Herb Jaffe: Outgoing Las Vegas city manager a loss for Summerlin

They’re sure going to miss Betsy Fretwell down at City Hall. More so, Summerlin is going to miss Betsy Fretwell.

July 6 was set to be her last day as Las Vegas’ city manager, after eight and a half years and a list of accomplishments that is yay long. Her well-experienced deputy, Scott Adams, takes over July 7.

“I had a great run. I’ve been totally blessed,” she said in an interview. “But change is good sometimes, and for me this is a great opportunity.”

Fretwell, who has worked for the city since 2000, is moving on to a smart city division of Switch Communications, as a senior vice president. Switch is a San Francisco-based global technology company with a major facility in the Reno-Tahoe area that has been called the world’s largest and most advanced data center campus.

She will be remembered for guiding the city through its most critical recession. Deep into that economic pitfall, as Fretwell explained it, she finalized three major accomplishments for the city: “We opened The Smith Center, the Mob Museum and the new City Hall, all in 2012.”

Under the prevailing economic climate, “that was big,” she said, adding, “There was a lot of work involved in making sure that we stay under budget, which we did, and that we get those jobs done on time, which we did.”

That same year, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Station No. 107 was completed in Sun City Summerlin, an accomplishment that Fretwell played a vital role in engineering. The late David Steinman, former city councilman and president of the Sun City Board of Directors at the time of his passing last January, worked hard to make the fire station a reality. But behind the scenes Fretwell was hard at work to bring it to life.

“Dave Steinman wanted that fire station so much for Sun City,” she said. “He was a remarkable man. He was part of the City Council that appointed me city manager in 2009.”

There were other Summerlin accomplishments for Fretwell. “I did quite a bit of work with Howard Hughes Corp. and their opening of new villages and developments in Summerlin, especially since the end of the recession,” she said. “We had a great relationship with people at the Hughes Corp.”

Fretwell pointed to her involvement in agreements under which the city took over responsibility for parks and recreation areas in Summerlin, as well as extension of the 215 Beltway. She was instrumental in obtaining the financing for modifications that have helped improve traffic and safety along Summerlin Parkway, a series of projects that will continue into next year.

While veteran City Hall employees have expressed their highest regard for Fretwell, one of her strongest supporters is city traffic engineer Mike Janssen, who is also deputy director and transportation manager of the Las Vegas Department of Public Works.

“A lot of us are sad to see Betsy go. In my 21 years here she has been our biggest supporter in transportation. She helped to create our mobility master plan,” Janssen said, referring to the movement of pedestrians, bicyclists and motor traffic. “It’s an integral part of the city’s strategic plan for today and well into the future.”

As for the funding needed to add auxiliary lanes and other features that are enabling Summerlin Parkway to handle a major increase in traffic, “Betsy has made that a priority. She was 100 percent behind us in getting the funding for Summerlin Parkway improvements.

“The way it works is like this,” Janssen added. “Before I go to the City Council with a request, I need the funding support, and Betsy was always there.”

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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