When I heard City Councilman Gary Reese had decided not to run for Las Vegas mayor, I breathed a sigh of relief.
My, that was a close one.
That probably sounds cold-hearted, even for me. Let me explain. Reese would have been great for the residents and the crowd at City Hall. The gentleman barber and former chairman of the Las Vegas Planning Commission knows the process better than most and enjoys the respect of his peers. He’s finishing his fourth and final term on the council with a decade spent as mayor pro tem in Oscar Goodman’s shadow. (While that duty arguably qualifies Reese for mayor, it definitely qualifies him for sainthood.)
In all, Reese has been at City Hall 22 years. The only controversial characters I’ve ever seen him with were fellow council members and a certain martini-tipping mayor.
At a healthy 69, Reese might be the nicest guy in local politics. I don’t think he has any real political enemies.
“I don’t think there’s a dishonest bone in his body,” says Mayor Goodman, who lauds Reese’s integrity and calls his barbershop “City Hall East” for all the politics discussed there. “I don’t always agree with his decisions, but when he tells you something, you can go to the bank on it.”
But if you’re in my racket, the clean-living Reese is no fun at all. No eye-popping political gaffes. No hanky-panky electioneering. No heated brawls with his adversaries.
No public inebriation. No unpaid alimony. No dizzy D.C. aspirations.
Not even a hair out of place, which is a good thing because he’s been the proprietor of the Plaza Barber Shop on Bonanza Road since 1963. If you say he sounds too good to be true, you might be onto something.
He’s definitely too selfless to be mayor.
Reese was raised in Panaca, attended Lincoln County High and is still a small-town boy at heart.
Gary and wife Carol have been together forever. They have three grown children, five grandchildren. While past councilmen were getting visions of grandeur, he was coaching youth sports. He has been a quiet contributor to the monthly Paralympic Academy, which helps disabled local youngsters compete in sports.
On Monday, the day he announced his decision not to run, Reese spoke to students at Gibson Middle School about the importance of participating in the process. Get involved, he said, and you’ll make a difference.
While Reese was at the school, a young student admired his tie. Another asked whether Reese would do something about the classroom’s patchwork carpeting, not exactly in a councilman’s job description.
By the end of the morning, one student had a new tie, and the other received the promise of new carpeting.
That’s Reese for you.
“I want to make sure the class finds out that you have to become involved and stay involved and do things that will benefit your school and community,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference, and I feel like I’ve made a difference — like we’ve made a difference.”
That, too, is pure Reese — always quick to share the credit.
In addition to the mayor’s job, Reese has been approached to run against his friend County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly. Others wouldn’t think twice.
“How do you run against your friends?” he asks. “You can’t.”
Reese says the mayor’s job would enable him to help others, but, if elected, he’d have to give up the barbershop.
“I don’t know if I could do that,” he says.
He means it.
Others are showing interest in the mayor’s office, but now we know gentleman Gary Reese has decided to pass.
For me, that’s good news.
A selfless guy like that could have put me out of business.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.