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NLV Mayor John Lee seeks to oust incumbent councilman

Discord on the North Las Vegas City Council has reared its head again as municipal primary election day approaches.

Ward 4 incumbent Richard Cherchio is vying for reelection this year in a crowded field, and he’s doing it while Mayor John Lee mounts an attack on his record.

Lee is supporting North Las Vegas planning commissioner George Warner in the council race, but it isn’t the first time the mayor put his support behind a candidate who was challenging a council incumbent.

In 2017, Lee’s support of Scott Black helped propel Black from relative obscurity to victory over two-term incumbent Anita Wood. The attacks in one mailer against Wood are now being recycled to criticize Cherchio, but the councilman is trying to take the high road.

“If the mayor feels (it) necessary to take my name that way and put it out there in an untruthful way, that’s up to him,” Cherchio said. “He has to deal with that. I work with everybody over here, and if I’m reelected, I’ll work with him as well because that’s more important.”

Lee’s PAC sent out a mailer this election cycle criticizing Cherchio for taking credit in the city’s economic turnaround. Lee said Friday that the turnaround happened with the help of former Councilman Wade Wagner, who beat Cherchio by a single vote in 2011.

“By the time Richard showed up, the ship had already turned,” Lee said.

Cherchio served two years on the council after a 2009 appointment. After losing in 2011, he won the seat back in 2015. He said he has only voted against Lee on one issue, initially opposing the firing of former City Manager Qiong Liu last year. She was ultimately replaced in the city’s top job by Ryann Juden, who had worked as Lee’s campaign manager before being hired at North Las Vegas.

A crowded race

Meanwhile, four other candidates are hoping to move the city forward by getting elected to the dais.

Pete Shields, owner of Pete Shields Stucco, was the first to enter the Ward 4 race, announcing his candidacy in December.

He said he supports growth in the city, but wants to see quality development. Shields said his experience as a businessman sets him apart from other candidates in the race.

Shields wants to hire more police officers, and said he would find better deals for the city elsewhere to pay for it.

“I know we can’t do it all at once, but we need to do better than we’ve been doing,” he said.

Dawn Rierson, a family advocate at Acelero Learning, said there wasn’t one particular reason she decided to run for the seat.

“Honestly, something just told me I should apply to run,” she said.

She wants to attract small businesses and address unaffordable development in her ward, but acknowledged victory for her is a long shot.

Lamont Riley, a safety specialist for the Department of the Interior, said he decided to run after he became fed up with illegal dump sites in the city.

He also wants the city to hire more police officers, but said he has not seen whether the city budget could support it. Riley said he also wants to bring more mentorship programs to the city for kids, and wants to increase the number of crosswalks in North Las Vegas, especially around schools.

Cheyenne High School Principal Zachary Robbins did not respond to requests for comment, but has said he wants to help North Las Vegas diversify its economy.

Looking forward

If reelected this year, Cherchio said he wants to focus on continuing to develop North Las Vegas with new businesses, and emphasize providing affordable housing in the city.

“I think everyone’s goal, for the most part, the American dream is to own their own home,” he said. “That gives them a stake in the community, it makes them feel part of the community, and that’s what we want.”

Cherchio said he has made an effort to connect with residents in his ward throughout his term by being available to constituents and attending neighborhood meetings. He said he has kept his campaign positive in the face of attacks against him.

Lee said Warner’s background in commercial realty will help bring in new development for the city.

Warner said he wants to focus on sustainable growth in North Las Vegas, not just by attracting big business, but by bringing in smaller companies to fill vacant lots throughout the city.

He said he wants to work toward bettering education in the city.

“Even though there’s no direct control over (the school district), there’s a lot of influence,” he said. “If the school district sees its city council people in the schools, actively involved, dealing with parents, working with administration and then coming back to the superintendent and giving constructive input, it will have an effect.”

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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