88°F
weather icon Clear

Carolyn Goodman is mom before mayor for adopted children

Cara Goodman knows when she has a taxing day at work, she can go down the street to her parents’ house. With one look, her mother will be able to tell she’s down and wrap her in a hug.

That kind of maternal instinct serves Carolyn Goodman well at City Hall, her daughter says.

“I think that’s why she is so good as the mayor — she wants to take care of everybody,” Cara said. “I know how much she did for all of us. I’m glad other people can share in that.”

In the 1970s, decades before Carolyn was elected mayor of Las Vegas, her job was mom.

And she was on the clock 24/7.

The mayors Goodman, Oscar and Carolyn, adopted four children: Oscar Jr., 47; Ross, 47; Eric, 46 and Cara, 44, in Las Vegas, all shortly after they were born.

The four were born within 38 months of each other, a fact the mayor threw out during a particularly contentious City Council meeting in November, when she said a clash over a proposed development felt like she had returned her children’s youth.

After hours of sparring in City Council chambers, the mayor urged the two sides to come back with a compromise.

“You cannot have four children, 38 months apart, and not be able to mediate,” she said.

The children they chose

Carolyn called the adoption process “unnerving,” because there was a possibility the children could be taken away during the first six months at home, before the adoption was finalized.

When the Goodmans were mulling adoption in Las Vegas, Carolyn’s father, an OB-GYN in Manhattan, told her “come back here, we can help you,” she said.

But the Goodmans forged ahead with the adoption process through Catholic Charities in Las Vegas.

“And lo and behold, we have the most magnificent children,” Carolyn said.

Cara never remembers her parents formally telling the children they were adopted.

“It was something we always knew and that it was really special,” Cara said. “‘You’re special because we chose you, we picked you, and we want you.’ It was something that was celebrated.”

Cara feels “incredibly lucky” she got the mother she did. The two are close and spend a lot of time together — frequently going to get their nails done on Fridays, when City Hall is closed.

“There’s something to being adopted where you feel a little more fortunate,” Cara said. “And you have to do something with that gift you’ve been given.”

Oscar Jr. is a doctor with the Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada, Ross is a criminal defense attorney, Eric is a Las Vegas justice of the peace and Cara, 44, is a marriage and family therapist. She works with burn victims at University Medical Center.

With Oscar Sr. trekking around the country for his clients, Carolyn was “driving, cooking, shopping.”

“I was hands on, 24/7,” she said. “I didn’t send them to day care because I didn’t want someone else raising them.”

Ross is “eternally grateful” his mother was so involved, he said.

“She was quick on the draw any time my brothers and sister got down on ourselves,” he said. “During these twists and turns, she reminded us of the importance of what matters and I can hear her telling us to look at the glass as half full, be yourself, and suffocate negativities or any excuses.”

Education first

Carolyn characterizes raising her four children as “the best of times,” and said she and Oscar would have adopted another two, but “the well dried up on us” — the number of babies available for adoption plummeted.

“We would have had six,” she said. “Oscar would have liked a baseball team.”

But after a while of making cereal, changing diapers, keeping four kids busy, Carolyn felt like her brain was “turning to mush,” which prompted her to pursue her master’s degree at UNLV.

Education was always emphasized in the Goodman household.

Carolyn wanted the children to go to the best elementary school, and drove them far every day to make sure that happened, Cara said.

At the dinner table, the Goodmans encouraged their children to have “interesting, intellectual conversations,” Cara said.

A recent dinner with her parents and one of her brothers reminded Cara of those days, when the conversation topic turned to freedom and liberty, she said.

Carolyn founded The Meadows School in 1984, and Cara was one of three students in the school’s first graduating class in 1991.

Her vision in founding the school was “that her children and all children alike could have the best opportunity to succeed and thereby give back to society,” said her oldest son, Dr. Oscar Goodman Jr.

All four children left Las Vegas for college and said they had no plans to return, Carolyn said.

But they eventually came back to the city one of their parents has led for the past 18 years. On Mother’s Day, as they do on other holidays and birthdays, the Goodmans will all get together.

Now, their numbers have grown, adding spouses, six grandchildren, seven granddogs and two grand-guinea pigs or hamsters — the mayor isn’t exactly sure which species.

In her sprawling seventh floor office at City Hall, Carolyn is surrounded by photos of her children. Mementos are quick at her fingertips, too — she searches with a smile for a photo on her iPhone of her four young children in the same bathtub.

“We are the most blessed, lucky people in the world. They’ve filled us with a wonderful, warm feeling of purpose,” Carolyn said of her children. “Life is beautiful. They’re part of every thought, all day long, without question.”

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Las Vegas Council welcomes 3 new members

Election victories last month by Brian Knudsen (Ward 1), Victoria Seaman (Ward 2) and Olivia Diaz (Ward 3) have altered the makeup of the Las Vegas City Council.