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North Las Vegas

City of North Las Vegas
Courtesy City of North Las Vegas

This year, there’s a diamond jubilee going on just north of our studios. It’s the seventy-fifth birthday of the City of North Las Vegas, incorporated on May 1, 1946.

Obviously, its history goes back much farther, to when the only residents of the area were Indigenous People. In 1855, Mormon missionaries arrived, and they set up an experimental farm north of their fort. Later, Conrad Kiel took it over, and it became Kiel Ranch. It was a wild place: Archibald Stewart was killed there, and later Kiel’s sons Edwin and William were murdered. Tom Williams bought land and settled there in 1919, and invited others to do the same. His plans hadn’t included it being a haven for bootleggers, but that’s the impact of Prohibition for you.

Another federal action did more to boost North Las Vegas: Creation of the Las Vegas Army Air Corps Gunnery School, now Nellis Air Force Base. That promoted population growth, and residents sought municipal status. They got it and elected as their first mayor Horace Tucker, who owned a popular bar.

That was a sign, unfortunately. There would be a lot of political upheaval in North Las Vegas. Long after leaving office, Tucker committed two murders. North Las Vegas wound up with the first woman mayor in the state’s history, Dorothy Porter, in 1954. The rest of the city council were taking kickbacks and hadn’t included her because of their sexism, so she moved up. Two decades later, the city recalled three of the five city council members over a budget fight and the salaries and employment of police and firefighters.

Since then, it’s been much calmer. North Las Vegas has grown with the rest of the valley, but also been innovative in its own right. In the 1960s and 1970s, city manager Clay Lynch was like Pac Man, swallowing up whatever land he could annex. North Las Vegas built a beautiful city hall complex, including a well-respected library. When Clark County Community College opened here in 1971, North Las Vegas was able to attract the first campus.

And North Las Vegas has grown like wildfire, especially toward the north and northwest. Population growth slowed during the past decade, but the census shows it as Nevada’s fourth most populous city, inching toward 250,000. Thanks partly to the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, the city has added a great deal of land and the master-planned communities of Aliante and Eldorado. Amazon and Sephora have opened major distribution centers. A new city hall, a couple of blocks from the old one, opened in the downtown North Las Vegas area a decade ago. After destroying much of it in the 1970s and beyond, the city has preserved Kiel Ranch as part of a beautiful park with historical interpretation.

North Las Vegas also has become an incredibly diverse community. Its population is majority-minority, with about forty percent Hispanic and twenty percent Black. Like the rest of the valley, North Las Vegas felt the effects of the Great Recession and then the pandemic of the past year. And like the rest of the valley, it’s looking to recover. Getting over problems is nothing new there, and North Las Vegas has done it before.