Ally of mayor appointed North Las Vegas city manager following contentious departure of predecessor
Capping off a chaotic two weeks that saw the ouster of the city's top executive, the North Las Vegas City Council appointed a longtime ally and former campaign staffer of Mayor John Lee as the interim city manager.
On a 5-0 vote, Ryann Juden, 41, was appointed Wednesday as the interim top-level executive of Nevada’s 4th largest city, with his primary experience in municipal government coming over the last two and a half years spent as an assistant city manager.
The appointment caps off a tumultuous period for the city, Juden and former City Manager Qiong Liu, who announced her resignation and decision to “retire” after firing, and rescinding the firing, of Juden last week.
Lee and Juden didn’t speak during the nearly half hour public discussion over the appointment, which was primarily dominated by positive, glowing testimony from labor and business representatives (despite a handful of skeptical public commentators) touting Juden’s relationships with them and his tenure in city government.
“We’ve righted the ship,” said North Las Vegas Police Officers Association president Michael Yarter. “We need a captain on the ship.”
Council members agreed with the assessment and thanked Juden for working with the council.
“For the time being, I think we’ll be well-served, and I think we’ll be well-led,” Councilman Isaac Barron said.
“We, honestly, as everyone knows, we did get off to a rocky start,” Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown said. “But I think over time there has been a trust factor built between you and I, and I think we personally think we have great discussions on issues.”
Not all the commentators were positive — Gay Schoaff, a North Las Vegas resident and former member of a citizens’ advisory committee, said while she likes Juden, she was extremely upset with how he had been positioned to take the role of city manager.
“I think the world of Ryann on a personal level, but I don’t feel like he’s qualified to run my city,” she said, criticizing his hiring while the city was facing a budget crunch. “This is North Las Vegas City Hall, not Tammany Hall.”
Last Tuesday, Liu informed top city staff and the council that she would be terminating Juden’s employment in an explosive memo, saying that Juden told her she needed to resign or quit and that hiring him was the “biggest mistake” she made as city manager, given the “wide-spread fear and damage he has brought to the organization.”
But a day later, Liu rescinded both the memo and decision to fire Juden, and announced that she was essentially resigning from her position, taking immediate paid leave and “retiring” from the city effective Feb. 9.
Few of the comments focused on the departure of Liu, with several commentators noting the “unfortunate” series of events that led to her departure. In remarks to the media after the meeting, Juden declined to elaborate further on the process that led to Liu’s resignation, and said he wasn’t sure how long the “interim” period would last before the council hires a full-time city manager.
“On turning the city around, it’s both a professional thrill and just a testament to the truly amazing people we have that work in the city,” he said during the meeting.
Juden was hired as an assistant city manager in August 2015 after serving as Lee’s chief of staff, and was the target of a complaint filed by two of the city’s former human resource employees that alleged Lee created a position for him at the city.
According to TransparentNevada.com, Juden received a base salary of $136,454 and $78,673 in benefits in 2016. He’ll receive a 5 percent pay raise.
Lee, a former assemblyman and state senator, was elected mayor in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. The mayor has said he’s actively considering a bid to replace Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen in the 4th Congressional District.