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Boulder City mayor’s race offers three clear contrasts

You’ve no doubt heard about the crowded race to replace Oscar Goodman in Las Vegas, but that isn’t the only mayoral seat up for grabs this municipal election season.

In Boulder City, first-term incumbent Mayor Roger Tobler faces a challenge from his biggest critic on the council, one-term Councilwoman Linda Strickland, and from Zachary Scott Inman, a handyman known around the city as "Zach of All Trades."

In a lot of ways, Tobler is the anti-Goodman. He’s a quiet, plain-spoken hardware store manager with a wife, five kids and not a showgirl nor martini glass in sight.

"I like Oscar, but I’m not that kind of mayor," said the 45-year-old Tobler, who has lived in Boulder City since he was 3. "I don’t have those PR skills."

If the race comes down to their records, Tobler doesn’t see how he can lose.

"Where I’ve tried to move the city forward, she’s trying to stop things," he said.

Tobler acknowledged he hasn’t done everything right, but he’s proud of his first term as mayor. He feels as if the city is moving in the right direction and beginning to pull itself out of the financial doldrums caused by the broader economic downturn.

He wants a second term to address some unfinished business, including the city’s efforts to attract more green power development to its energy zone and address traffic congestion caused by the opening of the new Hoover Dam bypass bridge.

After four years on the council, much of it on the losing end of 4-1 and 3-2 votes, Strickland decided to run against Tobler because she doesn’t approve of his leadership. The 52-year-old attorney is particularly bothered by lawsuits the city has filed to block several ballot initiatives from residents. She said the city, with the mayor’s full support, is "trampling on people’s constitutional rights."

"That has to stop," said Strickland, whose law practice represents residents who were sued by the city.

She added that the city could have saved itself some money and some grief by waiting to see whether the ballot initiatives passed before suing over them.

But Tobler defended the legal action, which he said was only brought to trigger a judicial review.

"We’re not suing for damages," he said. "We simply want to find out if these petitions are constitutional."

Tobler said he doesn’t understand how Strickland can serve on the council and represent her clients when those two roles are at odds with each other.

"She’s put herself in a huge conflict of interest," he said.

Strickland also criticized the mayor for what she called his selective enforcement of the rules at council meetings to stifle criticism and allow only public comment he agrees with.

Tobler shrugged that off, noting that he takes his cues from his constituents and most of them seem to approve of how he conducts meetings.

Early voting begins Saturday for the April 5 primary election. The general election will be June 7.

Inman is the wild card in the race.

The 38-year-old handyman has lived in Boulder City since he was 18 and now also works as project manager for a wind energy company trying to start a factory in the community.

He said he likes Tobler, but he decided to make his first run for public office because he thinks the city could use a bit more youth, enthusiasm and adaptability in its mayor.

Inman wants Boulder City to loosen some of its restrictions and become more business friendly. He also thinks city leaders have become too focused on the traffic problem and a bypass project to solve it when what they should be looking for are ways to get more travelers to stop in the city and spend money.

Like Tobler, Inman said he wants voters to judge him on his record, albeit his record as handyman.

"I’m basing a lot of it on common sense," he said of his plans for the city. "I haven’t gone to college."

As for Strickland, Inman all but dismissed her because he said she’s only been in town "four or five years" and isn’t "vested" in the community.

Actually, Strickland has lived in Boulder City for 13 years, though that still makes her a relative newcomer in the minds of some residents.

Strickland considers that a plus because it means she’s not part of the "good old boys."

With her run for mayor and incumbent City Councilman Travis Chandler’s decision not to seek a second term, Boulder City is now assured of having two new faces on the council later this year.

Tobler is hopeful for some change because he thinks residents are tired of all the fighting and negativity among council members.

"I’m looking forward to having a council that’s more willing to work together. These last four years, we’ve had nothing but contention," he said.

Strickland is optimistic, too. Depending on who wins, she said, she might not find herself "on an island" anymore on certain issues.

Five candidates are in the running for the two open seats. They are Lynn Goya, Linda Graham, Peggy Leavitt, Rose Ann Rabiola Miele, and Rod Woodbury.

Goya ran as a Democrat for the state Assembly last year but lost to Cresent Hardy, a Republican from Mesquite.

Rabiola Miele recently retired as the city’s spokeswoman when the decision was made to eliminate her position because of budget cuts.

Woodbury is an attorney and the son of former Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury.

Local gadfly Sherman Rattner initially filed to run then withdrew from the race.

The mayor of Boulder City makes $13,894 a year, and council members make $11,211 a year with some limited benefits.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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