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Commission candidates push priorities

Staff report

A business manager and former Lyon County manager are vying for two seats on the Lyon County Commission.

Donna Kristaponis, 64, was county manager from 2005-2007 before being fired by the commission, and Sherry Parsons, 57, owns and runs Don Parsons Construction in Fernley.

Kristaponis is running against Chuck Rogers of Mound House, and Parsons is opposed by Joe Mortensen of Fernley.

Donna KristAponis

Kristaponis, who graduated from the University of Washington and earned her master’s degree in public affairs at the University of Texas, is the operations manager at Michael Baker, Jr., Inc. Reno Office, a large engineering and technology firm with offices in 27 states and seven foreign countries. She oversees 38 people in the Reno office.

She has spent most of her career working for and with local governments, with a focus on strategic planning, land use, infrastructure, public safety, and social services. In addition to having been the Lyon County manager, she served as assistant city manager in Reno and planning and development director in Reno, Las Vegas, Houston, and Palm Beach County.

She also ran her own consulting business for five years with a staff of six working on government policy.

She has served on the Governor’s Advisory Board on Water Resources Planning and Development, and the boards of directors of the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada, the Northern Nevada Development Authority, the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, the Pioneer Theatre of the Performing Arts, and the Nevada Community Reinvestment Corporation. She feels her education and experience make her an excellent candidate for commissioner.

“My lifelong interest and experience is public policy,” she said. “Even my positions in the private sector have allowed me to be involved in policymaking. My decision to run for office is based on my concern that Lyon County is not making much, if any, progress in a number of key policy areas.”

She said ideas and potential actions are presented to the commission, but they have shelved most attempts to make a decision or move forward with strategic planning or implementation.

“Remember that we have no road plan to even connect the bridge to our roadway system,” she said. “No wonder the county is stagnating.”

She said the county needed to live within its means, talk with communities, set goals and priorities and approve a budget that would accomplish those priorities.

She said the decision on the jail’s location should boil down to a comparison of the capital and operating costs for each potential location and the level of service deputies can provide to the community. So far, the focus seems to be on comparing only the capital cost (construction and infrastructure) between the Silver Springs, Dayton, and Yerington sites. She said operating costs over 30-40 years should also be factored in.

“While cost of maintaining prisoners is probably similar regardless of the location, the evaluation needs to focus on cost of transport from time of arrest to locking the prisoner in jail and the cost of time lost by deputies who are doing the transporting,” she said. “The existing jail isn’t close to the county’s major population. As a result, two deputies are taken out of service to transport anyone under arrest or the prisoner is released on his or her own recognizance.”

She supports a design-built option, which designs to the piece of land that best serves the county’s need, and also supports more alternative sentencing to keep nonviolent offenders out of jail.

She said she is the best candidate because her opponent didn’t have a record of results.

“I’m not only a planner. I’m a doer,” she said. “My strength is building consensus; I have successfully brought people with diverse views together to develop public policy.”

She supported moving commission meetings around the county and improving and updating the Web site, including having commission meetings “streamed” on the Web.

She also said she would promote economic development to diversify the economy, and improve the county’s public safety facilities and programs.

She said commissioners set policy and staff implements it, but that some commissioners have blurred the roles, leading to mixed messages to staff and wasting time and taxpayer money.

“Direction to staff must come from the commission as a whole, not from individual commissioners,” she said. “This is the system set up in Nevada law, which I will honor.”

Sherry Parsons

Parsons said she has been active in politics for years, including time as the parks secretary in Fernley. She and her husband have run many campaigns; both ran for the town board.

She hails from Salt Lake City, but went to high school in Elko and Fernley, and has lived in Lyon County for 40 years.

She has run a business, been a teacher and served with Parks and Recreation, church, Cub Scouts, organized youth sports, Fernley Depot and Women’s Auxiliary-Fernley Volunteer Fire Department.

“I have been active in the community and county for years, and as the owner of a construction company I have had to work with most areas and levels of government,” she said. “I have spent many long days and nights at county commission meetings, town board meetings, and City Council meetings, promoting the best interests of my community and county.”

She would work to attract good businesses to Lyon County, which she said is the fastest and best way to help the county financially.

“Businesses are taxed, they hire employees, who in turn buy the houses in our county, house values go up and the residents spend money in the county,” she said. “We also need to work for federal money. We can continue to work on grants. I have talked with our congressmen on how to get more federal money for our county.”

Parsons said the county in the 2008-2009 budget eliminated 5.6 full-time equivalent employees and anticipated the retirement of 24 positions that will be replaced with lower salaries.

“I don’t like the idea of eliminating positions or giving lower salaries for the expense of a jail, and this bond will have to be paid for,” she said. “I would rather have employees. Also I don’t believe some of the projected revenue will be there. I like cost projections so if the project is a go, I would like to use projected costs for each site. I would like these presented to the citizens and their input factored.”

She has accused her opponent, Joe Mortensen, with participating in one of the most mismanaged projects in Lyon County’s history.

“The arsenic water treatment project was begun without the needed permits from the EPA so original work and design was obsolete and it had to be redone,” she said. “The mismanaged project has continued without a final price. This year Fernley is $96 million in debt and the project is not completed. The project change orders (over runs) to date are approximately $1 million. Fallon, Nev., did their total arsenic treatment project for $1 million and it is online. I understand business.”

She said the top issues the county will face are a revenue shortfall, attracting business and an updated master plan.

“Without an updated master plan it is harder to make decisions, be it on the commission or in business,” she said.

Parsons said that as commissioner she would be looking out for the interests of the county on all issues.

“I believe in the representative form of government,” she said. “I will listen to the citizens in our county and I will represent the wishes of the citizens. They know their areas best.”

She said she has the support of business and Realtors.

“They follow closely what is going on,” she said. “I have developed, sold, bought and have rental properties. Most of our investments are in Lyon County not on Wall Street. We have seen our property investments begin to plummet as my opponent began his plan of repaying his out of control spending and enormous debt. He thought they could assess the businesses – which stopped development. I will be conservative.”

This story was written from answers to a questionnaire submitted by the Nevada Appeal to the candidates. Candidates Joe Mortensen and Chuck Rogers did not respond to the Appeal questionnaire.