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Elections 2022: Candidates for Sparks mayor, 2 council seats advancing directly to general election

A sign says City of Sparks with a gas station behind it.
Ken Lund
/
CC BY-SA 2.0

The candidates for Sparks mayor, and two city council seats open this election cycle, will advance directly to the general election. That’s due to a change to the city’s charter under Senate Bill 82, which was passed in the last legislative session and says that if there are only two candidates running, their names won’t appear on the primary ballot. KUNR’s Michelle Billman spoke with Tabitha Mueller, a reporter for The Nevada Independent, to break down what we know about these races so far.

Billman: Welcome, Tabitha.

Mueller: Thanks for having me.

Billman: Today, we're looking at Sparks City Council, which includes the mayor, and before we really dig down into the races, can you back up and explain for folks what a city council member does and what a mayor does?

Mueller: So, the City of Sparks has a council/manager form of government where the mayor and city council make policy decisions, which the city manager and his staff then implement. The mayor and five-member council are elected [for], kind of, staggered four-year terms, so you're not going to see every single council member up for election this cycle.

In Sparks, it's interesting because the mayor doesn't actually have term limits. He or she is not a voting member, [he or she] basically serves as a chair for council meetings that has veto power and can make appointments if someone leaves office, but those appointments would need confirmation from the council. I'd sort of describe them as a face of the city, too.

Billman: And there are incumbents that are running for all of the open seats, including the position of mayor. Is it clear that the incumbents are frontrunners in these races because they might have name recognition? Or are there some new candidates that are building followings?

Mueller: We're definitely seeing new candidates in these races, but those candidates do have to face the challenge of an incumbent who has name recognition, knows the people, and in some of these down ballot races, just knowing someone's name can make the difference between a vote or not a vote.

So, first you have the mayor's race, which is Ed Lawson. Lawson was sworn in as Sparks mayor in 2020, and he was first elected to the Sparks City Council in 2010. Then, in that race, you have one person who's challenging him and that's Christine or “Chris” Garvey. And Garvey's making her first bid for the Sparks seat. She used to serve as a member of the Clark County Board of Trustees between 2008 and 2021, and she also made an unsuccessful bid for a Las Vegas City Council seat in 2017. So, this would be, if she won, this would be her first time serving in office.

Billman: And along with the mayor seat, there are council seats open this election for Wards 2 and 4. Who's running in those races?

Mueller: In Ward 2, you have Dian Vanderwell; she was appointed to the Sparks Council in 2020. She replaced then Councilman Ed Lawson, who left the seat to serve as the mayor after the mayor Ron Smith died. She's a licensed mortgage and real estate agent and is just looking to maintain her seat.

The other races [include] Ward 4. Charlene Bybee, she was first elected in 2014, and she's running for her third term to represent Ward 4. She retired after serving 42 years as a flight attendant. And the two other candidates in those races [include for] Ward 2, John Eastwick, and [for] Ward 4, Damon Harrell. But, like I said, we don't know too much about them yet.

Billman: Tabitha, thanks for all of your insights and analysis.

Mueller: Thanks so much for having me on.

Tabitha Mueller is a reporter for The Nevada Independent.

Updated: April 13, 2022 at 4:03 PM PDT
As an update, in the original version of this interview that aired on KUNR, we stated that a candidate could win the election in the primary if they receive more than 50 percent of the vote. According to a spokesperson for the City of Sparks, that is no longer the case because Senate Bill 82, passed in the 2021 legislative session, changed this process. Now, in the City of Sparks, if there are only two candidates running for the open mayor or city council seats, their names will not appear on the ballot for the primary and they will instead advance to the general election. The spokesperson explained that the city is reaching out to the state legislature to get that website updated with the most recent information.
Michelle Billman is the news director at KUNR Public Radio in Reno, Nevada where she oversees a scrappy crew of multimedia storytellers. She’s a transplant from the East Coast, where she earned degrees in creative writing and English from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Virginia Tech.
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