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Former Culinary leader Jeff McColl dies at 78

Former Culinary Local 226 president and secretary-treasurer Jeff McColl died Monday in Las Vegas. He was 78.

McColl, who also was managing editor of the Review-Journal, rose through the union ranks after starting a public relations firm in 1961 with the Culinary as his primary client.

McColl was elected secretary-treasurer in 1981 after serving two terms as president and working as executive assistant to Secretary-Treasurer Al Bramlet, who was murdered in 1977.

McColl became a key figure in union contract negotiations with Strip and downtown hotels during the 1960s. He was elected Nevada AFL-CIO president in 1985, returning the Culinary to its position of power in the state organization.

He resigned as Culinary secretary-treasurer in 1987 during a federal investigation of the union’s health and welfare benefits plan.

McColl told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he was tired of going up against the union’s parent, the International Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, led by Edward Hanley from Chicago. He also cited health problems, including high blood pressure.

McColl’s campaign to defeat incumbent Secretary-Treasurer Ben Schmoutey was called an act of “irresponsibility and opportunism” by Culinary leaders from other cities. Hanley endorsed Schmoutey.

The battle for union leadership was hotly contested, with a barrage of charges from both sides.

Among those who showed up at the Culinary union hall for the election were Herbie Blitzstein and Joey Cusamano, long-time associates of mobster Anthony Spilotro, giving credence to claims that the Chicago mob was extremely interested in the voting outcome.

“I have no political ambitions,” McColl said in 1981. “I have no desire to hold a lot of titles. Outside of the Culinary union, I’ve only belonged to two other organizations, the (Las Vegas) Press Club and the Navy. And only one of those was voluntary.”

Midge Gamage, who worked with McColl’s wife, Evelyn, at the Southern Nevada Health District, said McColl was a “real sharp guy with a quick wit, a very intelligent man.”

McColl was born June 8, 1931, in Austin, Texas, and lived in Las Vegas for 75 years. He graduated from Las Vegas High School and attended the University of Nevada, Reno.

He returned to Las Vegas and worked as a reporter for the Las Vegas Review in 1950, served in the Navy from 1951-53 and came back to become managing editor of the newspaper until 1961.

McColl is survived by his wife, Evelyn, of Las Vegas, and son, Jeff McColl III, of Elko.

Visitation is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Palm Mortuary, 6701 N. Jones Blvd., followed by a graveside service at Palm Memorial Park.

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