Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2014

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WHERE I STAND:

Community needs giants now, for the future

Editor’s note: Every summer, Brian Greenspun turns over his Where I Stand column to guest writers for several weeks. Today’s guest is North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee.

Filling the shoes of giants!

A few years ago, I was traveling across the West when I got a call from a good friend of mine. During the conversation, I indicated my location and he said: “John, my father’s ranch is just down the road. Would you like to go visit with him?” As a young paperboy for the Valley Times, I was first introduced to industry giant E. Parry Thomas when I saw his name and banking business ventures featured in the newspaper.

Having just recently read his autobiography, I eagerly accepted the invitation and spent part of the day riding around on a golf cart touring a magnificent ranch while sitting beside a true giant and founder of our contemporary business community.

The barns with chandeliers, million-dollar dressage horses, immaculate gardens and a magnificent residence may have been impressive to many, but conversing with a man who financed and shaped the growth of our valley was incredibly inspiring and has profoundly impacted my vision for the future.

As I returned home, I wondered, “Where have all the giants gone?” It became apparent that retirement, death and multinational business interests had robbed the valley of our great business and political thinkers, planners and visionaries who worked together to build our region.

Despite the loss of so many of these giants, we still have potential all around. During this past campaign for mayor, I was deeply impressed by the brilliant, industrious and visionary people I met — and I knew I was in the presence of potential future giants.

The preparation of these future giants will continue as they learn valuable lessons through personal efforts fueled by their committed passion. While the future shapes its potential giants, the present needs giants to step up. We quote great leaders and try and emulate their lives, but how many of us are ready to step up and assume their empty mantles? Our community and state truly stand at the crossroads of our future — a future that depends on whether our leaders are committed to actively engaging in an investment of their time, energy and talents into solving our most pressing problems.

We must become giants! Giants make the hard decisions where long-term success is born from temporary discomfort. Giants soar above partisanship with an eye single to the common good. Giants attract, not divide. Giants see opportunities where others see only losses. Giants understand the power of the collective and seek to elevate and mentor young giants. Giants see other giants as assets, not liabilities. In many ways, there is potential to become a giant inside all of us, and now is the time to stop the verbal motion and start action.

We must look within our community for the solutions to our problems. Wall Street can’t finance us out of our problems, Washington can’t bail us out of our problems, and our remote state capital is consumed with perpetuating the inequalities that continue to short-change our valley.

The economic crisis serves as a brutal wake-up call that North Las Vegas must solve its own problems and that our region’s future cannot be dependent on distant institutions; it is reliant on the collective efforts and success of our local municipalities.

We need to destroy the old hierarchical governance model where the state government is at the top of the food chain dictating the destiny of the subordinate municipal institutions. Our region has the resources, we have proven the innovation, we are positioned to take risks and we are capable of making the hard choices. Rebuilding our region begins with our turnaround town — North Las Vegas. We don’t need permission; I need to provide action!

Well-placed government, close to the people and led by visionary leaders, will be part of the solution. Past giant Albert Einstein reminds us, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” We have giant resources and giant opportunities. We are going to leverage our assets: We need to leverage our world-class Air Force base. We can begin by calling our community “North Las Vegas: the home of Nellis Air Force Base.” Our state-of-the-art Veterans Administration medical center positions us to be a national leader in geriatrics and biomedical research; our large swaths of prime real estate make us a perfect hub for logistics, integrated manufacturing and distribution, assembly manufacturing, and transportation. Our proximity to the Nevada Test and Training Range positions us to lead the world in remote drone testing and development. Our shared opportunities are huge and require giants to step up because tomorrow’s successes will be built upon the collective action and courage of today’s visionary giants working together.

John Lee is the mayor of North Las Vegas.

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