TRPA needs a leader to lead
March 3, 2003
Finding an executive director to lead the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is nothing new for the Governing Board.
By the time Juan Palma turns in the keys to his office — most likely on April 30 — he will have served in the position for only 2.5 years. Whoever takes over will be the 15th person to lead the bistate environmental agency. Since the inception of the agency there have been nine permanent directors and five acting directors.
The rapid turnover begs the questions: Is the job so tough that burn-out sets in? Are people who are not dedicated to the cause being hired? Is TRPA trying to do more than what the Compact was intended to do when it was ratified by Congress in 1969? Did the changes made to the Compact in the 1980s make the job easier or more difficult? Is the focus of lake clarity forcing other issues in the mission statement off the table? Is enough background being done on the candidates to hire someone who will have a long tenure?
No one really questions Palma’s reason for leaving — to live with his family in Utah. Commuting from Carson City or the valley to the lake is bad enough, but to go a couple states over means either work or the home life begins to suffer.
Palma was smart enough to put his family first.
The sooner someone who can dedicate themselves more fully to the job comes on board the better. This agency that governs much of what happens in the basin deserves a leader who lives here year-round, who knows the area, who knows the issues, who has an environmental background, a policy background, a management background.
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Yes, we want a renaissance man or woman of sorts to take over.
Controversy has swirled around TRPA since the get-go. No one doubts there was a need more than a quarter century ago to curtail the unregulated building throughout the basin. The lake had long been losing its clarity, logging was rampant and meadows paved over.
TRPA’s mission is to “lead the cooperative effort to preserve, restore and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe region.”
If only it were that simple, there likely would not be a revolving door in the job that pays $110,000 year.
TRPA is like a four-letter word to many living in the basin. People question why the agency has the power to tell someone what color their house can be. People question why it could allow a contractor to move dirt on its own site at a time when such work is prohibited. People question why the agency seems to have more power than elected bodies.
TRPA has an image problem with the people it affects the most — those of us living in the basin. Whether real or perceived, the agency needs to work better with the people who are living here so people can understand the motivation behind the rules.
It is the Governing Board’s job to hire someone who can lead the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency well into the 21st century. Tahoe deserves to have someone in such a critical role who will be there more than a couple of years.