Livestream video of the May 3, 2018 candidate forum for County Commission candidates.
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 are two candidates for the Washoe Board of County Commissioners: newcomer Steve Wolgast versus incumbent Bob Lucey.
By Don Dike-Anukam
Bob Lucey (R)
Who is Bob Lucey?
Lucey is the current Washoe County Commissioner for District 2 and was the Chairman of the Washoe County Commission last year. He’s a 5th generation native Nevadan, businessman and works as a real estate agent. His wife owns a law firm, and he has two very young children.
“Nevada is a big, big part of who I am,” Lucey said. That’s part of the reason he chose to run for office. He wants to continue to make sure that Nevada remains great for his kids in the future.
What does a county commissioner do?
The Washoe County Commission is a governing body that oversees all regional governments within Washoe County. It is responsible for local government, roads, planning, parks, and also the jail, sheriff’s office, sheriff’s budget, setting policy for the sheriff, operating the Second Judicial Court, treasurer’s office, clerk’s office, and the public defender’s office. About 24 different departments from animal services to parks and recreation, planning, etc. are under the board’s purview. Lucey said that he wants to run all of these agencies and offices without raising taxes unnecessarily or sacrificing vital services.
Why is he running for re-election?
He’s running for re-election because of his ability to oversee so many different departments. Lucey explained that wants to help make sure people’s voices are heard.
“Washoe County is seeing unprecedented growth in all areas, and you need some individuals (commissioners) who are experienced to continue to help support those positions at the county level (administration),” he said.
One big issue he will focus on in a second term?
Managing continued growth in a sustainable manner. Lucey said he is confident he can help take on growth including support for new schools, infrastructure, housing, and supporting the business community to better thrive in the Washoe County Area.
“This is about the future, not the past,” he explained.
Why should I vote for you?
Lucey has heard from his constituents’ concerns about how to deal with growth. This includes how to provide for education, water, resources and public safety principles. He has experience on the commission with mass transit and air service. He was influential in making sure we relocated Station 14 and turned it into a state of the art facility. Another focus of Lucey’s is upgrading roads. He played a major role in the opening of the Southeast Connector, helping movement through the area. He will address water capacity issues and will continue to work on the CIP (capital improvement project) on libraries and parks. He has also become active with state and federal legislators in the areas of funding, policy and regulatory issues.
How are you planning to win?
With a focus on grassroots efforts, walking the neighborhoods, talking to people, sharing our message, and by making ourselves readily available (to the public and press). His main focus besides his family is serving the county as his full time job.
Lucey pointed out that he’s been endorsed by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Deputies Association, the Truckee Meadows Firefighters Association, Reno/Sparks Realtors, and the Builders Association. He also affirmed that regardless of the outcome, “we should get behind whoever is elected 1000-percent.”
Steve Wolgast (D)
Who is Steve Wolgast?
Wolgast has a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering and history and a masters degree from Cornell University. He sees himself as a “non-partisan pragmatic candidate.”
Why Steve is running
What concerns Steve is development and building going on without needed infrastructure in the area (roads, water, services).
He got involved in aiding his neighbors organizing to oppose some development projects and used his expertise and engineering background. He lead his fellow neighbors’ effort to lobby the county planning commission to vote against a project using extensive scientific evidence (two geologists and a hydrologist). Ultimately the commission voted for the project. This opened Wolgast’s eyes to the fact that growth and building was going forward despite what he said was sound scientific evidence. He realized the challenges and the power and influence that Washoe County Commissioners had on growth and development, and he was “too mad to give up.”
Wolgast and his neighbors created WRAP (Washoe Residents for Appropriate Planning), a political action committee to fund candidates to run for office and residents county-wide who supported this view of planning. He said: “I thought about it long and hard and I realized that I was just too mad as to what they were going to do to our neighborhood when we started to hear the blasting and bulldozers and seeing all the big haul trucks.
“I wasn’t going to be able to live with the fact that I might have had a chance to change it and I didn’t take it,” he said. “So I filed.”
First, to fight irresponsible development that has been approved at the planning level with major problems (lack of infrastructure, hazards) and maintaining compliance with 13 master plans in Washoe County. Secondly, better long term development planning for the county, especially in regard to traffic, water availability, wastewater handling, and smog. Third, low taxes, low debt, and fiscal responsibility. Fourth, to increase housing options like entry level housing (not subsidized housing primarily) to take some of the pressure off the market demand.
How he plans to win
Wolgast acknowledges that voter identification is in favor of his opponent in District 2 but that a lot of people are very angry at his opponent, if not “fed up” with his inaction or lack of representation, Wolgast said. Also, he is only taking individual donations to support his race.
“And you know the national Republican and Democratic parties are not going to have a big say in how we fix our roads, how we address our flooding, and how we handle school overcrowding. Those are a local issues, they need solutions at the local level, and I’m committed to working with anybody I can work with to address those issues.”