Former supervisor Tom Tatro defended his ability to be a part-time mayor as the four hopefuls for Carson City's mayoral post answered questions Tuesday before a group of about 80 Republicans.
Tatro has said his job as fiscal manager at the Department of Motor Vehicles would not hinder his ability to serve as mayor, but again was asked how he could handle both.
"When I was on the Board of Supervisors, I was commended by people like Ray Masayko for the quality of the work I did," Tatro said. "I did my homework, I was effective. Let's look at what I did.
"I was chair of the Redevelopment Authority during the period of the most changes. That wasn't an accident, it took a lot of energy. I served on the convention and visitors board and the community council on youth. I had two active kids, who both live in other states now.
"There's a heck of a lot more than 40 hours in a week. I don't think people want to deal with government just from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I don't think the mayor has to be at every social event. I think things can be changed. The work is important, and it will be done."
Mediator Rosemary Smith kicked off the debate in front of the Carson City Republican Women's Club with a Jeopardy! trivia fact that Carson City is the only state capital with no public transportation or commercial airport.
Transportation was one of several issues on which the candidates were questioned. The debate ranged on topics from how to improve public safety, to improving traffic and transit, their position on regional programs as well as what they thought the job of mayor entailed.
The candidates agreed that the biggest project for the city and mayor in the coming year is to keep the freeway's construction on track.
"Aside from making sure this community is a safe place to live, we need to continue to focus on that freeway's Phase 2," Mayor Ray Masayko said. "I know we can score higher than the I-580, but it will take my work and my attention."
Candidate Tom Keeton agreed, saying he believed "we should spend a lot of time leaning on the governor to make sure the bypass is the priority." He also noted he wanted a community where transportation included a mix of vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.
"It can be done, all we have to do is plan," Keeton said.
After Tatro was asked about the potential conflict with his job, Keeton, Masayko and Neil Weaver all said they did not think it was a major issue. But they also said they have the time and energy to devote full time to the job.
"I believe I need to be available to represent your city every day of the week," Masayko said. "There are a lot more demands on this job that meets the eye."
Asked what the biggest public safety threat was to the city, Keeton said gangs coming into the city.
"I've seen it before," he said. "They're small, but you need to do something about it."
Masayko noted that his record showed his support of curbing youth violence. Tatro said the city could have done something about its antiquated dispatch system, but chose not to. While he agreed that helping curb youth violence was important, he wants to see something done to upgrade the city's dispatch system.
Weaver said he wanted to see the sheriff's office receive more funding.
"We've become a training ground for the rest of the state," Weaver said. "That needs to stop."
All the candidates are registered Republicans.
"Most of the candidates I didn't know very well because my political involvement has been relatively short here," said Helen Glenn. "I was very pleased to get to know them and see where they stand. They're all extremely sincere and would try to do the job very well."
Club president-elect Audrey Rich said she thought the big issues defined in the debate were traffic and transportation.
"I thought the luncheon went beautifully," she said. "I thought both Ray Masayko and Tom Keeton were very well informed. Neil Weaver and Tom Tatro, they're fine, but they need a little more experience."
Mediator Smith said she thought the forum offered more insight into the candidates' knowledge of Carson City.
"We know only one of these men will be mayor," she said. "We thank the other three for trying."
The candidates meet again today at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Pinon Plaza Resort Hotel Casino.