Irreplaceable tax maven Carole Vilardo fought for fairness

For new Nevada legislators of all parties, it’s been a rite of passage to connect with Nevada Taxpayers Association President Carole Vilardo so she could explain the intricacies of the state’s ever-shifting tax laws.

She would explain there is no perfect tax, otherwise everyone would have found it. And she knew that there are almost always unintended consequences in any tax bill, often a tax that hurts one group of people and helps another. She was a strong opponent of carving tax exemptions out for one group. And she didn’t like taxes earmarked to go to one special need. All those policies created inequities.

Legislators trusted her. The press trusted her. Editorial boards trusted her.

The public benefited from her expertise. Without her as a tax policy watchdog, special interests would have slipped in language for their own benefit.

Vilardo spent her lobbying years for NTA fighting for tax fairness.

She wasn’t there to protect the gaming industry, or big business or small business or working stiffs or union bosses. She was there to improve Nevada’s tax laws and watch the state’s spending.

Last week, following her recent retirement after 30 years with the NTA, Vilardo was honored by a crowd at the Gold Coast that included people who had worked with her for decades, always spotting her from afar with her stylish hats.

Vilardo, 75, the New Yorker who never lost her accent, received lavish accolades from four people, one from the left of the partisan line, Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick, and three from the right, Rep. Mark Amodei and former senators Ann O’Connell and Randolph Townsend.

Words like “honesty” and “integrity” are not uttered lightly in today’s world of politics and lobbying, but were said with sincerity about Vilardo.

Elected to the Assembly in 2004, Kirkpatrick admitted, “I had no idea what I was getting into.” The Democrat struck up a friendship with Vilardo because they were both smokers. Plenty of time to talk taxes when you’re puffing in the cold of Carson City.

“She was the balance that kept us all together and the state is a much better state because of Carole,” Kirkpatrick said.

Vilardo began her career with NTA in 1986, assigned to lobby on issues including taxes, spending and regulating business.

Her greatest skill was her ability to explain complex issues in direct terms. Lawmakers appreciated it, and journalists relied on it. She could examine a few words in a bill and explain how those words had tremendous impact.

When the 2013 Legislature was working a bill to give tax credits to filmmakers in Nevada, Vilardo was blunt. “This is totally open-ended where the laundry list of everything in the world would be open for exemptions,” she said.

Vilardo didn’t tell lawmakers what to do; she just told them what would happen.

In many ways, she knew more about issues than most elected officials. Need a committee to figure out how to make government more efficient and cut spending? Vilardo served, trying to improve the state, Clark County, even Washoe County. Sometimes the elected officials didn’t have the guts to follow the recommendations of these commissions, but Vilardo always knew how one change made a difference, whether the issues were taxes, water funding or transportation funding.

State workers disliked her cost-cutting ideas because she argued that the public employees pensions are unsustainable.

During legislative sessions, Vilardo and O’Connell shared an apartment in Carson City. The two Las Vegas businesswomen first met in 1971 and teamed together to create tougher shoplifting laws. After they succeeded, they worked from 1972-1986 to hold Clark County commissioners more accountable. County staffers were told to “report sightings of Carole or me,” O’Connell said.

Vilardo’s sister, Ann Marie, who ran the NTA office in Las Vegas, is also retiring and their friends raised $15,000 in private funds to send the duo to New York as their retirement gift. Vilardo was shocked and during the program was so touched she shed tears.

Many thought Vilardo should run for office, but that was never her desire.

Former Republican Sen. Townsend showed praise on Vilardo’s lobbying skills. “She had no agenda other than the facts. She didn’t donate money or make promises.”

She simply explained the ramifications of a bill.

Readers probably think Nevada’s tax system stinks, but it would have been far worse without Vilardo and her efforts over the last 30 years.

You may not know her, but count on this, you’re going to miss her. Carole Vilardo is simply irreplaceable.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Thursdays. Leave messages for her at 702-383-0275 or email Find her on Twitter: @janeannmorrison

Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
Frontier jet safely returns to Las Vegas after losing engine piece
Frontier jet safely returns to Las Vegas after losing engine piece. (@FlightAlerts_)
Park Service plans ahead for lower lake levels
National Park Service releases new plans to maintain access to the water as Lake Mead continues to shrink.
Women claim abuse at Florence McClure Women's Correctional Facility
Current and ex-inmates, including Merry West, are suing Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Facility, claiming abuse and inadequate medical care. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Butte County Sheriff's Office Body Cam Footage
Bodycam video from Butte County (Calif.) Sheriff's Office Deputy Aaron Parmley, who was in Paradise November 8 helping with evacuations. (Butte County Sheriff's Office)
NDOT construction blasting along State Route 106
NDOT construction blasting along State Route 160, near Mt. Potosi Road, in Clark County as part of a $59 million, 6-mile-long highway widening project that began this summer. (Nevada Department of Transportation)
Car crashes into Papa Murphy's Pizza shop
A driver crashed a car into a western Las Vegas Valley pizza shop on Tuesday morning, police said. (Joe Stanhibel/Special to Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Low-lake-level pumping station nears completion
Barnard Construction and the Southern Nevada Water Authority give one last tour before the new low-lake-level pumping station is activated.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like