Carson City’s McKenna serves locally, thinks globally

John McKenna

John McKenna

When John McKenna leaves Carson City’s Board of Supervisors early in January, he won’t miss a step in his commitment to community service.

Less than two weeks after losing his reelection bid to Lori Bagwell, his Ward 3 challenger in November’s election, McKenna became treasurer of the Brewery Arts Center (BAC) board. It’s exemplary of his more than two decades of public and private sector service on boards, committees and in civic or commerce-oriented organizations benefitting residents in their pursuits both indoors and out.

Mayor Robert Crowell knows McKenna’s commitment well. But he found it difficult to encompass while voicing praise for his friend and colleague at McKenna’s final governing board meeting this month.

“It’s hard to express in words what you’ve done for our community,” said Crowell, though he gave it a go.

Crowell cited the Vietnam era Army veteran’s work helping build hiking trails along the Tahoe Rim and elsewhere. The mayor also cited McKenna’s four terms over 16 years on the school board, where the pair had also served together, and the past four years as one of the consolidated city’s four supervisors. Any recounting of McKenna’s commitment just scratches the surface.

Neither ducking the kudos nor feigning false modesty, McKenna in characteristic fashion talked instead in exit remarks and interviews about results and the future, not accomplishments and the past. He also thanked his colleagues, voiced appreciation for City Manager Nick Marano coming to Carson City in mid-2014, and praised city government’s staff members. “It’s been a joy to work with them,” the board member and certified public accountant said.

Of his seamless move into serving on the BAC board during a transition period there, he just saw it as a another step that recapitulates his habit of taking on tasks that need to be done.

“When I first came to Carson City,” he said of moving here in the late 1980s, “my wife and I straightened out the finances of the Brewery Arts Center.” He added that the BAC’s contribution to the city’s cultural options are important to all, “so it’s worth my time.”

But all service and no work or play isn’t McKenna’s complete style. He has plenty on his plate going forward in his CPA practice and in his love affair with the outdoors.

“I’ve already gotten really, really busy at work,” he said. ”The economy has picked up.” McKenna’s office is located in Suite 2000 at 769 Basque Way in northeast Carson City.

His eyes light up and his voice takes on even more vibrancy when he talks of his passion for hiking trails: “That’s what I do; I build trails. It’s fun, man. It gets you in shape.” He builds them in the Lake Tahoe Basin for the United States Forest Service and Nevada State Parks, a role he takes on as a volunteer with the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.

Such outdoor interests also led him to be on the Parks and Recreation Commission even before he was a supervisor, one of many boards or commissions he has served on diligently over the years. Among them are the city’s Audit Committee, the city’s Regional Transportation Commission, and the three-county Carson Area Metropolitan Organization.

His CPA fit with the audit panel was a natural. Work on the two transportation units gave him an understanding of and concern about roads, streets and how to pay for them or their maintenance.

In the private sector, he has been active in Rotary for two decades and on the local Chamber of Commerce, of which he is a past president. He’s a graduate of Southern Colorado State College, now the University of Southern Colorado.

Going forward, McKenna is concerned not only about Carson City transportation issues, but how modern life is changing due to technology and the Internet, community education and training quality, as well as wastewater treatment and the tie-in with water use here. He said, for example, that water is a crucial commodity and he posed a pertinent questions regarding what must be done in the future.

“Water is a commodity; it’s becoming a scarce commodity,” he said. “Why do we give it away to businesses?”

In an aside that relates in some ways, McKenna said one of the biggest things he has learned is government is a business and works when it’s run like a business. He added the people involved in it are passionate about their jobs.

McKenna is convinced the pre-2007 world is no more. As an example most high school graduates this year, he projected, will run through five to seven careers and some of those ways of making a living “haven’t even been thought of” yet. He also noted Carson City has fiber optics in the ground, but “we don’t use it.”

As for government here and elsewhere basing heavy reliance on revenues from sales tax, he said changes erode underpinnings as the world shrinks via the Internet. “You can get stuff here in a week from any place in the world,” he said, which impacts the local sales tax take. In other words and the broader sense, he indicated, there is a definite need for Nevada’s state capital to expand its horizons.

“I think that Carson City is way too insular,” he said. “How many people think globally?”

It sounded like a rhetorical question he hopes every resident will ponder.


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