New City Manager Envisions a More Vibrant Carlin

By Dianna Troyer

Carlin City Manager Madison Mahon in her office.
Carlin City Manager Madison Mahon in her office.
Photo courtesy of the City of Carlin

No, taxi driver was not listed on Madison Mahon’s job description when she applied to be Carlin’s city manager. Neither was event planner. Yet the energetic 23-year-old did both with no regrets.

In July, Madison, who became city manager in June, helped coordinate a day of volunteerism for 52 summer interns who work for Nevada Gold Mines. She spent a good part of the day driving them to work sites and hearing about their impressions of Carlin.

“When you work in a small town like this, you do whatever needs to be done,” she says. “I like the variety in my job and that no day is ever the same.”

Madison asked city department heads what needed to be done and received a long wish list.

“We were grateful for a day of free labor from conscientious, energetic people,” she says.

Among their numerous projects, interns laid pavers at the library’s patio, helped at the senior center, painted red lines around fire hydrants, tested the hydrants’ water pressure and did other improvement projects.

For Madison, town beautification is a priority—one that Mayor Dana Holbrook shares.

“Some city managers chase grants, thinking they’re a small town’s saving grace,” Dana says. “It takes a lot of time and doesn’t always pay off. Yet encouraging residents to clean up their yards, to have a little civic pride, is a doable goal. We can make Carlin a town everyone wants to live in.”

Many people who work at gold mines north of Carlin commute from Elko, 20 miles to the east.

“When I moved here, I noticed a sign near town where a housing development was once proposed but fell through,” Madison says. “It reads, ‘If You Lived in Carlin, You Would Already be Home.’ One of our goals is to provide newer housing to attract people.”

Receiving grants to improve infrastructure, such as the town’s water system, is another goal.

“Carlin residents’ median income is too high to qualify for grants from some agencies,” she says. “So I’m researching other sources such as USDA Rural Development.”

While Madison concedes her job description—responsible for city operations—is vague, she welcomes its breadth.

“It’s the type of job I’ve always wanted—to be able to make a positive difference in a small town,” she says.

In May, Madison graduated from the University of Utah with a master’s degree in public administration. She heard about the opening in Carlin, a town of 3,200, through

“I’d done public policy internships in Salt Lake City and was surprised when I came here that many of the issues are similar, except in a small town you have less staff and money to deal with those issues,” Madison says.

Her internship experiences helped her make the shortlist for the manager position. Dana and the city council narrowed down the applicant pool to five finalists.

“She stood out because she was calm, quiet, focused, energetic, articulate and a good listener,” Dana recalls. “Someone asked her a question, and I don’t even remember what it was. She set her jaw, made eye contact and confidently answered it. We could tell she isn’t intimidated—whatever she does. She’s someone who has a fresh outlook and can jump-start Carlin to help it grow.”

Madison says she is impressed with Carlin’s recent growth. A grocery store, dental clinic and salon recently opened. The historical society opened a new museum, showcasing local history, including contributions of Chinese residents. The senior center regularly hosts community events. The old post office is being remodeled into a community center.

“We’re working on recruiting more businesses,” she says. “With Carlin being halfway between Salt Lake City and Sacramento, we’d like to steer travelers to town and give them a reason to stop. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Carlin. The town has so much potential. I’m here for the foreseeable future.”

Group photo
Madison helped bring these summer interns from Nevada Gold Mines to Carlin for a day of beautification projects.
Photo courtesy of the City of Carlin