Departing supervisor Robin Williamson looks ahead to continued service
After 12 years of service on the Carson City Board of Supervisors, Robin Williamson will step out of the spotlight in January, but not off the field.
Williamson, best known for her sometimes controversial work as chairwoman of the city’s redevelopment authority, has much to be proud of, but admits there is still plenty of work she can do behind the scenes.
“I always tried to be positive and celebrate what’s good and unique about Carson City,” Robinson said. “I tried to convey good things and emphasize that we are a charming community, but it’s always been a challenge to reach out to people so that we continue moving forward. You have to evolve.”
Williamson took office in 1999 and was re-elected twice, but was forced to retire from the board along with Supervisor Pete Livermore by term limits.
Both supervisors went head-to-head in November for the state’s open Assembly District 40 seat, but Livermore won with 51 percent of the vote to Williamson’s 49 percent, a difference of less than 250 votes.
“It wasn’t too much of a surprise. It was the first time I’d run in a partisan race, and there is a 3,500 voter disparity between Democrats and Republicans here, so I came close and I was happy about that,” Williamson said.
“But I’m a person who likes to be involved, so I’m content to step aside and move forward from here and wish Pete the best of luck,” she said.
A look back at some of Williamson’s accomplishments while serving as a public official shows a primary focus on redevelopment.
“I’ve met a lot of wonderful people and had a lot of wonderful experiences and been involved in a lot of good projects,” she said.
“I served as chair of the redevelopment authority all 12 years, and it all started with the empty Salvation Army store (now Hanifin’s Arts & Antiques). It looked so bad, I called the bank and asked if it was OK if I got someone to wash the windows,” she said.
“What we did that was different from other communities is that we tried to offer incentives rather than use condemnation when a property was blighted or under-utilized. I’m proud of that,” Williamson said.
“When there was a lot of prosperity, we never had out-of-control growth – we had managed growth, so we were a little better positioned than other communities when the economy got bad. We tried to be prudent and tried to invest in ourselves and get others to invest in themselves,” she said.
Another project in which Williamson had a big hand was bringing Costco to Carson City – redevelopment’s first big-box store effort.
Other successes she and Office of Business Development Director Joe McCarthy worked hard to achieve were bringing the Galaxy Theater and Casino Fandango to town, she said.
“I’ve also been a consistent supporter of historic buildings – that’s part of our attraction – we need to help property owners to improve these, because there are always hidden costs when you start restoring them,” she said.
“I stepped up and helped broker a deal with the First Presbyterian Church because I felt there was value in that building, and it’s on my to-do list to start a foundation to see what we can do for our other historic churches,” she said. “People have a sense of ownership and belonging because a lot of them were married there or baptized or went to funerals there.”
The redevelopment authority also helped the Brewery Arts Center buy the former Catholic Church on King Street.
“They raised funds and we gave them $675,000, which helped them to seal the deal so that the public could enjoy it rather than having it go to private use like offices,” she said.
Another recent effort which has paid off in sales tax revenue gains for the city was helping several auto dealerships move to new properties on South Carson Street rather than into Douglas County.
“I also supported and got activities going downtown,” Williamson said.
Some of the projects in which Williamson had a hand were the downtown’s hanging flower baskets, the annual Christmas ornament featuring Carson City’s historic buildings, the downtown farmer’s market, the ice rink, the tower chimes in the Laxalt building, the C Hill flag, historic walks, the city’s tree-lighting, the library’s Oktoberfest, and the summer concert series.
“People would always have these great ideas, and we’ve said, ‘Sure, let’s figure out how we can it,'” she said. “The idea was always that if you came out to an event, you would go out to eat or have a drink or shop, then you’d remember that this was a good experience, and you’d want to come back.”
Williamson said people from other cities often come to Carson City to see how things are done here.
“They always say we have wonderful bones with our street grid and buildings. Everything is doable here and we are moving incrementally forward. Here in Carson we have a wonderful college, a wonderful hospital. We have a great manufacturing sector and we’re the state capital,” she said.
“I’ve also always been a supporter of open space as liaison for the federal lands bill to protect our view sheds,” she said.
As a supervisor, she has served as chairwoman of the Nevada Association of Counties and as a member of the Carson Water Subconservancy District.
In moving forward, Williamson said she is very interested in renewable energy, and that she expects to stay busy in her role on the Western Nevada College Foundation. She also plans to continue her work on the downtown’s new library project.
“I’m very proud of the board of supervisors we have. They are all fun, smart, hard-working people, and I’m comfortable they’ll continue on the path of moving us forward. There is an energy and a good spirit on the board right now,” she said.
“There are so many people at City Hall I really like, and I’ll miss them, but I’ll also miss (Supervisor) Shelly Aldean. I’ve been sitting next to her for a lot of years, and I’m really going to miss working with her,” Williamson said.
Williamson, who grew up in San Diego, Calif., and was once a reporter for the Las Vegas Review Journal, moved to Carson City in 1990, where she and her husband Phil raised three daughters.
“During those 12 years I was supervisor, three daughters graduated from college and they all got married, both my mom and dad passed away, and we had our first grandchild,” Williamson said.
“It has been a momentous span of life for me, and being a supervisor made it all that much better,” she said.