Twenty-two-year-old William Lewis has a goal: to serve one day in elected office.
He also takes medication for a bipolar condition with schizoaffective disorder, a condition that can cause mood swings and sleeping difficulties if left untreated.
In the aftermath of the downfall and ouster of former Assemblyman Steven Brooks — whose widely publicized troubles put mental health issues center stage for lawmakers — Lewis closely questioned applicants for the now vacant Assembly District 17 seat Monday night.
Stepping up to a podium in front of nearly 100 people at the Clark County Government Center, Lewis calmly told the seven potential lawmakers that he has been diagnosed with mental illness but wants to go into politics. The room became quiet as he asked them pointed questions: How can a case like Brooks’ be prevented from happening again? How much of a priority is addressing mental health?
None of the applicants gave definitive answers.
“Pursue your dreams,” Glynn Coleman told him.
Meli Pulido said mental illness issues are a “huge priority.”
Odis “Tyrone” Thompson commended the young man and said he would love to mentor him, as did others.
Mujahid Ramadan said it’s important not to stigmatize mental illness.
“Jail’s not the place for it,” he said.
Michelle Jotz, a detective with the Metropolitan Police Department, agreed with Ramadan.
“We can’t arrest our way out of it,” she said.
Brooks, a Democrat, was ousted from the Assembly on March 28 after a series of incidents that included a Jan. 19 arrest on allegations that he threatened Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick over committee assignments and a February arrest in connection with domestic violence allegations involving his wife.
Brooks is facing charges in California stemming from a highway chase and clash with police near Barstow.
County commissioners today will choose one of the seven applicants for the legislative seat.
Commissioners in attendance at the forum included Chairman Steve Sisolak and commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Susan Brager.
Two of the seven candidates have earned the support of Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas: Thompson and Pulido.
Thompson, 45, is the regional initiatives coordinator of the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition. Pulido, 46, is executive director of Project 150, an organization that helps homeless students.
Candidates’ backgrounds are varied: Coleman is a career specialist; Ramadan is a consultant and former state drug czar; and William Robinson II is a banker. Brandon Casutt has a sign manufacturing and installation business.
Two other candidates — Mike Kelly and Kelly Thomas — have withdrawn from consideration.
As for Lewis, he said he was satisfied with the sincerity of the answers given.
But Southern Nevada needs a place for people to get the care and counseling they require, he said.
Lewis controls his condition with medication. But plenty of others need help and access to care, he said.
On Jan. 25, Brooks was hospitalized for a mental evaluation after Las Vegas police were called to his grandmother’s house by Legislative Police because he was acting erratically and wielding a sword.
Word of Brooks’ troubles saddened Lewis.
“It touched me,” he said. “It hit hard.”
Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal. com or 702-455-4519.