Transparency & other assorted tee shots |

Transparency & other assorted tee shots

John Barrette

A half century watching politicians means you rarely see something you haven’t seen before or learn something new about the breed.

Certainly that is the case, for the most part, with Jim Shirk. We’ll take up the caveat behind the phrase “for the most part” later. For now, however, let’s focus on the self-avowed lover of Carson City’s continual wooing of said city’s voters. Shirk won a seat on the city’s Board of Supervisors by barely beating Molly Walt, his predecessor from Ward 4, less than two years ago. But anyone paying attention noticed he didn’t stop campaigning.

In a heartbeat, rumors began circulating Shirk covets the mayor’s office. At first, word was he would run in 2016 if Mayor Robert Crowell didn’t. Then there was even talk he might run then no matter what.

After Supervisor Shirk went public Monday with news the Hyatt hotels chain is eyeing downtown Carson City, which many colleagues wanted him to keep under his hat, it became obvious 2016 political questions were already warranted.

Calls to the mayor, Shirk and a couple of others whose names have circulated produced both ho-hum and intriguing results. The mayor said he hasn’t yet decided. Garrett Lepire, realtor and property owner, and Ronni Hannaman, Chamber of Commerce executive director, basically said there’s no truth to such rumors about them.

Shirk’s answer was a hearty laugh and then a stiff-arm statement: “At this juncture I am not looking anywhere past this year.” Lepire, meanwhile, had an entirely different take on whether Shirk was looking beyond 2014.

“I can almost guarantee you that he will run for mayor,” said Lepire. He also expressed interest in eventually entering politics himself, but has no such plans, yet. He said he and Shirk occasionally golf together and he’s sure the supervisor has his eye on the brass ring, a grab for the city’s top policy-maker post.

Now, back to that “for the most part” caveat regarding anything new from ambitious politicians. I’ve rarely seen one with an eye on the prize so willing to anger most with whom he must work, which is what Shirk does regularly and did again with his comments about a possible hotel downtown. A half century of political observation tells me it won’t make him mayor and could even jeopardize his re-election as supervisor.

An old political axiom is politics makes strange bedfellows, but this politician seems bent on making his bedfellows into strangers. Not so here, though; news people prefer transparency and that’s the banner under which Shirk justified his disclosure regarding the potential downtown development.

When it comes to personal political ambition, however, it seems you have to be Shirk’s golf partner to get a candid reading and any transparency beyond Dec. 31, 2014.

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

Editor’s note: This column was modified after its original print verision.