The changing of the council

Lame ducks don’t live long at Reno City Hall. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that folks in Reno who’ve lost or given up their elected positions as mayor or city council member could do too much damage if they’re left to make decisions after losing an election.

So it was that less than a week after being elected into office, Mayor Bob Cashell, Ward 2 Councilwoman Sharon Zadra and Ward 4 Councilman Dwight Dortch were sitting at the council table Tuesday, working their way through the weekly agenda.

The three officials were sworn in shortly after Mayor Jeff Griffin called the meeting to order. The council chambers were packed solid, from the front row where Cashell’s family, including a few grandchildren, sat to the back of the room, where dozens of people stood. Sherrie Doyle, who lost her council seat during the primary elections in September, was absent. Arriving early was Dave Rigdon, who’d considered a bid for mayor in the spring. Rigdon, an anti-trencher, lost his seat to Zadra on Nov. 5. Before turning his seat over to Zadra, Rigdon sat dismally at the table, looking over some papers and leaning back in his chair. Councilman Pierre Hascheff, who’s sat at the city manager’s right hand for years, smiled and shook Rigdon’s hand.

Cameras were everywhere. Every TV station was there, and at first it was hard for Griffin to call the meeting to order over the general hum of activity.

“This will be what I will miss the most,’ Griffin said, but it wasn’t clear whether he was referring to the crowded room, the noise or the actual act of calling the meeting to order. Griffin led the Pledge of Allegiance—“Usually, I hand this off to somebody else, but not today.’ Then Tom Boomershine of South Reno United Methodist Church took the mic for the invocation: “God, you created us for relationships. And that’s why wherever two or more are gathered, there will be politics.’ That got the attention of those who perhaps don’t listen to such things, and some chuckled softly.

The lame ducks did their last voting on harmless stuff like accepting the meeting’s agenda. This was followed by a predictable confrontation from Griffin critic Sam Dehne. The mayor got fierce with Dehne: “Mr. Dehne, it would be my pleasure to throw you out as my last official act if you do not stop interrupting the meeting. This is hard work. And for three people who are experiencing a moment of triumph, it is their opportunity to enjoy it. I’m not going to let anyone take that away from them.’

Lots of applause at this, and Dehne screamed “Power!’ or maybe “Howard!’ It was kind of hard to tell. A woman sitting nearby murmured, “Jerk,’ and she wasn’t talking about Griffin, who received two standing ovations in a half hour.

Cashell swallowed often while Griffin passed over the gavel and read a mayoral proclamation declaring Nov. 12 to be Bob Cashell Day. Rigdon almost escaped with his name plate and a notebook, when Councilwoman Toni Harsh stopped him.

“Dave, I want to personally thank you for everything you have taught me at this table,’ Harsh said. City manager Charles McNeely presented Rigdon with a gift and said nice things about Doyle, too.

Griffin was grinning by the time everyone was sworn in, especially when McNeely referred to him as the “former mayor.’ Zadra tried not to cry. Dortch looked happy.

McNeely read the entire proclamation from Gov. Guinn listing Griffin’s many contributions to the city. Griffin was given a wrapped gift, and he joked: “Is this a train set again?’ (To get this joke, see View From the Fray, page 6.)

Cashell wished Griffin a wonderful trip to Hawaii, where the former mayor plans to spend some time vacationing.

“He’s going to get a rub-down about this time tomorrow in Hawaii,’ Cashell said. “There’s something wrong with this picture.’

The city manager called a recess, and everyone left the chambers for a reception with cake and sparkling cider served in champagne glasses.