Four years ago, Reno City Councilwoman Neoma Jardon escaped having to run a campaign. This year, she isn’t so lucky.
As Jardon seeks her third and final term representing Ward 5, three people have filed to run against her: Darla Fink, the retired finance director of Sierra Nevada Job Corps; Lee “Chef” Wilhelm, a culinary teacher; and Kurt Gottschalk, who did not respond to interview requests from the Reno Gazette Journal and doesn’t appear to have an active campaign.
Jardon said she is eager to continue her work on programs for those who are homeless, seniors and small businesses.
“I am running for a third term for many of the same reasons I ran the first time, and that is to bring a small business perspective,” she said.
Wilhelm said he was moved to challenge Jardon because he thinks he could do a better job communicating with constituents.
“I want to do things a little differently and I think I could do right by Reno,” he said.
Fink is running because she believes the average person in Ward 5 isn’t represented on the council.
“I live in the center of it, not in a gated community,” Fink said, taking a shot at Jardon’s pricey Somersett home.
“My education and experience lend itself to the current situation. I understand budgets. I know how to make decisions and I’m not afraid to make them. That’s my advantage over her.”
Here’s a look at three of the four candidates running in the June 9 primary to represent the northwest Reno ward:
Name: Darla Fink
Education: Master’s degree
Occupation: Retired finance director. Also owns a small precious metals business.
Experience: First run for office. Fink says her career as finance director for Job Corps prepared her for the duties of a council person.
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Money raised: $5,000
Biggest donors: Marilyn Jo Fink
What are you doing personally to stay safe during the pandemic? “I know the typical thing with campaigning is door knocking and I really wanted to do that because I love to meet people. Talking on the phone is fine, but you don’t get quite that sense of ease and rapport, but I’m still making phone calls. Probably the most difficult thing is trying to stay away from your family. We have a lot of Zoom meetings.”
Do you agree or disagree with Mayor Schieve and Gov. Sisolak’s decision to close non-essential businesses and issue a stay-at-home order amid the pandemic? Why? “You can only make decisions based on information you have at the time and I believe the decisions that were made were done accordingly. You only know if it was the right one based on how it has worked out. I feel like it’s helped. We have a pretty low mortality rate compared to other places. It would be nice if there was some sort of appeal process, but I don’t know how workable it would be.”
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’d really have to look at the entire budget to really get involved. What the city has done so far with the hiring freeze is a huge part of the solution. The biggest part of any budget is personnel. It’s going to be hard, but don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact (because of relatively stable property tax revenue). I’d certainly like to see police and fire protected because you still have the same amount of people they need that amount of protection.
How would you address the homelessness issue? “Well, I mean that is something that is clearly present in every community. If it was an easy thing to solve, it would’ve been solved a long time ago. With what’s happening in our homeless community, you get mixed messages. Some don’t want to go by the rules in the places they can stay. We also have to address mental health issues and addiction issues.”
Name: Neoma Jardon
Education: Associate’s degree
Occupation: Reno city councilwoman
Experience: Two terms on Reno City Council
Party affiliation: Republican
Money raised: $43,399
Biggest donors: Downtown casions; Builders Association
What are you doing personally to stay safe during the pandemic? “Well, I’m largely staying home with the exception of some essential trips. I’m staying home and communicating information on how everybody else can do the same to get through this. When I have gone out, it’s been with limited contact to supply some information about me and a bottle of hand sanitizer.”
Do you agree or disagree with Mayor Schieve and Gov. Sisolak’s decision to close non-essential businesses and issue a stay-at-home order amid the pandemic? Why? “I agree. I think it was important to be decisive in the actions early on to curb the COVID wave and allow an opportunity for our health facilities to ramp up to deal with the impacts of the COVID. I think that has proven to be pretty successful. What I do wish, though, is for better information that we could disseminate to those who are contacting us with regard to (who is allowed) to reopen. It’s difficult for us to communicate the rationale when we’re not receiving it.”
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 think there’s already been actions taken. There’s a hiring freeze. All the departments are looking at ways they can tighten their belts. Our finance team is really plugged in on this. There will be difficult decisions that will have to be made as we move forward. Public safety is of critical importance and would be the absolute last to take any cuts. Beside that, I can’t tell until we see the full picture.”
How would you address the homelessness issue? “By continuing to come up with and support and expand programs that I’ve already been a part of. Reno Works (which provides job training and housing) has been very successful. The Dorms project (which provides dorm-style low income housing) has been a successful project that has helped those who have struggled. And, of course the tiny homes, which is breaking ground soon. And, I think, actually supporting housing of all types helps to stabilize the market, which I think is really important.”
Name: Lee Wilhelm
Education: Bachelor’s degree
Occupation: Teaches hospitality management and culinary arts for the Washoe County School District
Experience: First time running for office. Volunteers in the community.
Party affiliation: Democrat
Money raised: $500
Biggest donors: Did not list donors on his campaign finance form
What are you doing personally to stay safe during the pandemic? “My garden and my front yard are looking great! I’m spending a lot of time there.I try to go for walks, but when I see people coming, I cross the street. I like to say six feet is not enough, we need a 10-foot pole. We get a lot of deliveries. I miss going out. I do worry about the waiters and waitresses and bartenders that have taken care of us.”
Do you agree or disagree with Mayor Schieve and Gov. Sisolak’s decision to close non-essential businesses and issue a stay-at-home order amid the pandemic? Why? “I 100 percent agree with Gov. Sisolak’s doing it. I think it’s the right thing to do. I always say, ‘Give me debt over death.’ I agreed with Sisolak and I would have agreed with our mayor, if she had communicated with small business owners it was coming. I think (the reopening) is being handled well, but I worry we are going too fast. But I get people are worried about paying their mortgages, rent and just basic food and things they need to live.”
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’m going to preserve the essential medical and safety, all our first responder jobs. But there’s no guarantees on any of this. I don’t think I want to (totally) cut anything, but would take some things down to a bare minimum budget to survive.”
How would you address the homelessness issue? “First and foremost I would listen to the people filing the complaints and get their input. I’d also approach it with some compassion. I don’t think it can be solved but we can mitigate it and make is smaller. We need to give a hand up instead of a hand out when approaching stuff.” Wilhelm said he favors a project similar to one in Portland, which repurposed a hotel and restaurant into housing and job training for the homeless.
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.
Read or Share this story: https://www.rgj.com/story/news/politics/2020/05/17/teacher-ex-finance-director-take-neoma-jardon-reno-city-council-ward-5/5193341002/