Las Vegas Sun

December 20, 2014

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New planning commissioner takes seat

Residents or business owners within the Ward 6 boundaries of Las Vegas have had a new face representing them on the Planning Commission board since Oct. 23.

Sam Dunnam had been serving on the board representing Ward 6 for three years, but decided to resign after closing his private consulting engineer firm to work at an engineering firm that has many contracts with the city of Las Vegas. To avoid creating the perception of a conflict of interest, Dunnam stepped down. He was replaced by Keen Ellsworth, a business attorney.

"I miss it," Dunnam said without hesitation. "I miss working with the city of Las Vegas staff. They are phenomenal. It was amazing to see what goes on behind the scenes — to see how hard the staff works."

Planning commissioners are appointed to represent the ward they live in by the city council person who represents the same ward. They are paid about $80 for each bi-monthly meeting. The meetings, however, begin at 6 p.m. and sometimes last until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. Besides the meetings, commissioners meet with residents and business owners. Dunnam said he spent about 12 to 15 hours meeting with people before the meetings.

"I've known Sam for a long time," said Councilman Steve Ross, who represents Ward 6. "His integrity is unquestionable. I always knew I could rely on him."

Ross awarded Dunnam with the Citizen of the Month award during the Nov. 5 city council meeting.

While deciding on a new planning commissioner, Ross said he chose Ellsworth because he also has a great deal of integrity and knows Ward 6 well enough to make good planning decisions.

"Keen strikes me as a guy who wants to serve," Ross said. "He serves his family, his church, his homeowners association, and his kind of values are my kind of values."

A partner at Ellsworth Moody & Benion Law Firm, Ellsworth doesn't want to give residents the wrong impression that because he is a business attorney, he won't understand the residents in Ward 6, where many want to live a more rural lifestyle.

"People may get the wrong impression that I'm a city-slicker, but I grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona," he said. "My closest neighbor lived a mile away. I understand the rural lifestyle and how important that is when development is going on."

By being a family-oriented man whose work focuses on business and corporate law and litigation, he is able to understand the needed balance of preserving neighborhoods while developing businesses.

"I plan to keep neighborhoods family-friendly and keep businesses in business districts," he said. "You often see companies encroaching in on neighborhoods, but I plan to protect them."

The key for the future of the undeveloped areas is to stick to the city Master Plan while taking the "human factor" into account, Ellsworth said.

"When developers are developing, they can allow residents to maintain their lifestyle," he said.

For example, if residents live in a community next to a commercial-zoned area, Ellsworth wants to make sure developers minimize the impact on residents by adjusting design, layout, signage and landscaping.

Ellsworth has been living in the Ward 6 area since 1993.

Jenny Davis can be reached at 990-8921 or [email protected].

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