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January 27, 2015

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NLV mayor race a clash of generations

Candidates crossed paths before politics

Click to enlarge photo

William Robinson

Click to enlarge photo

Shari Buck

In the early 1970s William Robinson roamed the sidelines as a Pop Warner football coach in North Las Vegas.

Twelve-year-old Shari Avance played on the sidelines as her older brother, Mike, took instructions from the coach.

Fast-forward nearly 40 years: The coach has been a councilman for 26 years in what has become a sprawling suburb with more than 215,000 residents.

And the girl married a fellow named Buck, became a mother of four children and is in her third term as a councilwoman.

The one-time coach and the girl on the sidelines are now facing off in what may develop as a spirited race to become mayor of their city.

As do local politicians in towns across America, these two have intertwined histories. They knew of each other a generation ago and have worked together on the City Council for a decade. In fact, Robinson helped Buck get elected to the council in 1999.

Robinson worked with Shari Buck’s father, Jim Avance, when he was the North Las Vegas police chief.

Robinson said he remembers little of the child who is now an opponent.

After all, he coached hundreds of children during decades of running football and baseball teams.

Buck said she doesn’t remember much about the man who coached her brother, now an insurance agent in North Las Vegas. “I was so little,” she says.

But she does remember that the now 69-year-old had a full head of hair.

Robinson lost that hair, but still wears bright, custom-tailored suits.

He’s never been shy.

In the primary Robinson began attacking Buck, now 48, with a series of mailers. One questioned Buck’s support for a new water treatment facility last year and an increase in council pay in 2000.

Robinson, who voted for City Council pay raises in 1989 and 1992, was the only member who voted against a raise in 2000.

Council members make about $45,000 annually; the mayor makes $52,000.

The Clark County Democratic Party also took a shot at Buck, a Republican, with a flier trying to connect her to the “disastrous Republican policies” of President George W. Bush and Gov. Jim Gibbons.

(The mayor’s post is nonpartisan.)

The biggest challenge of the job: responding to the recession’s effects on the city budget.

Robinson has been more aggressive in cutting city budgets than Buck.

Buck calls him “old school” in his ideas, and abrupt in his demeanor.

Robinson’s abruptness have long been part of his shtick. He’s a guy who responded to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman’s idea of merging cities with a simple “Hell no.”

Upset about the city’s inability to break a contract, he claimed to be an expert in contract breaking, having been divorced twice.

In public Buck is calmer, although some who have worked with her say she can be hot-tempered and a cunning politician.

And she has a stare, one that earned her the nickname “Cyclops” on one local blog. Robinson gets called “grumpy.”

The candidates say they maintain a cordial and professional — but not close — relationship these days.

But that may be threatened in the next month.

The grandfather has been around since little Shari Buck was watching from the sidelines.

But it’s clear she’s now a player.

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