Mayor Goodman tough act to follow, even with a broom

Someone will fill the coveted 10th floor office at City Hall. After all, it comes with the job.

The name on the business card will change. To do less would be impolite.

Next year, some perfectly acceptable stiff will wake up, look in the mirror, and remind himself he’s mayor of Las Vegas. For the first time in a dozen years that guy won’t be Oscar Goodman.

The election is months away, but I’m already enjoying the jockeying to replace Goodman. I get a kick out of it because, no matter who eventually enters the race, after Goodman they’ll all look like the guy with the broom who sweeps up after the parade elephant.

And it’s bound to be wonderful fun to listen as the candidates fight the urge to amp up their personalities in an attempt to convince skeptics they have the right stuff to pick up where Goodman left off.

Yeah, and some dopes believe Michael Buble is the next Sinatra.

Not that some interesting names aren’t already in the wind for the mayor’s job.

There’s County Commissioner and former City Councilman Larry Brown, the Harvard grad with the regular-guy approach. Brown started making the rounds in September and has to be considered an early favorite.

And there’s City Councilman Steve Ross, who figures to take advantage of his hard-wired connections with organized labor. Like Brown, Ross is known as a clean-living guy and good family man.

We now know Mayor Pro-Tem Gary Reese won’t be running. Reese has spent years as a devoted ally and second to Goodman.

A long line of other community leaders are said to be testing the water, or at least privately entertaining the idea of dazzling the populace as the next mayor of Las Vegas. Councilman Steve Wolfson has sounded like a mayoral candidate in recent months. Goodman has hinted wife Carolyn Goodman might run, but I think the woman has suffered enough in her marriage and possesses far too much good sense to do such a thing.

Problem is, unless someone really interesting runs, say, the ghost of Liberace or Penn with Teller, no candidate will come close to matching Goodman’s relentless energy, full focus on downtown redevelopment, and Big Vegas Guy approach to the job.

Goodman is easy to caricature. His gin-swilling, showgirl-squeezing personality invites it. But behind that shtick is a crafty character who has redefined the mayor’s role as he’s worked to reinvent the area surrounding Fremont Street. Goodman’s leaden trial balloons and false starts are many, but you can drive by his successes on just about any street downtown.

Goodman has cajoled and strong-armed redevelopment. He’s been willing to be laughed at when his big ideas have sputtered. He’s also expended immeasurable energy to see other projects through to fruition.

You see, it’s not Goodman, the “Happiest Mayor in the Universe,” who will be hardest to replace. (Truth is, that might be impossible to match, given the fact most people’s livers aren’t made of cast iron.)

It’s the other Oscar Goodman his would-be successors should try their best to emulate. It’s the guy willing to push the redevelopment envelope and promote the gaudy glories of Las Vegas, day and night and twice on Sunday, who will be hardest to replace.

Most other candidates, no matter their political portfolios, lack Goodman’s personal wealth and unabashed self-confidence. They wouldn’t attempt some of the projects he’s managed to wrestle into reality. Will another candidate shape the rest of the City Council into a cohesive unit?

The primary is April 5. If no candidate garners more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be June 7.

Whoever prevails will receive a new office, fresh business cards, and a broom.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at

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