After the commissioners were sworn in and leaving commissioners Bob Larkin and John Breternitz, who was absent from the meeting, bid farewell, the commission nominated David Humke and Bonnie Weber as chairman and vice chairman, respectively.
Berkbigler, who will oversee District 1, said she is excited about the opportunity to work with the three remaining county officials.
“I think these five commissioners are going to be top-notch,” she said. “I think this is the first time a commission has three women sitting on it and that I think it is going to be a really good program for us to see how we work together to get the job done.”
Commissioner Kitty Jung rounds out the group of five, which is holding its first meeting of the year today. In preparation for the meeting, Berkbigler said her approach to the issues facing Washoe County will be to ask a single-syllable word.
“My approach is I always need to know why,” Berkbigler said. “I am a business person and I have been involved in many businesses, I run my own business. I have worked for major corporations and I always need to know why we’re doing the things we’re doing. That will be a question I will ask often. I think from that perspective there are going to be some differences.”
Berkbigler opened and managed a government relation consulting business, representing 10 statewide business associations and several non-profit and educational groups, according to Washoe County.
Hartung will oversee District 4, which includes Sparks and Spanish Springs, and opened the meeting in the public comment section where he thanked the commissioners for leaving the county in a better state than when they arrived. Following the meeting, Hartung said though he feels things have gotten better, there is no room for complacency.
“There’s a number of challenges, fiscally speaking, for the commission in the coming term,” he said. “I believe we are in a better position though from four years ago. The county has consolidated in many areas. We are in a growth pattern. Housing starts are up. Jobs are up. It doesn’t mean that we can relax. We have a lot more work to do in terms of redevelopment, but we are on a good path.”
Hartung was a small-business owner and a partner in a successful photography studio for 25 of those years, according to Washoe County, and he played a role in the development of Spanish Springs while serving on the Spanish Springs Citizens Advisory Board in 1996. In reference to the county’s budget, Hartung said major focus must be brought to public service entities in the cities of Sparks and Reno.
“I think we have stabilized ourselves. We are still going to have to deal with issues in fire, police and anything that is related to public service,” he said. “But flat right now is the new up and I don’t think we are going to be cutting their budgets much, if any. I am not convinced that we have consolidated completely internally at the county and there are still some places we can still consolidate.”
Hartung also referenced property taxes returning to their original state as a sign of growth in the area.
“I am looking forward to some growth and it is going to take us about a year to two years to get our property taxes back to where they should be,” he said. “That is not by raising property taxes. Of course, that is merely by having property values go up.”
Commissioners Berkbigler and Hartung will sit on the Washoe County Commission through 2017 while the three remaining commissioners tenure will end in 2015. The new commissioners’ next item of business will be to decide the boards and committees they will serve on during their terms.