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Stories from the KUNR newsroom and regional partners related to the 2022 elections

Sparks mayor, city council ward 2 and 4 incumbents win elections

A green and white sign on a light pole reads, “City of Sparks “Serving you” from 8:00 am-5:00 pm Mon-Fri.” There is a brick building and a large tree with yellowing leaves in the background.
Lucia Starbuck
/
KUNR Public Radio

Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson and city council members Dian VanderWell of Ward 2 and Charlene Bybee of Ward 4 will keep their seats, according to preliminary results. The five-person council is the policymaker for the city, making decisions about infrastructure projects, land uses, and finances to address community growth in the city. The mayor doesn’t vote but can provide input and has the ability to veto.

This is the first time Lawson has been elected as mayor; he was elected to the city council in 2010, and was sworn in as mayor in 2020 after Mayor Ron Smith died. Lawson defeated Chris Garvey, a former Clark County School District trustee, who also ran for Las Vegas City Council unsuccessfully before moving to Sparks. Lawson is a vocal proponent of the Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act, which would allow federal lands to be developed in an effort to address housing needs; it could also designate some areas for conservation. But there are concerns about water sustainability. Lawson has spearheaded efforts to create a road to connect Spanish Springs and North Valleys to the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center in Storey County. The highway would shorten the commute time for tens of thousands of workers and could have positive environmental impacts such as reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Lawson has also called for building denser housing and wants to see more residential development and tourism along the Truckee River.

Ward 2 represents northwestern Sparks, including Wedekind Regional Park and Sparks Middle School. This was also VanderWell’s first election; Lawson appointed her to fill his council seat when he assumed the mayor role in 2020. She defeated Johnny Eastwick, who owns the Victorian Saloon in Sparks, by less than 200 votes. VanderWell has experience in real estate and served on the Washoe County Planning Commission. She wants to ensure Sparks is a clean and safe place to live. In response to city staffing shortages, she’d like to see young people shadow city departments like sewer, fire and police. She’s also supportive of the city’s use of effluent water for parks and golf courses in Sparks.

Ward 4 zigzags through northeastern Sparks and includes Spanish Springs. Incumbent Charlene Bybee will serve a third and final term, beating first-time candidate Damon Harrell. She’s currently the mayor pro tempore, and she serves on the National League of Cities’ Transportation & Infrastructure Services Committee, the Washoe County School District’s Oversight Committee for School Facilities, and chairs the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority. Bybee and VanderWell are also both in support of the Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act. Bybee spent four decades as an American Airlines flight attendant, and her top priority is to maintain the “small-town feel of Sparks.”

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America focusing on community reporting and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local community issues are her passion, including the affordable housing crisis, homelessness, a lack of access to healthcare, protests and challenges facing vulnerable communities in northern Nevada.
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