Reno City Council forum livestream video from May 10, 2018.
This is Reno profiled candidates for select local races in the 2018 mid-term elections. Student political writer Don Dike-Anukam attended a number of political events in recent months to track down candidates, learn about issues, and to see what those in the races had to say about topics being faced by the Reno community. While this election remains contentious around the country, at the local level many Reno-area candidates tended to focus more on issues and less on mudslinging. Here is one of the two candidates for Reno City Council Ward 4: Paul McKenzie.
By Don Dike-Anukam
Paul McKenzie (D)
Who is Paul?
Paul McKenzie is the Reno city councilmember for ward 4 since 2014. Husband, father, and grandfather of four, he is the secretary-treasurer for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada. McKenzie spent three years in active duty in the Army, then was a member of the Nevada National Guard from 1977-’95. He worked at Newmont Gold in Elko and graduated from college with a degree in diesel technology. What brought him to Reno was a job transfer from Elko as a dispatcher in 2001, then he was with the Operator’s Union until 2006.
McKenzie spoke positively about urging young people unsure about going to college to consider a career in the trades, as jobs from apprentices to crane operators can make from $80,000 to $130,000. In his case, the trades provided a safe and stable life for him and his family:
“I am blessed I got a job like I did and ended up involved with the union at such a young age, not having to worry about health or the welfare of my kids the whole time they were growing up.”
How he found himself running
As secretary of building and construction trades, McKenzie said he was looking to recruit a candidate for city council and was talking to a prospective candidate who suggested that, “’you (Paul) keep knocking on my door asking me to run for office. If it was such a great deal, why don’t you run yourself?’ One of the things you have to do when you take a leadership role is you gotta be able to do what you’re asking others to do, so I figured if I am out asking people to do this, I should be willing to do this myself.”
A big concern in Ward 4 that constituents have been telling him is the need for infrastructure and easing of traffic issues. When McKenzie was newly elected, he felt that “we were forgotten out here.” When people asked why growth got so out of control in the area, he replied that “it wasn’t anyone’s priority.” This was due, he said, to a lack of forethought or prioritizing traffic in the North Valleys in previous years at the County Commission, RTC (Regional Transportation Commission), and lack of co-operation with NDOT in planning at the spaghetti bowl (I-580/395 interchange). McKenzie reported that due to greater input about the North Valleys, starting in 2019 construction will begin for new traffic controls and lane expansions on 395 North in the North Valleys.
Why should I vote for you
McKenzie said there is more work to be done on infrastructure, public services, and he works hard to help make Reno a better place to live. If given a chance to serve a second term, one of McKenzie’s’s major areas of focus is getting staffing up for police, fire, and rescue services.
“We (have) one more firefighter today then we had in 1995, less police officers then we had in 1996 (at the peak in 2008 RPD had 410 officers), now we have 310 police officers so we have a complete lack of staffing for our public safety throughout the city. We still have two fire stations that are browned out. We don’t have an active engine company at them, so there are two portions of the city that, while we have medical protection, if there’s a major fire there, they don’t have a nearby station that’s about eight mins away, instead of six mins away where we would like it at….so we have some major issues on the council on public safety.”
McKenzie said that he is willing to talk with anyone open to discussion. He said he is easy to reach and encourages people to reach out to him or his city hall staff if they have any questions.
“I understand that people would like to see a lot of things up here that we don’t have, (such as) nicer restaurants, movie theaters, a swimming pool … a lot things that people want see up here,” he explained. “One thing you (have to) remember, if you want that stuff we’re going have to grow more and get more population up here to support it. So when you’re asking for that, you always gotta weigh it with: ‘Do I want the type of growth that it’s going take to support the things that I’m asking for?’ Or am I more willing to drive downtown and getting stuff I want from downtown and trying and keep the North Valleys a little smaller. That’s the kind of questions I ask constituents when they ask about having a movie theater in the North Valleys — do you want to live with that population base?
“Every time I am about to make a decision I try to weigh the impacts to our community against the benefits, and if the benefits don’t outweigh the impact. I don’t support moving forward with it.”
How does he plan to win?
“It’s a lot a doors, talking to a lot of people, listening to their concerns in the ward,” he said.
How does he feel about Election Day?
“With the higher turnout that we have had so far, I feel pretty secure in the results we are going to see,” he answered. McKenzie isn’t taking this race for granted, as he knows what its like to be behind. He remembers that in 2014 he lost the primary in June to turn around and win in November against his opponent by 300 votes in the ward. “I think higher turnout is beneficial to me, that the majority of people in the North Valleys are aware of the changes that are going on, and they are aware of the positive things that are coming along with the changes…so the more people that vote, the better my chances are.”
Bonnie Weber (R)
Weber declined to respond to questions.