June’s Las Vegas citizen of the month isn’t a Las Vegas native, but he has made a lasting impression on the city.
The Las Vegas City Council gave Mike Tomko a certificate June 7, displaying the Queens native’s name on a sign outside City Hall for the rest of the month.
“It’s kind of cool to get recognized for stuff that you just enjoy doing,” said Tomko, a retired Las Vegas Fire & Rescue dispatcher. “You never realize that someone is actually watching, and they get it.”
Since the 1990s, council members have taken turns choosing a citizen of the month. Bob Beers of Ward 2 picked Tomko after seeing all the projects and events he has organized in the city.
A retired Long Island firefighter, Tomko moved to Las Vegas in summer 2001 with his mother. She had developed lung cancer, and doctors suggested a drier climate would help her breathing.
Tomko joined Fire & Rescue, retiring in 2015. He kept busy in and out of retirement, organizing events. One of the most well-known is the annual procession known as the Las Vegas September 11th Firefighter Tribute.
Procession and tribute
The tribute draws hundreds of firefighters and police officers from all over the West Coast, with participants walking across downtown Las Vegas and holding a moment of silence to honor those killed in the attacks.
“All of us from New York, we all lost a lot of friends,” Tomko said. “People need to remember what firefighters went through that day … just because I’m not in New York anymore doesn’t mean that people in Las Vegas shouldn’t care.”
Tomko also organizes the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Fun Challenge and Ward 2 Walkers group and is a park ambassador for the Hualapai Canyon Trailhead park.
He’s part of a number of Ward 2 community projects, such as a neighborhood watch group and reading week, and is organizing a mural project that would allow students to paint fire station bay doors.
Tomko said he hopes the projects give Las Vegas a sense of community and tradition that will outlast his involvement.
“Vegas, by all comparisons to other cities, is new. It’s a baby. You don’t have the traditions you have back in New York,” he said. “It’s great getting more community involvement.”
Toiling out of sight
“Public servants, paid or not, do often toil out of sight of the rest of the citizenry,” Beers said. “A guy like Mike touches stuff on our city government and in our society here in this valley that in many ways will influence future citizens, and they don’t even know it was Mike’s touch. That’s kind of the hallmark of public service.”