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Former Clark County Manager Thom Reilly tapped as chancellor of higher education system

Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels
Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Future Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Thom Reilly. Photo courtesy Nevada System of Higher Education.

Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education voted unanimously on Monday to approve Thomas “Thom” Reilly, formerly the top administrator of Clark County, as their next chancellor.

Reilly spent most the last three years working as director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University, and the six years before that as the director of San Diego State University’s social work program. His tenure as the Clark County manager ran for five years between 2001 and 2006.

“I’m very honored, very humbled,” he said in a brief speech after the decision. “Thank you for trusting in me. I hope we’re here a year from now and everybody is agreeing that was a wise choice.”

He’s expected to start as chancellor on August 7. The regents appointed former chancellor Jane Nichols, who most recently served as acting vice president of Truckee Meadows Community College, to serve on an interim basis until Reilly begins.

The current head of the higher education system is acting chancellor John Valery White, who has served since June 2016 and was under consideration to take the job permanently after a broader search for a chancellor failed when five semifinalists withdrew from consideration. White, a former provost of UNLV, abruptly pulled himself from the running in May before a scheduled vote.

"Despite the failure of the search, it appears that board members are in disagreement about how to proceed," wrote White, whose contract expires at the end of this month. "I do not wish to be caught in the middle of such a dispute."

Reilly founded The Reilly Group, a management consulting firm that works with nonprofit and public organizations, and was previously a vice president of social responsibility for Caesars Entertainment. He has also authored several books, including one detailing “an astonishing level of municipal corruption” in Bell, California.

He has a bachelor’s in social work from the University of Memphis, a master’s of social work from Arizona State University and a master’s and doctorate in public administration from the University of Southern California.

Details of Reilly’s contract still need to be approved by the regents, who signed off on a $303,000 yearly salary for White last year that also included a car, housing and “host account” allowance.

The last permanent chancellor, Dan Klaich, resigned amid controversy in March 2016. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation suggested that Klaich had misled state legislators who were engaged in revamping the state’s funding formula for higher education institutions.

While the special regents meeting Monday in which the vote was taken lasted about 10 minutes and was live streamed on the internet, the much longer ad hoc search committee meeting, which included the interview with Reilly, was not.

Summarizing the committee meeting, Regent Jason Geddes said there was a lot of public comment supporting Reilly. Regent Sam Lieberman said Reilly was a champion for students, a community activist, a legislative liaison and “someone who can really move the system forward in the tradition of Chancellor White.”

“Every element of the job description that we were looking for we found in Thom Reilly,” Lieberman said.

Feature photo: The UNLV campus is seen on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Photo by Jeff Scheid.

Disclosure: Caesars Entertainment has donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.

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