Meet the new bosses

Reno’s newest City Councilmembers talk about their hopes for 2013 and beyond

New councilmember Hillary Schieve, right, and Emily Durr inspect clothes at Schieve’s business, Plato’s Closet. Schieve would like to see other areas of Reno developed similarly to Midtown.

New councilmember Hillary Schieve, right, and Emily Durr inspect clothes at Schieve’s business, Plato’s Closet. Schieve would like to see other areas of Reno developed similarly to Midtown.

Photo By Tracie Douglas

The Reno City Council is starting 2013 with four new, optimistic, high-energy councilmembers. They each have some of their own ideas of what they would like to see happen in the city, but for the most part, they are walking in lockstep about what is most important. First, they have been going through orientation, spending time in each department of the city. Next, they will attend a planning session on Feb. 5, where all ideas will be placed on the table for careful consideration by the full council.

Jenny Brekhus, Ward One

“I want to make sure the house is in order,” states Jenny Brekhus. “It’s very big, and I want to look at everything to make sure everything is being done efficiently.” Even though the budget for fiscal year 2012/13 has been in place since July 1, 2012, there are items that will come before the council for approval. Brekhus wants to know the who, what, why, when, where and how of every city expenditure to determine its necessity. Brekhus doesn’t go so far as to say the city’s house is out of order, but she wants to make sure the council knows just where the money is being spent.

Brekhus is casting an eye to all of the city’s outstanding debt, especially those incurred by the baseball park, bowling stadium and events center. “I also want to look at the assets and see how they are performing for us,” she adds. She points to the facts that loans were cheap a few years back, and now everyone seems to struggle to make payments. She uses the Silver Legacy as an example of the current downtown struggle, which she believes paints the picture for everything else.

The city of Reno has dropped from a high of 1,642 employees in 2007 to 1,107 currently. Brekhus is not opposed to hiring new employees, but she wants to make department heads realize they are going to have to prove their case before she signs off on any personnel additions.

Brekhus is also concerned with the issue of deferred maintenance of older city properties, and writing in appropriate maintenance agreements in any new projects. “All you need to do is go into our police department on Second Street to understand that some of our buildings are in bad shape.” She also pointed out that the few city pools left are highly used and must be well maintained for the citizens, and that the sewer treatment plant is also in need of help.

Hillary Schieve, At Large

“I want to make Reno known as the most business friendly-city in the U.S. by streamlining what it takes to get a business license and doing away with the red tape that currently exists,” says Hillary Schieve. She wants to see new businesses spring up in existing city space, and has a vision for building more areas around Reno that resemble Midtown.

It hasn’t taken long for Schieve to learn that it’s very difficult to make people happy while on the City Council. “We have to make priorities that make sense for everyone, and I’m learning to have a thicker skin.” While Schieve says there’s no such thing as a “good councilperson” school, she knows that while the learning curve is steep, it’s just a matter of time until she’s comfortable with the process.

Schieve believes it’s a good idea to bring together the resources of local businesses, the University of Nevada, Reno, and members of the Washoe County Commission to help build business downtown. “We have such great resources right at our fingertips, and we really need to use them,” Schieve says.

Also aware of the decline of employees over the past few years, Schieve is concerned that using city funds for capital projects could cause more loss of staff. “I hope not to lay off any people,” she says. “We have to have our priorities, and staff provides the services our customers need.”

Oscar Delgado, Ward 3

“It’s not the priority of the city of Reno to take on everything presented, nor should it be,” says Oscar Delgado, when discussing how to restructure the debt issues facing the city. Delgado sees working with the Neighborhood Advisory Boards (NABs) as one way to get the community more involved in taking action in their neighborhoods. He has seen how community non-profits and other agencies have worked together in the past and believes that could be a key to success in Reno.

“The community needs to step up when there are dilapidated houses near their homes, so that they don’t become further targets for graffiti and misuse.”

Delgado is optimistic about the new council and like the other new members, is at the end of his orientation. He is interested in working with the union contracts to see if the unions and the city can get on the same page. “We have to have priorities so that we do not overreach at the expense of police and fire.”

He is also looking forward to the upcoming strategic planning session. Working together with the city staff and fellow councilmembers to build a list of priorities is high on his list. “I’m excited because having four sets of new eyes look at these issues is going to be good for the city.”

Neoma Jardon, Ward 5

“Good customer service comes from the department heads down to the staff, and I want to see the city of Reno have the best reputation in the country for good customer service,” says Neoma Jardon. She’s not keen on bringing in outside companies to teach customer service because it makes sense to her that everyone within city government should treat each other with the same respect they should be giving the customers.

Jardon also wants to make the process for obtaining a business license clear, convenient and inexpensive. “Our counter staff should be bending over backwards to foster great customer service because we already have a great tax structure,” she adds. “Doing business with us is easy, and we should make it a smooth and enjoyable process.”

All four new councilmembers are enthusiastic and excited to get started with the job at hand. They all agree that the city of Reno must look at all ways to bring in new business to stimulate the economy and to be vigilant about the debt that the city already carries.