Zoo has big plans for Wal-Mart employees’ $10,000 gift

The Las Vegas Zoo usually draws a younger crowd than the group of adults gathered there Thursday morning.

With a family of wallabies looking on curiously, two dozen employees and managers from local Wal-Mart stores assembled to present a check for $10,000 to zoo director Pat Dingle.

Wal-Mart market manager Sean Evans read a recent column on plans to improve the zoo and decided to help. In tandem with fellow market manager Catherine Siefert, Evans collected $10,000 on behalf of the employees at the 10 Wal-Marts they manage.

Evans said it had been several years since he had visited the zoo with his children, but he appreciates its place in the local community. Siefert praised the zoo’s educational component.

Dingle, who operates on a shoestring without government funding, said the money will come in handy as the zoo embarks on expansion plans.

“It’s very heartfelt and appreciated,” he said. “This represents thousands of Wal-Mart associates and what they do in the community.”

Even the wallabies seemed pleased.

MILLER TALE: With word circulating in Northern Nevada political circles that die-hard Jim Gibbons supporter Monte Miller had become allied with Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval, the sitting governor was naturally ticked off. After all, he’s known Miller for years and believed him to be fiercely loyal.

So much for loyalty.

On Wednesday, Gibbons was overheard recounting his recent phone conversation with Miller. Gibbons recalled telling Miller, “With friends like you, I don’t need any enemies.”

Gibbons has plenty of enemies. That comes with the turf. But what’s surprising is how little support he’s getting from the hard-core conservatives.

Gibbons’ staunch anti-tax stance should make him the darling of Nevada’s fiscal hawks. Instead of standing up for the embattled incumbent, who is delivering as promised on budget issues, they keep busy by attacking middle-of-the-road Republicans.

LIVENGOOD ARRIVES: Jim Livengood’s appointment as UNLV’s new athletic director has the makings of a wise decision — as long as the former University of Arizona AD remembers Las Vegas isn’t a retirement community.

My biggest question in hiring older coaches and university officials is simple: Will they stick around long enough to make UNLV’s beleaguered sports programs successful?

Livengood helped Wildcats athletics in many areas, especially in fundraising. And a university Web site notes with pride the school’s student-athletes graduated at a higher rate than the rest of the student population.

DELAWARE PUNCH: While Nevada has been stuck with the threat of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, at least one other part of the country is benefiting from the Department of Energy these days.

Sure, Fisker Automotive is from Finland, but thanks in large part to a “green energy” loan from the DOE, it has opened a factory in the United States in a space formerly occupied by General Motors. It took the political juice of Vice President Joe Biden to land the deal near his home in Delaware — all politics is local, right, Mr. VP? — but at least the Fisker deal holds the promise of factory jobs for that state’s residents.

All it took was a total of $528 million in government loans. Now that’s political clout in action.

ON THE BOULEVARD: Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter and son of Las Vegans Elizabeth and Jack Carter, is entering politics. Jason is running for a seat in the Georgia state Senate. … After being out of the NFL most of the season, Las Vegas resident and former Cimarron Memorial High standout Vernon Fox has been signed by the Denver Broncos. … Metro Lt. Randy Sutton was scheduled to sing “God Bless America” at Thursday’s UNLV basketball game.

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.

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