How did the best man for the job get away?

Sometimes the best one can do is shake one’s head and ask, “Are you kidding me?”

Especially when that’s the response to one of those questions that simply has no good answer.

The absolutely stunning, brain-numbing news from the Honey Lake Valley Recreation Authority at last week’s meeting was — the best man for the pool manager’s job isn’t going to get it.

Tony Jonas, the long-time pool manager at the old Roosevelt Pool, a veteran swimming coach who is beloved by his former students (most of them are adults today), the man largely responsible for leading the way to all the successes for many, many years at the old pool will not be the new pool manager. Jonas said he would be willing to take on the responsibility as the pool manager for a while to help get the new pool up and running for the community.

Jonas and the authority’s executive officer Jared Hancock, who is also the city administrator, met in closed sessions to hammer out the details of the job, but apparently they couldn’t see things eye to eye.

After the authority’s board approved an April 18 service agreement with the city of Susanville that would allow the city to assume the “management, administrative and operational services” of the new pool, including “hiring pool facility staff, payroll, human resources, training and operations,” this newspaper asked Jonas what happened. He simply said things didn’t work out.

The public is not privy to the closed session negotiations that went on between Jonas and Hancock. We can’t identify the sticking points. But we have to ask — can Hancock and city staff know more about running a pool in our community than Jonas — clearly the best informed person in the room during several years of meetings regarding the pool?

Now all the employees at the new pool will be city employees — not authority employees, and the authority will repay all the city’s costs, including payroll, workers compensation and unemployment claims.

So, instead of hiring a man with decades of experience running a pool in our community, instead of hiring a long-time resident who is well known and well respected, Hancock et al have decided to search for an outsider instead.

In the not so recent past, the authority’s vision was to hire a pool manager who would run the pool and also serve as the executive officer for the authority, eliminating the need for Hancock — who bills the authority $93.39 per hour for his services — and the city altogether.

Apparently the authority — formed through a joint powers agreement between the city and the county — has abandoned that vision and decided to let the city take charge of the operation. The new pool manager will simply be another city employee, and the authority gets the bill.

Now let’s see. It’s nearly the end of April. At this point the city has not hired any pool employees. For all those local children who have dreamed of having a pool they could swim in, this development pushes the pool’s opening date to who knows how far into the future. Now surely, some will say the authority has made all the right decisions, and maybe the board members can even step forward and defend themselves.

But it’s pretty hard to imagine how they could pass on Jonas — a proven member of our community who ran the old Roosevelt Pool for decades.