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November 27, 2014

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Henderson goes with ‘caretaker’ to fill Vermillion’s council seat

Former Henderson City Councilwoman Kathleen Vermillion

Former Henderson City Councilwoman Kathleen Vermillion

The Henderson City Council chose the safe route Monday night by appointing planning commissioner John Marz to fill the empty Ward 3 seat vacated by Kathleen Vermillion until the general election next year.

Marz, who has a long history as a business owner and marketing executive in the valley, said during his interview Monday that he would serve as a “caretaker” for the year and a half before the 2013 election.

“I have been a resident of Henderson for over 26 years … I have owned and run my own business with over 100 employees,” Marz said during his presentation. “I make a commitment to you that I will not run for re-election. I will give those people who serve after me an opportunity to run for this seat.”

Eleven candidates were given three minutes each to present their qualifications to the council Monday night. Council members also had a chance to ask questions of the candidates, with Mayor Andy Hafen asking each what their strengths and weaknesses are, and with Councilwoman Gerri Schroder focusing on what each candidate saw as the most important issue in their ward.

Marz was voted in 3-1 on a motion made by Hafen, with Schroder the only vote in opposition. Schroder said she supports Marz but would have preferred to see a potential long-term replacement for the spot chosen.

Vermillion, who was elected in 2009, resigned in early January, stating that she wanted more time to spend with her family and at the nonprofit group she founded.

She has recently become embroiled in a lawsuit with Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, with whom she had a romantic relationship for five years. She has also been accused of financial improprieties at her nonprofit Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, but she denies any allegations of wrongdoing.

Marz emphasized his business background and said his focus would be on finding new ways to draw businesses to Henderson.

“With jobs come people. People buy homes and neighborhoods are revitalized, empty stores are occupied and our city can return to prosperity,” Marz said.

Foreclosures and blighted homes in neighborhoods were two issues Marz said he hoped to address during his time on the council. He said he’s also excited to assist in the planned $1.5 billion Union Village health care development planned for construction in Ward 3 near U.S. 95 and Galleria Drive.

Marz, who currently owns a marketing and business consulting firm and previously worked as an executive with the Mandalay Resort Group, was emphatic that he would not seek a full term on the council. He said he felt running in the general election as an incumbent provides too great an advantage and that it would be unfair to voters.

Instead, he said he will help the city deal with pressing issues like its budget deficit and then prepare to hand off the position to whoever is elected by voters.

The 11 candidates applying for the job brought a range of career and volunteer backgrounds, including experience as lawyers, educators, bankers and insurance agents.

After about an hour of presentations, the council whittled the list down to four, including Marz, planning commissioner Sean Fellows, retired Principal Beverly Daly-Dix and Cathy Rosenfield, who ran for the Ward 3 seat against Vermillion in 2009.

The council spent much of the rest of the meeting debating whether they wanted to appoint a “caretaker” for the seat who would give it up after the next election, or whether they should choose a replacement who could serve the city long term.

Councilman Sam Bateman said that appointing Marz to fill the spot in the near term was the fairest thing for the city short of holding a special election.

The council earlier this month deliberated between appointing Vermillion’s replacement or holding a special election, but chose to go the appointment route because a special election would have cost $248,000.

“I think this is a difficult position to be in. The nature of the decision is we’re picking an elected official for the electorate” Bateman said. “We are not making the decision for a lengthy period of time for the electorate. I think it enfranchises them in the best way, although I don’t think it’s perfect.”

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  1. This is probably the fairest way that Henderson could have handled this situation. The Henderson City Council should be commended.