Public servant

Dan Klaich

Photo By David Robert

Nevada higher education vice chancellor Dan Klaich is a familiar community figure with a range of experience. He began his latest tenure as a lawyer for the state’s higher education system and is now an administrator. It’s a familiar pattern for him.

You’ve been a student officer at UNR, a university regent, and now you’re working for that system. In addition, over the years that I’ve known you, you worked for an alternative fuels company, and you had a law practice at one point. Have you decided what you want to do in life?

I think this is likely my last job.

Your listing in the university directory says you’re vice chancellor and counsel.

That’s actually not correct now. My title is executive vice chancellor. It has changed a number of times since I was hired. I was originally hired as the chief counsel, and then Jim Rogers, the chancellor, wanted the role of chief counsel to be at the vice chancellor level, so he appointed me as vice chancellor for administration and legal affairs. And I was still carrying the title of chief counsel, but it became apparent pretty quickly that he had a whole lot of other things for me to do, and my duties as chief counsel were really suffering for it. So I just became executive vice chancellor.

What does a vice chancellor do?

Technically, I’m the chief operating officer for the system. Jim Rogers is the person who is tasked with implementing the policies of the board [of regents], and on a day-to-day basis, a lot of the detail work of that falls to me. I chair the Council of Presidents, chair the chancellor’s cabinet, participate in building the agenda for the board meetings. I always get “the other duties as assigned,” which currently involves chairing a group of folks that are overseeing a federal appropriation in the Walker River Basin. I have responsibility for building the biennial budget requests and bring those to the board and then, on a biennial basis, selling it [to the legislature] and then starting all over again, which is what we’re doing now.

Sounds relatively dull.

It’s actually very interesting [laughs].

The chancellor’s office has often been a lighting rod—Humphrey, Jarvis, so on. Do you worry that you could get caught up in some of that?

Nah. My belief on that, Dennis, is that these jobs have a life span. They’re certainly not tenure kind of jobs that last forever, and I know this one is certainly a job with a life span, and when it’s over, it’s over, and I’ll do my best in the meantime. Somebody mentioned a bit ago that all of us are interim appointments, just some of us don’t know it.

Do you ever think of running for office again?

No, I’m probably too old for that now. … I have never, although I moved away from elective office, never lost the respect for public service that I had 35 years ago and doubt that I ever will.

How does having been in the role of regent and now serving the regents help you do your job?

I think it’s invaluable because as a staff person whose job is to really assist the board to the extent I can in formulating policy, everything that I bring forward, I’m allowed to think of it in the context of those 14 years that I sat there. And I understand the political dynamics of what they go through. You know, there’s good educational policy, bad educational policy, and then there’s policy that just can’t ever happen in the state of Nevada for one political reason or another. I think that the politics of being on the Board of Regents, whether it’s elected or appointed—I don’t mean politics in the sense of elective politics—I think that’s a real strength.