Henderson Councilwoman Gerri Schroder speaks during a special meeting in the Henderson City Council Chambers on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
Development and experience are the centerpiece issues for the race to fill the Henderson City Council’s Ward 1 seat.
“Who else has had a 25-year background in the city, knows the issues, knows the staff, knows the key partners, knows the council and the job it entails and can really hit the ground running day one?” candidate Michelle Romero said. “It’s a smooth transition for me.”
Romero announced her candidacy for the seat early last year and has the advantage of early fundraising and support of the existing council.
She is one of five candidates vying to fill the seat of term-limited Gerri Schroder.
Romero, who retired in 2016, was Henderson’s redevelopment manager for the last nine years of her career. She worked on the Union Village health care complex, Cadence master plan community and improving Henderson’s Water Street District.
She said the most important issue Henderson faces is balancing growth with safety and quality of life.
Romero supports increasing the number of officers at the Henderson Police Department, which she plans to accomplish through development fees and cutting costs in other parts of the budget.
She also plans to focus on Henderson’s aging neighborhoods.
“We need to make sure that the older areas of the city don’t feel like they’re left out, that they have the same type of amenities and opportunities that other areas of the city have, and that their development and services are on par with the rest of the city,” she said.
Best person is the other guy
One of her opponents, Rocky Ortega, said he would oppose redevelopment in general, if elected. He joined the race because he wants to prevent the Black Mountain Golf and Country Club from being developed into high-density housing.
Ortega said he wants to win the race, but he acknowledges he is not the person for the job.
“I am not the best person to win,” he said. “The best person to win this seat is (Nathan) Conrad.”
Conrad, a clinical supervisor for University Medical Center, said he joined the race because he wanted to be a more active member of the community. Attracting development is just one piece governing a growing city, he said.
“A lot of people live here and work in Las Vegas because they wanted that suburb feel,” he said. “They didn’t want that busy city thing, so I think that as we develop, we have to develop responsibly.”
Conrad said his priorities are education and public safety. He said his volunteer work on a school organization team for a Henderson elementary school gives him a unique perspective of how the Clark County School District makes decisions.
Although the City Council has no direct control over the school district, Conrad said the city could help with budgeting and finding vendors to offer a better deal on supplies.
“Anything we can do to help them, I think we are obligated to try to do that,” he said.
Conrad said he wants to incrementally add officers to the Henderson Police Department, but said he has not identified what in the budget he would cut to accomplish that.
Danny Vella, an 18-year-old candidate who is taking a semester off from the College of Southern Nevada to run his campaign, said youth programs and education are also his top priorities.
He said he supports Henderson breaking away from the Clark County School District and forming its own. But to start, he said he wants to bring the city more youth facilities and nonprofits, such as sports leagues.
Vella wants to improve public safety by addressing drug use in the city, and nonprofits would be part of that effort, he said. He also supports taking money used for development to increase the police force.
Henderson’s growth has to be balanced with its existing resources, he said.
“The rapid expansion just isn’t smart right now,” Vella said. “(Council members) need to figure out how we’re going to provide the services and resources the community needs while this growth continues.”
Vella said he wants to focus on giving small businesses a way to get off the ground.
He said his age is not an issue for his candidacy, and he is prepared to work with the city’s budget because he has taken accounting in school and sat on boards for youth sports.
Perennial candidate Eddie Hamilton said Henderson’s rapid expansion is changing the city into a “sprawling metropolis.”
“If you don’t watch it, you don’t have a suburbia anymore,” he said.
If elected, Hamilton said he would oppose new developers and focus on improving what Ward 1 already has.
“I’m going to focus on the neighborhood,” he said. “This time around, the focus should be on the quality of life instead of just expanding (and) expanding.”
He also supports fixing Henderson’s potholes and approving city resolutions nullifying what he considers unconstitutional policies coming out of Carson City.
Hamilton said he has run about a dozen campaigns without victory, including races for mayor, governor, U.S. Senate and Congress. But Hamilton’s losing streak isn’t a deterrent for him in the Ward 1 race.
“I keep running because that is a privilege that the Constitution gives us,” he said.
Contact Blake Apgar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.