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State Of The City: Elko

Scott Lien

Southern Nevadans may know of Elko for their annual National Cowboy Poetry gathering, or possibly its outdoor tourism and recreation. 

The city of 20,000 is still largely dependent on the surrounding mines, but, according to mayor Chris Johnson, other industries are starting to boom. 

Johnson has been the mayor of Elko since 2011, and joins KNPR for the State of the City series to discuss the current state of affairs in the county seat of Elko County. 

"We're lucky now because mining is maintaining, it's stable," Johnson said. "That median gold price makes it such that it's not enough to create a boom and certainly we're not going to a bust." 

Although 70 percent of Elko's economy is based on mining, Johnson said tourism, gaming and ranching are also main drivers.

Johnson said he will be keeping a close eye on several issues during the current legislative session, including recreational marijuana and the property tax.

"Elected officials aren't excited about marijuana across the board," Johnson said. "There are questions that need to be answered." 

Elko saw several prominent Republicans visit during the election, including Jeb Bush, Rudy Guiliani and Donald Trump Jr.

Johnson was an early supporter of President Donald Trump, and said he's not worried about losing any federal funding, because Elko doesn't rely on it as much as the metropolis counterparts in the state.  

"Sometimes we get grants for our law enforcement but I don't see those going away," Johnson said.

When it comes to issues of federal vs. state-owned land, Johnson said the most important part to him is multiple use.

"I would like to see a model where the multiple-use component is in place," Johnson explained. "I don't like it where the federal government locks up X amount of land just because, and I'm concerned if the state has it would the state will sell that land for revenue." 

Chris Johnson, mayor, Elko 

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.