When City Manager Mark Calhoun arrived in Henderson on a vacation in June 1983, the small town was unimpressive to him. Yet, about three months later, he returned to work for the city and watched Henderson grow into what it is today.
Calhoun, who spent almost 30 years as a city employee, is ready to retire. His last day is May 17.
Calhoun was born and raised in Michigan. A farm boy, Calhoun was drawn to construction projects while growing up. Even though he wanted nothing more than to spend his summers working construction, he decided to pursue a degree in engineering.
The city of Three Rivers, Mich., hired him out of college.
“Technically, I couldn’t be called a city engineer, but I was,” Calhoun said.
After four years on the job, Calhoun passed his exams and became a licensed engineer.
His job allowed him to work in various aspects of engineering, which later made him a viable candidate for the city of Henderson.
While working for Three Rivers, Calhoun also owned a roller skating rink.
“It was my grandparents’,” Calhoun said.
He owned it from 1975 to 1985 and then sold it to a family friend.
“They are still running it,” Calhoun said.
He also operated an engineering consulting business, working nights and weekends.
“The only time I saw my son was when he was sleeping,” Calhoun said. “It was too much.”
Calhoun came to Las Vegas for a work convention. He noticed a posting for a city engineer position with the city of Henderson and decided to check out the city on his way to Hoover Dam.
“I was unimpressed (with the city),” Calhoun said.
On his way to the dam, he noticed a roller skating rink for sale. The real estate agent, who discovered he was an engineer, told him about the position and said she could put in a word for him.
“She told me I’d be perfect for the position,” Calhoun said.
The agent made a couple of calls. Out of obligation, Calhoun went back by Henderson City Hall, picked up the application and returned to Michigan.
“My wife said, ‘Are you going to apply?’ ” Calhoun said.
Calhoun filled out the paperwork and submitted it.
“I told my wife it would be a couple weeks before I heard back from them,” Calhoun said. “It would take them that long to go through all the applications. They called the next day to offer the position.”
Calhoun and his family had wanted to move west, so he took a chance and decided to accept the position.
On a hot day in September 1983, Calhoun started as a city engineer.
In 1988, Calhoun was promoted to public works director, a position he held until 2001. Later he was promoted to assistant city manager.
Along with overseeing growth and numerous capital projects, Calhoun worked with the creation of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
He said one of his proudest accomplishments was helping expand Henderson, which barely stretched to land that later became the Las Vegas Beltway.
Calhoun said that in hindsight, there were things he wished he would have done differently while working for the city.
“But there is no use crying over spilled milk,” Calhoun said.
It was around 2008 when Calhoun was close to retiring through a volunteer employee severance program. However, he was persuaded to stay. Soon after he took on a new role.
In 2009, after former City Manager Mary Kay Peck was fired, Calhoun signed a three-year contract to become Henderson’s city manager. That contract expires midnight May 18.
Calhoun said he will miss the relationships he has made at the city. As far as the job, he said he misses the engineering side of his work.
“It has been a while since I’ve used it,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun, 63, has been married 44 years and has two children.
In his spare time, Calhoun does woodworking as a hobby.
“I make everything from furniture and boxes to walking sticks,” Calhoun said.
His wife also is an artist. Calhoun and his wife want to travel to different art fairs to sell their crafts.
He and his wife also enjoy going to yard sales and buying items they can donate to charities.
Calhoun is using vacation time until his last day on the job.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 387-5201.