City loses assistant to Reno |

City loses assistant to Reno

Dan Thrift/Tahoe TribuneSue Schlerf is leaving her job as South Lake Tahoe's assistant city manager to take the same position with the city of Reno.

Assistant City Manager Sue Schlerf, who after 18 years is leaving South Lake Tahoe next month for Reno City Hall, hopes to continue tackling challenges with the grace of a spiritual wisdom that hangs on her office wall.

The poster reads: “Challenges — Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.”

“You have to be a bit of an aspen during a storm (to live here),” she said.

Therein lies the steadfast determination in hard and easy times from one of the city’s most diversified employees. She is leaving to become Reno’s assistant city manager for professional and personal reasons.

“It’s so difficult because this is such a gorgeous place. It has just come to a point where a change is needed,” she said. “I feel God has opened this door and I’ve walked through it.”

She will start work for the town of 185,000 people and 1,700 city employees on Jan. 6. She declined to report her new salary, and phone calls to Reno City Manager Charles McNeely were not returned. Her last day working in Tahoe is Jan. 3.

The decision is both exciting and bittersweet.

“This has been my home for 20 years. My colleagues have been more than co-workers,” she said. “I’ve grown up here. The best thing about Tahoe is the community.”

Schlerf grew up as the daughter of a California state park ranger, so moving became routine.

“I never stayed in a place this long, so the roots are long,” she said. “I was taught to make friends quickly.”

After covering the city beat as a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, she started her career with the city at age 24 as a research analyst. She has even served as the interim city manager twice — once while gaining a master’s of art degree at California State University, Dominguez Hills, in the discipline of negotiations and conflict resolutions.

Schlerf has maintained her resourcefulness throughout her tenure in Tahoe — flexing her might while snowblowing “the driveway from hell.”

Schlerf wields a set of tire chains and knows what to do with them.

Schlerf takes pride in being an employee’s manager, defending city staffers like the snowplow drivers when berm complaints come in.

“If I had any regrets, it’s that we, as an organization, could do a better job communicating what we do. You come by on the weekends and the staff is here. It’s unfortunate there’s not a greater appreciation,” she said.

Even though Schlerf strives to be a city manager some day, she carries no regrets over opting out of applying for the last South Lake Tahoe opening filled in August by David Jinkens.

Jinkens wishes her well.

“Sue has been someone who the city could depend on to help out with the arrival and departure of city managers and other key staff members. She has served this city well, and I extend her my sincerest congratulations,” he said.

Jinkens is unsure at this point whether he will hire a replacement for the approximately $87,000-a-year job.

“We certainly need the support,” he said.

Schlerf, who said she “feels flattered” by the Reno offer, added she’s eager to take part in the biggest little city’s quest to become a cultural hub and high technology center.

“She’ll do really well there. Reno is getting a lot. Sue has the wisdom, wit and willingness to do everything the city has needed. I can’t even begin to quantify what she does here,” said Redevelopment Analyst Janet McDougall, who’s worked with Schlerf for 18 years. “I’m sick at heart (about her leaving), but that’s what makes us feel alive. You’ve got to take risks.”

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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