Four people are vying for the chance to compete in the general election for Ward 1 on the Sparks City Council.
The first term Councilman Donald Abbott is running for re-election and faces a former city worker, a political activist and a retired county worker in the June 9 primary.
Abbott, the youngest person on the council, said he is running for re-election because he wants to continue advocating for senior citizens and representing the millennial point of view.
“I add some diversity to my city council, being young and a registered non-partisan,” he said. “Everyone else is a Republican.”
Abbott quit his job as an HVAC estimator to work full time as a council member.
“I was born and raised here in Sparks and I absolutely love this city,” he said. “I didn’t run for a paycheck. I don’t have aspirations to become president or something. I’m a product of this community.”
Wendy Stolyarov is lobbyist and communications professional who became politically active to protest President Donald Trump. She worked as a field organizer for NARAL and lobbied for the Nevada Libertarian Party.
She moved to Sparks in 2016 because she fell in love with the city and could find a house she could afford on a field organizer’s salary.
“My platform has three main planks: affordable housing, workers’ rights and equality,” she said.
If elected, she would be the first openly queer representative on the council, she said. She was motivated to run in part because of Mayor Ron Smith’s opposition to the Drag Queen Story Hour at a Sparks library last year.
She said Smith’s comments about drag queens showed a “staggering amount of ignorance.”
“I took it really, really personally to hear,” she said. “I was gutted and embarrassed. We need to do better. We need more responsible representation.”
Kristine Grimes, who retired after a career as a civilian employee at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, said she is running because the council has ignored her area of town on the far western edge of the city.
“I’ve been car-free for 18 months and I’ve walked, biked and scootered a lot,” she said. “It’s really opened my eyes to how filthy this area has gotten. There’s abandoned cars and trailers and trash. The homeless camps are out of control.”
Grimes said Abbott and the rest of the council focus too much on downtown and have lost sight of neighborhoods like hers.
“We need to get pride back in this community and really try to clean it up,” Grimes said. “I don’t know what the answers are, but I’d like to help figure it out.”
Dick Kirtley worked as a maintenance man for the city of Sparks for 30 years before retiring recently—a career he said gave him boots-on-the-ground knowledge of how the city works.
“I’ve seen a lot of things that shouldn’t have been done or were done kind of stupid,” he said. “Sometimes you need to ask the person who is actually in the hole digging the ditch what they need rather than these people sitting behind their desk saying, ‘This is what you need.’”
Kirtley said he’s concerned about the number of apartment buildings going up in downtown Sparks and the lack of attention to traffic congestion.
“I want the taxpayers to get their money’s worth,” he said. “I know what the taxpayers need and they’re not getting it.”
Name: Donald Abbott
Education: Two associates degrees
Experience: One term on Sparks City Council. One term on Sparks Citizens Advisory Committee
Party Affiliation: Non-Partisan
Money Raised: $58,372
Biggest donors: Revision, SWD Partners, Dennis & Carole Troesch
What are you doing personally to stay safe during the pandemic? “Definitely staying home as much as I can. On the campaign trail, I’ve had people that have problems and have asked me to come out look at said problem. So I maintain social distance and wear a mask.”
Do you agree or disagree with Gov. Sisolak’s decision to close non-essential businesses and issue a stay-at-home order amid the pandemic? Why? “I definitely agree Gov. Sisolak did the right thing on shutting things down. We made good progress. We slowed the curve and it didn’t get as out of control and crazy as it could have. Now I think it’s a good, slow opening. I think we are at a point where we can be getting people back to work safely.”
How would you deal with the financial fallout from the pandemic on the city budget? What would you cut first? What would you try to preserve? “We are in budget season right now and going into this fiscal year, we don’t know what shortfalls we are going to have. We had to make the choice to lay off our part-time employees. We got to keep police, fire, dispatch, even our (sewer plant) employees.”
How would you address the homelessness issue? “I’m continuing to support the Community Homelessness Advisory Board. Continue to make sure I’m being in connection with my colleagues on solutions there. It’s a regional problem and the only way to get through it is coming together as one.”
Name: Kristine Grimes
Occupation: Retired county employee
Education: Some college
Experience: First time run for office
Party affiliation: Independent American Party
Money raised: $0
What are you doing personally to stay safe during the pandemic? “Mostly I have tried to stay home. It is an interesting campaign year. I’ve not asked for money from anyone. I’ve spent very little of my own money. I wear a mask because of our age. We use hand sanitizer. We’ve tired social distancing.”
Do you agree or disagree with Gov. Sisolak’s decision to close non-essential businesses and issue a stay-at-home order amid the pandemic? Why? “In some ways, that’s a tough question. But you have to take faith in your government and have to believe they are being provided enough information and that they are doing what they believe is the right thing. I support him. I know some small businesses would like to wring my neck for saying it. And I get that. It’s tough. I hope the numbers stay (low) because I do think businesses need to reopen. They need to follow guidelines to be safe and they need to be enforced.”
How would you deal with the financial fallout from the pandemic on the city budget? What would you cut first? What would you try to preserve? “I don’t know because I don’t know enough of the city budget at this point. I know there are a lot of furloughs going on. I know people had their hours cut. There are going to be some really hard decisions to make that probably will not be popular.”
How would you address the homelessness issue? “I do feel for a lot of the homeless. I’ve actually given a lot of homeless people food. I do have a problem with all the people living on the river. I’ve watched so many of the kids walk by the homeless camps at Paradise Park. I walk my dog and watch people shoot up drugs and see condoms on the ground. That’s not OK for elementary school kids to walk by that. I ride the river path four or five times a week and I’ve had whips cracked at me and a bullet go across the river at me. Sparks has done a better job patrolling the river. But it’s all connected.”
Name: Dick Kirtley
Education: High school diploma
Occupation: Retired from the City of Sparks after 30 years.
Experience: First run for office. Has worked maintenance in six city departments.
Party Affiliation: Republican
Money raised: $0
What are you doing personally to stay safe during the pandemic? “We just usually stay at home. Everyone is kind of just sheltering in place. If we go out shopping, we wear a mask. We wash our hands a lot.”
Do you agree or disagree with Gov. Sisolak’s decision to close non-essential businesses and issue a stay-at-home order amid the pandemic? Why? “If everybody is cautious and does their social distancing and wears a mask, I think that most people are intelligent and can not spread stuff. I think if everybody is cautions, Sisolak could be a little more lenient. If people can be sensible, you can have a business open. Because people need to be able to support their families.”
How would you deal with the financial fallout from the pandemic on the city budget? What would you cut first? What would you try to preserve? “I don’t know about cutting stuff. We need to get people where they can go to work. We could make all these new companies pay taxes that are coming into this county. City of Sparks is always giving people tax breaks for five years. They need to start paying their fair share.”
How would you address the homelessness issue? “When I first started working for the city of Sparks, my area was downtown. It was like a bustling metropolis. There were a lot of people down there. The bums, they were down there a little bit but they didn’t sleep anywhere. The cops would once in awhile round them up and take them to the edge of town and say don’t come back. But now they are pooping everywhere. They’re sleeping everywhere. They should be put in jail or something. Or helped. There’s no reason to be homeless. A lot are veterans and they fought in the war and they have a tough time. They should be helped.”
Name: Wendy Stolyarov
Education: Bachelor’s degree
Occupation: Owns Big Horn communications which specializes in Northern Nevada labor issues.
Experience: Ran unsuccessfully for Sparks mayor in 2018. Did political work for NARAL and the Nevada Libertarian Party.
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Money raised: $12,615
Biggest donors: White Rabbit PAC
What are you doing personally to stay safe during the pandemic? “I don’t leave the house without wearing a mask. I wash my hands a crazy number of times a day. We are still reaching out to voters, but staying home as much as possible. The only times I go out are to deliver a yard sign or get groceries.”
Do you agree or disagree with Gov. Sisolak’s decision to close non-essential businesses and issue a stay-at-home order amid the pandemic? Why? “I think he was absolutely correct. It’s a difficult decision to make and you’re putting people’s livelihoods on the line when you do that. The alternative is putting people’s lives on the line. Every person we lose is a universe lost forever. (As we reopen) I’d prefer it if everyone did voluntarily wear masks going outside the house.”
How would you deal with the financial fallout from the pandemic on the city budget? What would you cut first? What would you try to preserve? “My guiding principle dealing with this kind of loss of revenue is we have to preserve services for those who can afford to lose them the least. Make sure we preserve the core essential services. Police and fire are absolutely essential to maintain. Beyond that I’d like to (protect) any programs for the protection of the unsheltered.”
How would you address the homelessness issue? “I’d like to see a more aggressive regional approach. I have always been a huge fan of housing first policies. If you don’t have a place to live, it’s really hard to climb out of any hole you’re in. When I went and toured the shelter, I talked to people and one of the things they identified is hanging on to personal identifying information, documentation that lets them re-establish their lives. LA has little secure lockers. I’d like to work with local banks to repurpose safe deposit boxes that are unused. I’d like to stop the sweeps that we see downtown and establish some kind of safe campground.”
Anjeanette Damon is the government watchdog reporter for the RGJ. You can reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @AnjeanetteDamon. If you care about shining a bright light on decisions made by your elected officials, please consider subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal.
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