Scene in Passing: What’s cookin’ in Carson’s political oven?

A near lifetime observing politics and government gives the average man of 71 some insight into human behavior, but there’s no claim here it borders on wisdom.

H.L. Mencken’s observations often appear in this space, so let’s pull one more pearl from his slim “In Defense of Women” book. He wrote it in the days when many incorrectly presumed women should stay out of the public arena.

“No matter how long he lives,” wrote the sage of Baltimore, “no man ever becomes as wise as the average woman of 48 ...”

That fact about mature women was hammered home Thursday at Carson City’s Board of Supervisors. After the board voted 4-1 to establish a Utility Financial Oversight Committee of five members, some supervisors immediately had names of their candidates on the tip of their tongues. Each board member appoints one citizen.

Supervisor Karen Abowd named Ande Engleman. Engleman, longtime Carson City budget hawk and ethics advocate who just headed a city Ethics Ordinance Review Committee, won kudos for her handling of the ethics review. Abowd and Engleman, not viewed as political allies, at a minimum split over dining establishments.

Abowd is co-owner with her husband, Charlie, of Adele’s restaurant. Engleman often holds court at Glen Eagles. It’s also clear Abowd and Engleman are always on the same page politically.

So Abowd’s choice is a win-win, a term too often used that applies this time. Engleman will provide the city with an experienced eagle eye on utility spending. Abowd shows respect for the ethics champion not long after Supervisor Jim Shirk, the sole board member against the citizens’ utility oversight panel, rattled Abowd’s cage over ethics.

In November, Shirk questioned Abowd about whether she has a conflict regarding a vote on a proposed one-eighth-of-a-cent city sales tax hike to finance capital improvement projects. Included is a project downtown some might figure benefits the Abowds’ restaurant. She said she had no conflict, then voted.

Undoubtedly she will again, if given the chance, on Dec. 19 when supervisors are expected to revisit the issue.

Meanwhile, Charlie Abowd testified Thursday to the board upon which his wife and Shirk serve. He supported the tax hike/capital-improvements proposal, pointedly adding there is no conflict involved. Too many cooks, however, spoil the broth. Political pros say it’s rarely wise to take such bait so belatedly in public. Why? You may look hooked on the other guy’s line.

The city’s lone female supervisor, however, displayed an adept hand at dealing with the political heat in the kitchen and the crowd in the government dining room.

In addition, age aside, the supervisor and Engleman are anything but average women.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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