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North Las Vegas' historic new mayor: 'The vision is economic growth'

 Mayor Pamela A. Goynes-Brown
City of North Las Vegas
Mayor Pamela A. Goynes-Brown

When Pamela Goynes-Brown was elected mayor of North Las Vegas last month, she became the first Black mayor in Nevada.

Goynes-Brown’s family first came to the valley in 1964, and she lived at Carey Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard, where her parents still live today. She left for college, but came back after.

“Something just told me I needed to come back here,” she told State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann recently. “I’m like, three minutes from where they live, and it’s just been my home ever since … I wouldn’t call any other place home.”

Growing up, she said her North Las Vegas neighborhood was predominantly African American, and it was a tight-knit community where everyone knew their neighbors. It’s still “that little quiet, away from the hustle and bustle” town, she said, but “we’re evolving from that.”

Goynes-Brown worked as an educator, both as a music teacher and assistant principal at Scott Elementary School. She then sat on the city council for more than a decade, where no two days are alike. When she started, North Las Vegas was hit hard by the Great Recession.

“We set out a vision that failure was not going to be an option in North Las Vegas. And so we came up with the vision and it's taking off; it's taken almost a decade to see that visions just finally start to come to light,” she said. “We just want to keep moving that vision forward.”

On her vision for North Las Vegas

The vision for North Las Vegas is to continue with economic growth. And that would be in our manufacturing and our industrial blueprint. Also, our job creation zone, which is close to our VA Hospital, is going to be a 135-acre medical campus. So we want to increase the medical blueprint in North Las Vegas, because I know those kinds of facilities are lacking not just in North Las Vegas, but pretty much in the state of Nevada, and we are doing a total revitalization of our downtown core. And that is going to be reflective of the large minority population that we have in the city of North Las Vegas because we are the largest minority majority city. And we want to celebrate that diversity, celebrate those differences. We're putting together a downtown area that will have something for everybody.

On improving education

We have to work with the Clark County School District. But what we can do and you know, there's an NRS statute that they come and present to councils or jurisdictions quarterly on things that are happening and CCSD updates, the positives, the not-so-positives, and how our kids are doing. We actually had that presentation last night, and it was just neat to hear. But however, when you're just showing me graph on a piece of paper without a solution, then that's a problem. What we have decided to do is to put an education advocacy committee in tact in North Las Vegas. The committee is made up of educators, administrators, business leaders, community people, and we even have students on our committee.

Our goal is to reach out to those North Las Vegas schools to see what their greatest needs are. I'm not gonna say it's the fault of CCSD that they cannot provide them. But sometimes they just need a little help. We've identified five schools that we are going to pilot this year, it could be something as simple as providing them with additional supplies. They've narrowed it down to family engagement is one issue that I know district-wide we're working on. What is it going to take to get families into the schools to be more involved in their child's education, attendance, high absentee rates, and just to see what kind of incentives that can be put in the schools with the city's assistance to get kids to bring them back to school because after the pandemic, we've lost a lot of kids. We want to get those kids back. Where are they? And our third initiative with our education advocacy committee is absenteeism, student attendance, we can offer attendance incentives to the schools. But that's a district-wide problem as well, to get kids to come back to school. We've set up some programs to help with that. We have a teacher program where we're going to award scholarships, we have literacy programs, and we have student ambassadors who will come in and learn what the city does, because a lot of people don't know what goes on those four walls. And then just to promote literacy, get kids learning, getting excited about being in school.

On unhoused residents

It absolutely can help with putting the right programs in place. And I'm glad you mentioned that we do have a very, very active home team within the city of North Las Vegas, that their main task is to support the unhoused or homeless population, offer them resources, show them what's out there, assist with housing placement, assistance with job placement, do you need clothing if you need shelter, if you need food, so their job is to go out there and to interact with people who are on the streets. Everyone has a story of how their circumstances happen. And you just have to build trust with people before they will even communicate with you first of all, and I got to experience that firsthand. But it's all about building trust with people and then some of them will accept the services and some of them will absolutely not. So there's just that mixture.

On North Las Vegas electing a Black mayor

I think a lot has to do with timing and people's mindsets and just the change in history and things that have occurred. I don't want to say like, as it gets more and more acceptable, but it should always be that way. And I just think the time is now. I can sit here and focus on why it 's taken so long. But my ultimate goal is it's here now, let's celebrate it. It's a big deal. And that just shows me that when other children of color say, ‘Wow, look what happened in 2022 with Pamela Goynes-Brown. It can also happen with me.’

Guest: Pamela Goynes-Brown, mayor, North Las Vegas

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Kristen Kidman is a former senior producer at KNPR’s State of Nevada and is proud to be from Las Vegas.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the audience engagement specialist for Nevada Public Radio. She curates and creates content for, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.