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August 23, 2014

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POLITICS:

Henderson elections all about biography

Experience defines these races as much as issues

Henderson has gracefully matured from a small World War II factory and mining town into the state’s second-largest city.

Its master-planned communities are filled with parks, earning the city accolades. The road are clean, the recreation centers new. But the city faces its share of challenges, the biggest being a $50 million budget shortfall stemming from falling sales and property taxes.

And it will soon make decisions about the growth of industry and the creation of the city’s first museum.

In this climate, voters will chose a mayor to replace Jim Gibson, who is leaving office after 12 years because of term limits.

They have a choice among two City Council members, a former council member, a former city police chief and a local lawyer who seems to have stopped campaigning.

Six candidates are on the ballot for the Ward 3 council seat being vacated by Jack Clark because of term limits.

Additionally, a municipal court judge seat will be filled.

All of the candidates agree that the city needs to push for more federal and state aid for homeowners facing foreclosure, and should lobby strenuously for federal stimulus money.

The candidates also concur in wanting to stick with plans to redevelop the 60-year-old downtown.

The candidates start to go their own ways when it comes to the proposed $61 million science museum, a project sure to be at the forefront of city discussions over the next four years.

Mayor

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Mike Mayberry Launch slideshow »

Henderson Mayor's Race

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The candidates are separated by their backgrounds and leadership experience, not their positions on the issues. Would you rather the mayor be a veteran of city politics or a former police chief?

“Their claim to fame is City Council,” Mike Mayberry, chief of the Henderson Police Department from 1999 to 2005, said of his opponents. “They haven’t led in tough situations. The mayor has to be more than a vote. He has to be the strong leader.”

His leadership, he said, was honed through 29 years as a Henderson officer, as he saw the department grow from having 35 officers in a city of roughly 20,000 to more than 400 employees as the city grew to 230,000.

At his retirement, Mayberry was lauded because the department had been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

The other candidates bring years of City Council experience to the top post. Councilman Andy Hafen has served on the council for 22 years; Councilman Steve Kirk for 10 years, and former Councilwoman Amanda Cyphers for 12 years until she stepped down in 2007.

In terms of their voting records, the three have generally stood together on the most important issues facing Henderson, robbing the voter of any easy litmus test.

They, as well as Mayberry, generally agree the city is headed in the right direction.

But Cyphers wants a stronger emphasis on small businesses; Kirk strongly opposes any property tax increase, although the city has not increased property taxes in nearly 20 years and no one is suggesting it now; and Hafen wants to focus on maintaining quality of life, while improving infrastructure.

It is a nonpartisan race. But Hafen is a Democrat; Kirk, Mayberry and Cyphers are Republicans. Hafen, a fourth-generation Nevadan, said he has more — and better — experience than the others.

It includes his work on the council, 23 years as a business license investigator for Metro Police and six years representing Henderson on the Regional Transportation Commission.

Kirk said his business experience sets him apart. He oversaw a staff of about 20 as a former regional manager at Lason, a technology company that converted paperwork to CD format.

“If we’re going to run government like a business, we need somebody who has run a business,” Kirk said. “I’ve been responsible for employees, balance sheets and the bottom line.”

Cyphers is a real estate agent.

“I’m the one with ideas,” she said, proposing a volunteer program and weekly meetings with small-business owners.

She said she stepped down from her seat two years ago to spend time with her son, now 10. During her tenure she was active in developing rural zoning to buffer neighborhoods from growth and spent eight years on the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition.

The fact is, each of the three council members going after the mayor’s job seems to get along well with the others, and might not even be running except that they’re not allowed to spend any more time as council members because of term limits.

It’s either the mayor’s job or nothing.

Candidate Richard Sipan, the attorney, did not return phone calls for this story and there is no evidence that he is still campaigning for the post.

Ward 3

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Kathleen Boutin Launch slideshow »

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Of the six candidates on the ballot for the vacant City Council seat, only two seem to be serious contenders.

Again, it’s a decision about leadership and experience. Kathleen Boutin founded the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth 10 years ago and counts many friends in local politics.

She tapped those connections for more than $150,000 in campaign money before anybody registered for the ballot.

Her nonprofit group, with a $1.4 million operating budget, provides day-to-day aid for homeless teenagers.

Candidate Cathy Rosenfield, who owns a vacation property rental company, is banking on having served as chairwoman of the city Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and having successfully pushed for the Heritage Park Senior Center, scheduled to open this summer. She also has served on more than a half-dozen other community boards.

Retired insurance salesman Bruce Cutler’s main campaign spiel is that the other candidates are city insiders who have lost connection with the people.

He bills himself as the fiscal conservative, saying the budget needs to be cut. But he doesn’t suggest how. He said serving on the Whitney Ranch Board of Directors, a homeowners association, prepared him for fiscal challenges.

Brandon Casutt is a two-time losing candidate for seats in the state Legislature who owns a sign business. He says that if elected, he would donate his $44,287 salary to charity.

His primary campaign theme: He would lobby state officials to force banks to give homeowners first chance at buying their foreclosed homes.

Candidate Jim Dunn did not return calls and Jason Frayer has not campaigned.

Correction: This story was changed to correct that Mike Mayberry is a Republican.

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