was absent from the meeting.
According to Wursten who sat on the interview panel for the position, seven people were considered for the job out of a pool of more than 30 applicants. “I know there’s been some questions about the process we used, but the process is set by the city charter,” Wursten said. “Mr. Baker did an excellent job in his interview and I’m proud to support him as our new city manager.”
“I’ve known Mr. Baker for quite some time,” Rapson said. He added Baker has been involved in many contract negotiations and other areas of the city’s operations. “He knows where the bones are buried. If we hired someone from outside, Aaron would be training him and bringing him up to speed on things that he has intimate knowledge of. I support Aaron and he’s committed to this community.”
Ramaker, reading from a written statement, said that while she saw the advantage of hiring someone from within, there were advantages to bringing someone new into the city. She advocated for an applicant who is currently the deputy city manager in Stockton, California.
Ramaker said she was impressed with the applicant’s “dynamic attitude and the aptitude with which he answered my questions.” She said he worked through the difficult times Stockton experienced when it declared bankruptcy several years ago. That gave her confidence in his ability to work through difficult financial situations. She was also impressed with his Spanish-speaking skills.
Gault said he considered three candidates to be highly qualified but felt that Baker “will provide the leadership in the community. He knows the issues and I think his institutional memory is very important. He’s invested in the community and his interview was excellent. As he moves into this new position, I think we’ll see more progress in the city and see him leading on a lot of the things we’ve been working on and have been trying to get started. I support Aaron.”
Just before the vote, Rapson said “I don’t think Stockton, California, is the poster child for good governance.”
Immediately after voting to approve Baker as the new city manager, the council considered his employment contract. Originally, the agreement set Baker’s starting salary at $160,000 with a 5 percent pay raise each year dependent on performance and approval by council.
The starting salary was changed to $140,000 and kept the potential pay raises in place. While the contract extends through 2023, Baker is considered an “at will” employee meaning he can be terminated at any time.
His contract also calls for benefits that include sick leave, vacation leave, 100 percent employer paid participation in the Public Employees Retirement Systems of Nevada, 100 percent paid health, dental and vision coverage, 80 hours of administrative leave annually, longevity pay and payment of accrued leave at separation.
He will not receive a monthly car allowance as has been provided in years past but will have a city-owned vehicle at his disposal.
Baker began his employment with the city of Mesquite in 2006 as an Assistant Planner, GIS Analyst. From there he served as an associate planner and then as an Economic Development and Redevelopment Associate. In 2012, he was named Interim Economic Development Director. In 2013 Baker was appointed as the City Liaison Officer providing operational and analytical support to the City Manager.
In September 2016 he was named Assistant to the City Manager, the position he now holds.
In that capacity, he oversees day-to-day operations of the city manager’s office. He guides the citywide budget drafting process and helps develop and implement financial policies and procedures to strengthen the city’s financial position. He oversees eight different departmental and operational budgets. He also supervises citywide grant efforts.
Baker also participated in labor negotiations with the city’s three employee unions. He serves as the city’s primary contact for economic development activities and directs all redevelopment related activities. He manages the city’s real estate portfolio and negotiates all transactions involving city property.
He currently directs all operations at the Mesquite Senior Center and Virgin Valley Heritage Museum. He oversees public and government affairs for the city, acts as a lobbyist for the City of Mesquite and supervises the city’s contract lobbyists.
Baker was awarded a Master of Public Administration degree in 2017 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography with an emphasis on Urban, Rural, and Environmental Planning and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian, graduating from Brigham Young University in 2006.
Baker spent time doing fieldwork in land use planning, environmental change and economic development in Suzhou, China. He served two years as a volunteer representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in St. Petersburg, Russia.